Economics at issue for BV supervisor field
It's a big year in county politics. There are 12 citizens seeking office, six positions up for election and four contested matches.
And it's a big year for primaries as well. One county supervisor race will be decided in the primary, and many political analysts expect Iowa's 5th District Congressman may be decided there as well.
There are four Republicans running, including Jeff Ballenger, Steve King, John Redwine and Brent Siegrist. The district has been a Republican stronghold, so many expect whoever wins at the Republican primary will easily defeat Democratic challenger Paul Shomshor.
Also, one supervisor race has two Republicans and two Democrats running - a field that will also be narrowed during the June 4 primary. It is the only primary fight for county positions. Incumbent Dick Vail, Sioux Rapids, will face fellow Republican Jack Hays, Albert City, in the primary. Democrats Leon Haahr and Robert Jorgensen, both of Newell, are both seeking the Democratic nomination.
Here is a look at the county candidates in both contested and uncontested races:
Supervisor, Dist. 1
Doug Bruns, Alta, is finishing his second term as a supervisor and hopes to continue to serve for another term.
"I want to represent the people of the county, and I want to keep the ideas I have in government alive," he said.
Bruns will face Bill Lanphere, Storm Lake, in the Republican primary June 4.
An area Bruns hopes to be involved in if re-elected is property tax reform.
"I think our property tax system is inequitable. It is unjust to our landowners, especially to farmers," he said.
He said social costs counties must pay are unfair, too. "They are a burden on the self-employed," he said.
The state and counties will begin to seriously look at those issues in the coming years.
"If the state and the board start to look at the whole income tax, sales tax and property tax system, I'd really like to get involved," Bruns said. "I feel I have a lot to offer."
The farmer also has 27 years experience in income tax as a CPA.
"After seven and a half years as a county supervisor, too, I think I can be a real help trying to revamp that system," he said.
Currently Bruns serves on the community corrections board for the Third Judicial District, on the Workforce Development Board, the Seasons Center Board and on the board for Northwest Iowa Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit. He also serves with the Iowa Drainage District Association.
Bruns lives and farms north of Alta.
Bill Lanphere said he almost ran four years ago for the board of supervisors, but put off that decision until now.
"I think we have some challenges facing the board of supervisors and the county in the foreseeable future - some are real and some are maybes," he said.
He feels as state cutbacks continue, the county will need to examine its expenses and responsibilities.
"My experience gives me a broad perspective to look at those sort of things," he said.
Lanphere feels economic development is a definite issue, while rumblings begin of county consolidations. Agriculture and livestock issues will continue to grow, too, he said.
"I'm not up-to-date on modern methods, but I still have an appreciation in the investment and labor, and the need to preserve Iowa as a leading state in hogs, cattle and farming," he said. Lanphere used to farm and raise cattle and hogs near Rembrandt.
"We'll have to tread very carefully between regulation and rules and overdevelopment. There's a fine line we'll walk for the next few years," he added.
Lanphere has been living in the area for over 30 years, in which time he has directed the Storm Lake Chamber of Commerce. He has been involved with the Red Cross, the former Big Brothers and Sisters program, and served on the committees that established the Dollars for Scholars program and the Field of Dreams. Lanphere has just finished a term on the Foundation for Iowa Central.
Currently Lanphere serves as the chair for the Railsplitters, the fundraising arm of the county Republican party.
Supervisor, Dist. 2
This is Jack Hays' second time running for the board of supervisors. He ran before in 1998.
A retired deputy sheriff, Hays was involved in law enforcement in Buena Vista County for 19 years before retiring four years ago.
"I enjoy working with the public and I thought (running for supervisor) was one way to do it for an older fellow like me," he said. "I decided I didn't want to be in law enforcement any longer - it's a game for younger guys."
The Albert City Republican said he has always had an interest in government. "I thought I could contribute something," he said.
He feels he is honest. "I'll tell you what I think," he said. "I don't do any double talk."
He has served as a Scoutmaster in Albert City and is also active in the American Legion. He is a Vietnam veteran, serving as a military police in the Army.
Retired farmer Leon Haahr made his decision to run for supervisor during a Sunday School class. "We were wondering what we were doing with ourselves to help other people," he said. With some encouragement from his friends, Haahr decided to file nomination papers.
"Having experience in a lot of ag committees and organizations, I think it could lend a little bit of knowledge to what I could and probably should be doing if elected," he said.
This is Haahr's first time seeking a political office. He is running as a Democrat.
Haahr has a long list of organizations with which he has served, including the county pork producers and county soybean producers. He has been the farm credit director for Farm Credit Services. He has been honored as both an Iowa Master Farmer and as Iowa Farm Manager of the Year by the ISU Ag Business Club.
Haahr is a Farm Bureau member and was a 4-H leader for 13 years. The Newell FFA chapter also presented him with an honorary chapter degree for providing growing plots for the program.
Haahr has served on the advisory council for the Good Samaritan Center in Newell, and has served on the State Extension Board.
"Hopefully if I should be elected, I'd be some good for the people," the Newell resident said. "I would be kindly honored for the fact they have enough trust in me to do this."
Dick Vail of Sioux Rapids and Robert Jorgensen of Newell could be reached. Republican Vail is running for another term as a county supervisor. Democrat Jorgensen is seeking his party's nomination.
Supervisor, District 3
Veteran supervisor Jim Gustafson is finishing his fifth term as a county supervisor.
"There's some unfinished things challenging the community and county government, from mental health issues to livestock issues," Gustafson said of his reason to run again.
He feels incumbency can be important in politics.
"I'm young enough and involved still that I feel I can contribute to county government," he said. "As long as an incumbent doesn't sit on their hands and doesn't take the public for granted, they have something to offer. And that includes me.
"I feel I try to participate in every aspect of the job, and ask the questions that need to be asked and make the decisions that need to be made."
Gustafson said the hardest part of being a supervisor is "defending the average taxpayer."
"When someone elects you, they're counting on you to do the right thing," he said. "I consider myself conservative, but I don't consider myself a conservative."
Gustafson feels a mix is needed in the supervisors room. "A good political mix on the board is the best thing for the taxpayers," he said.
Some areas Gustafson hopes to see through include county involvement in the lake restoration project. He said it is his number one priority.
"Local government's not going to save the lake, but it sends the message that elected officials are dedicated to doing something to try to save the lake," he said.
Since he was first elected 20 years ago, Gustafson has worked closely with mental health issues.
"I've seen the transition from inpatient to community-based services," he said. "The transition has been real phenomenal, with people working with local providers and at part-time jobs."
He points out the fact that the county only levies half of what it could for mental health costs. "We've been able to hold down those costs," he said.
Gustafson lives in Washington Township, six miles north of Storm Lake.
As a supervisor, he serves on the YES board, the Synergy (an inpatient drug and alcohol center) board, the case management board and on the Spectra board.
He has also served on the Faith, Hope and Charity board as well as the Swan Restoration Committee.
James Osegaro has had a long-time interest in county government, influencing him to run now, he said.
"With my business background and business success that I've had, I feel I can contribute a lot to the county," he said. "I'm coming to politics not from being downsized or from losing a job - I'm coming to politics by choice."
Osegaro currently operates a laundromat and several rental properties in Storm Lake. He also has had a water conditioning business as well as an ice cream store.
Osegaro has had a varied background, having been in management with the Rock Island Railroad and selling insurance prior to coming to Storm Lake.
Osegaro also speaks Spanish. "I think that can be a big contribution in view of the fact we have a large Spanish contingency here in Storm Lake," he said.
He has served on the St. Mary's School Board, and the board of directors at Genesis when it was known as the Red Barn.
In politics, it is important to think outside the box, he said.
"You find in politics today everybody's doing the same thing," he said. "Reminds you a little bit about the car industry, when in the past all the cars looked the same. You have to get some innovative thinking for things to change."
He said the board of supervisors should operate like a unit. "Only as a complete board in unison we could consider issues more directly," he said.
Osegaro lives west of Storm Lake. He has been a member of the Knights of Columbus for 25 years and has served as the Grand Knight. He feels involvement is important.
"Instead of complaining about problems, I try to become part of the solution," he said.
"I'm always one of the guys looking on the positive side, which is something I'd like to bring to board of supervisors," he said.
Osegaro said he is not running against the incumbent.
"I just know I believe it is my turn to run, and my turn to contribute to the county that's been very generous to me," he said.
Republican Phil Havens is running unopposed for a third term as county attorney. It is a position where he feels he can do something for the citizens of Buena Vista County.
"I've found the work to be satisfying and exciting," he said. "It's a position in which you can have a fairly significant impact on the community, and I hope it's a positive one."
He feels he has represented the state of Iowa well in criminal cases. "We've tried to achieve some measure of justice in cases. I think we've done that," he said.
Republican Debra Overgaard is making her first run at public office, and faces incumbent Shari O'Bannon this fall.
"I feel I can give the people of Buena Vista County a choice by running," Overgaard said.
She said she would work hard for the people of the county, while being respectful and friendly in that position.
Overgaard feels her business experience qualifies her to become recorder, very much a service-oriented office in the courthouse. "I'm people oriented and could put the tools available to the best use," she said.
Overgaard is involved in real estate and auctions and lives outside of Newell. She serves on the Newell Pride Committee, is the president of the Pride and Joy Preschool, and is also involved in a number of activities related to the school from the Newell-Fonda music program to this year's after-prom committee. She is a leader of the Newell 4-H Boosters and is a superintendent at the Buena Vista County Fair.
Shari O'Bannon is completing her second term as county recorder. She is running again because of the interest she has for the position.
"I like working with people and just being around the people," she said.
The recorder's office is responsible for all real estate transactions, DNR licensing, vital records through the Iowa Department of Public Health, passports and military records.
"I have experience from working with all types of people and from all walks of life," O'Bannon said. "And just my personality and communication skills lend to this job."
O'Bannon lives in Storm Lake and volunteers as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and is the financial chair for the county Democratic party.
She is also active in her church, Lakeside Presbyterian, as both a teacher and a lay pastor.
Democrat Kathy Bach runs unopposed for a third term as county treasurer. Before coming to public office, she worked for more than 20 years with the county.
"I decided to run again because I like my job, and I want to continue to serve the residents of the county," Bach said. "There are some new challenges we're going to face, but we have a good office staff and we'll meet them head on."