As a county, some of our most pressing issues include:
I support the current efforts of our Sheriff’s department and County Attorney to aggressively pursue criminals, especially those who commit violent crime and destruction of property. Our county is growing, and with that growth comes a need to continue keeping people safe.
We also have to support efforts to keep our elderly safe, our lower-income citizens cared for, and address issues of mental health and substance abuse. Law enforcement and medical services are affected by these issues. I am interested in making sure our citizens have access to treatment services. I support efforts to keep low-income and elderly citizens proactively informed of all the services, public and private, at their disposal. I will explore ways the County can assist in the prevention of alcohol and drug abuse. These issues can be hard to spot, yet so many of us are affected by them. We need to talk about them more.
Roads and Bridges
Our citizens need to get to work and school, and have access to emergency services. Our farmers need to transport goods. We need a solid infrastructure to make those things happen. I believe our roads department works hard and has solid leadership. At the same time, their capacity is limited by the amount of funds at their disposal, by lots of regulations, and by a need to prioritize their work, because our county has a lot of roads and bridges. We have 230 bridges, 8000 signs, and tens of thousands of culverts.
I support a Citizens Advisory Board to advise and consult with our Secondary Roads Department. I commit to lobbying state and federal government officials on behalf of the infrastructure needs of counties. We need strategic planning and focus to get priorities clear.
Conservation and Development
We must maintain and improve water quality through a watershed approach, and keep our comprehensive plan current and clear by providing guidelines for development that does not permanently or substantially increase flood risk, corrupt our water supply, or destroy our iconic views. I will work to maintain attention on the long-term strategic plan for Madison County, once we have an updated version.
Development in the form of wind turbines is coming our way, and we’ve already experienced some of that in the Macksburg area. These turbines bring clean energy production and economic development our way, yet we should move sensibly, keeping in mind the rights of all landowners. Our strategic planning should include attention to the pace and placement of wind turbine development. The property tax from the companies who own the wind turbines could fund a lot of needed county projects. As long as the rights of citizens are maintained, I support this form of development.
There are some areas that concern me with wind energy development. Two big ones: The easement agreements are not all created equally. Some of them protect landowners, and others are so vague and limiting that they are scary. We should help our citizens sort that out. Also, it’s time to debate and discuss our setback ordinances once and for all, and base that ordinance on sound research, practice, and citizen input.
Development in the form of housing and subdivisions in the northwest part of the county is also coming our way. This is another area of opportunity and concern. Our strategic plan should spell out how, and how much, of this development fits Madison County. There are examples of sensible development in our state, and examples of too much, too fast; we have an obligation to learn from those, and be proactive in deciding how we want our county to look.
Our taxes are high enough right now, yet they are fair and in line with similar counties. Raising or lowering the levies is unlikely and unwise in the short term, so we need to focus on budget efficiency. If we need to do anything major, we should explore using the money of investors – we have bonding capacity, and it’s okay to use it for sensible long-term projects. The current board is exploring options in that regard right now, and I support those efforts. If we experience the sensible development that seems to be coming our way, our larger tax base might enable us to lower taxes again.
County Employee Wages and Benefits
It might be popular to be critical of wage increases for county employees, but I have faith in the process that’s taken place, and the work of the compensation board, as our salaries are on the low end compared to other counties. Our county employees spend those wages in our county, driving our local economy, and I want there to be an incentive to have a lot of quality applicants for open positions. Also, it’s easier to hold people accountable when they are fairly compensated. Working for a government entity can be thankless, and it’s important to be fair to our citizens and taxpayers who also happen to work for the county.