Veteran supervisor Gustafson faces a test in Osegaro
First in a Pilot election series
Yard signs are up, candidates are working on getting their message out, and with less than three weeks to go until the November 5 election, the issues are beginning to heat up.
Along with a number of state and federal elections, voters in Buena Vista County will also have the responsibility to decide several county elections.
There are two contested supervisor races and a contested race for county recorder.
For District 2, incumbent Richard Vail of Sioux Rapids faces Democratic challenger Robert Jorgensen of Newell. For District 3, incumbent Jim Gustafson of rural Storm Lake faces Republican challenger James Osegaro of Storm Lake. Republican Bill Lanphere is running unopposed for District 1 Supervisor. He beat incumbent Doug Bruns of Alta in the June primary.
County Recorder Shari O'Bannon of Storm Lake faces Republican Deb Overgaard of Newell.
Unchallenged contests are for county attorney and county treasurer. Phil Havens and Kathy Bach are seeking reelection.
For District 3 Supervisor, incumbent Jim Gustafson is seeking a fifth term on the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors. His challenger is Republican Jim Osegaro, a Storm Lake businessman.
Jim Gustafson is running for reelection because he feels there are areas he can lend his experience.
"I think I can help with my experience on a large range of issues from handling roads to mental health and law enforcement costs," he said.
All of those are "quite a challenge," Gustafson added.
Gustafson is a lifelong resident of Buena Vista County. He and his wife, Mary, live on a farm in Washington Township where they are independent hog and grain producers. They have four children and seven grandchildren.
Following the defeat of Doug Bruns in the Republican Primary in June, if reelected Gustafson would be the only farmer on the board of supervisors.
"I am the last farmer on the board," he said. "I think that experience is as good as far as working and living out in the county, you see what is going on. I field a lot of calls from constituents on rural issues."
There are several items Gustafson said he would like to keep a handle on in the county, including secondary roads, mental health and detention costs.
Gustafson said he thinks the county has a good road system, but feels the secondary roads budget is quite large.
"It's like the Pentagon - it's an absolute necessity but there's always some costs to trim," he said.
A recent improvement project on a stretch of C-13 east of Sioux Rapids has Gustafson asking questions.
He said that three-mile stretch of road, which was straightened, cost $2 million when it should have been half that amount. The dirt work alone cost approximately $1.3 million, he said.
"In context, that's two dredges," he said.
He was in favor of flattening the curve in that road, but felt it could have been done for less cost.
"I was opposed to the scope of the road," Gustafson said.
There have been increases in the secondary roads tax asking for each of the past three years, something Gustafson has voted against. He feels money brought in by the local options sales tax should cover increases.
"We've got good roads and good road crew, but we can cut things that need to be cut," he said.
Gustafson also wants to work on reducing detention costs, especially in the area of juvenile detention.
"We need to address the costs in our detention costs," he said, noting that the costs have already exceeded the budget for this year.
Gustafson currently serves on the board of directors of the YES Center, and said Buena Vista's juvenile costs are five to 10 times higher than other countries.
Also, Gustafson said he has been "in the trenches" on mental health for his years on the board.
"We're always trying to provide service at a cost we can afford," he said.
Livestock confinements also continue to be an issue, and Gustafson hopes to see more local control through a matrix system being developed by the state. He feels all parties can become better neighbors.
"I'm not an environmentalist, but a conservationist," he said.
Throughout his service as a county supervisor, Gustafson said he feels he speaks his mind on the issues.
"You can't be a rubber stamp for every department head or executive director," he said. "I wade into problems, that's what taxpayers expect. The bottom line is on budget day, it's up to the supervisor board to take more control.
"The board members have to ask questions - we're not dealing with shareholders' money, we're dealing with taxpayers' money."
Gustafson said he doesn't campaign only for reelection. Instead, he said he is campaigning every year.
"I try to inform voters what's going on throughout every year," he said. "I hope they'll send me back. All I can ask is for them to turnout and vote. They'll make the decision on my future," he said.