By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The biggest problems facing Floyd County in the next several years range from the farm economy, to the challenges of keeping young people from moving away, to finding enough labor to keep businesses going and growing, according to candidates for county offices.
Most of them also agreed that keeping the law enforcement center project on budget and dealing with the financial situation at the Floyd County Medical Center will be priorities.
Four candidates for county supervisor and two for county treasurer faced off last Thursday in a forum sponsored by the American Association of University Women and the Charles City Area Chamber of Commerce.
As in a previous forum for supervisor candidates only, sponsored by the Farm Bureau, there were few sharp contrasts in the answers to the questions, and many responses found the candidates agreeing at least in part with their opponents.
The supervisor candidates are Stewart Dalton, Roy Schwickerath, Mike Staudt and the incumbent, Doug Kamm. Treasurer candidates are Todd Schriever and incumbent Frank Rottinghaus.
On the question of the most important challenges facing the county in the next three years, responses included:
Rottinghaus: “At this point there’s some real fears about the agricultural economy,” he said. There is a concern over the financial positions of producers in Floyd County and whether they will able to weather a period of depressed prices.
Schriever: “I think it would be the loss of our kids,” he said. “There’s really nothing here to keep them. We lose a lot to move into the big cities for more opportunities and it’s not an easy fix.”
Kamm: “Our biggest issue right now, and it’s for the next 10 years not three years, is our labor shortage,” he said. “If you talk to any business in Floyd County or in the state of Iowa, everybody is looking for workers.” Economic development has to include efforts to attract young people to come to the county to be part of its future, he said.
Dalton: “I’m going to say again we need to sustain our agricultural system. That’s the basis for our economy and helps us feed the world,” Dalton said. He also said the county population is getting older on average because there are fewer young people. Good-paying jobs, quality education and not over-taxing the people are important to address that issue, he said.
Staudt: “Margins for farmers are very tight I don’t have to tell you guys that,” he said to the audience. “Commodities are low. I just think it’s very important to support our ag community, support our livestock growers, our grain growers, implement dealers, co-ops and so forth,” he said. He also said retaining young people through job opportunities is important.
Schwickerath: “I think in the short term, on that three-year look, really the farm economy right now makes everybody pretty nervous. I’d like to say it’s cyclic, but I hope it’s not a trend,” he said, adding that some people don’t realize how other businesses and industries depend on the ag economy for much of their success.
Questions were submitted by residents ahead of time or during the meeting in writing, and some questions were aimed at just the supervisor hopefuls, some at the treasurer candidates, and some were for all seven.
One of the questions for all the candidates asked their motivation for running for office. Answers included:
Rottinghaus: “I have enjoyed being county treasurer. I think I am equipped to do the job well. I enjoy meeting new people and welcoming them into the community. We have had a number of new people come into the community. Being in the treasurer’s office, dealing with driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, you have an opportunity to meet them and welcome them into our community, and that’s something I do enjoy.”
Schriever: “I like working with the public, meeting new people. Sometimes I believe change is good. I believe I have enough experience in past jobs I have had that I can do a good job. I don’t have the experience he has, but I do have the same amount of experience that he had when he took the job,” he said about his opponent, Rottinghaus. “I would like a chance to do a good job.”
Staudt: “I always enjoyed being on boards. For 27 years, parish boards, co-op boards, school board, I just like getting involved, knowing what’s going on. I actually enjoy doing things like the budget. … In the county, there’s a lot of things going on. I know there’s a big learning curve for me if I was elected, but I would take that challenge and hope I could represent the people of Floyd County the best I could.”
Schwickerath: “My past history kind of explains itself. I’ve served people for a number of years. Being with the Fire Department was service to the people. I feel that my experience level, my knowledge level, is a real plus for the community of Floyd County, and I really think that I would like to use that knowledge and continue serving people in Floyd County. I think this is a good opportunity for me, and for the people of Floyd County, to get a good person in that position.”
Kamm: “My motivation for this position goes back quite a while,” he said. At the beginning of his first term eight years ago his children had grown and had left for college and so he was no longer involved in their activities such as Boy Scouts, so he was looking for something to do. There was a lot of political talk at the time, “and I decided finally, put up or shut up, either run or be quiet. So I did, and I found out I really do enjoy this job. I like talking to people, and hope to continue.”
Dalton: “My primary goal again would be public service. I feel obligated to do whatever I can for the community I live in and for the country I live in,” he said. He said his experience both personally in his family and professionally dealing with special needs programs as well as mental health and the disabled would be important because social services is one of the largest expenditures for the county. “And also I enjoy working with people and enjoy working on things that we can have some effect on,” he said.
A few questions addressed specific issues. On a question from a resident who was concerned a culvert near his farmland wasn’t big enough to handle the water in recent rains, the supervisor candidates agreed that a system designed long ago is insufficient for the amount of rain the county has experienced this year, and several cited examples of flooding that has not been seen in the past.
Kamm said the county’s secondary road fund is for transportation issues, not drainage issues, although drainage can be a byproduct. Dalton agreed, but said the county might need to look at redesigning ditches or creating retaining ponds.
Staudt said people who are having problems should start by talking with the county engineer, then he can work with the supervisors to see if there is something that can be done. Schwickerath agreed that long-term responses may be needed, but questioned where the funding for that would come from.
On a question for all six candidates whether party politics should play a role in county government, all of them agreed that it usually does not and should not.
Rottinghaus said the political parties play a role in nominating candidates and supporting them, but in the daily operation of county offices “partisan politics don’t really enter into any of the decisions we make.”
Schriever agreed, saying, “I go by what I think is right. There’s good ideas on both sides and bad ideas on both sides, of course. … Find a good solution and it shouldn’t really matter which person came up with the idea. A good idea is a good idea, either way.”
Dalton said people should vote for the best person for the job, regardless of party. “The Democratic or the Republican party provide some funding and a support system for us to run. But, no, you need to elect the best person that you can find and not worry about his politics.”
Kamm said he will “go to my grave maintaining that I’m not a politician.” At the county level there should be no partisan politics whatsoever, he said. “The national party scene almost makes me sick. It almost seems like politics is more of a sport anymore, not a way to run a country.”
Schwickerath said when he served four years as supervisor, even though he is a Democrat and Kamm is a Republican, “I can’t think of any time in those four years that I really felt like we were on opposite sides. We had our disagreements, we voted what our conscience was, we voted what we thought the people wanted, but it wasn’t because of politics.”
Staudt said he has attended supervisor meetings and “and as I sit there and watch them make a decision, I don’t see Democrat or Republican; I just see three supervisors trying to make the best decision for the county.” He said when he is faces a decision he likes to lay out the choices and options and find the best way to get things done.
On a question of whether the county should start a composting system, the candidates all said it would depend on the costs versus the benefits and it could be looked into, but none of them committed to it being a priority.
On a question of the voter-approved law enforcement center project and whether the county can afford it, most of the supervisor candidates agreed a new county jail is needed and that the courthouse needs upgrades, especially to its heating and cooling system to get rid of the 58 individual window air-conditioning units currently dotting the exterior. Most also said it will be important to make sure the project is completed within its budget.
“I think it’s very important that we want to spend the money that you guys approved and we don’t want to spend any more than that,” Staudt said.
“Can we afford it?” Schwickerath mused. “I guess I’d go back to, ‘can we afford not to do it?’ Our jail is 75 years old and it is substandard. … I think it’s a very important thing.”
Kamm said, “My feeling is I’m ecstatic” about the improvements. The courthouse was built in the 1940s and not very much updating has been done other than maintaining the outside, he said. He said he went on a tour of the current jail on the top floor of the courthouse before the bond election, “and I’m going to say it’s borderline torture up there. The working conditions for our deputies up there are substandard.”
Dalton said he had been in the jail professionally to deal with clients, and “ it needs to be changed. It’s old. It’s very rough up there. It’s not safe either for the prisoners or the people watching the prisoners.”
On a question of funding for the Floyd County Medical Center, all four supervisor candidates agreed the hospital is important to the county, but the county will have to look at what it can afford to help support the facility.
More than 60 people showed up at Trinity United Methodist Church in Charles City for the forum for the two county races where there will be challengers in the Nov. 6 election.
County Recorder Deb Roberts and Iowa House District 52 Rep. Todd Prichard are also seeking re-election and were at the event, but are unopposed and did not make statements.
Early in-person voting at the Floyd County Auditor’s Office is underway. Absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election can be requested until Oct. 27 and must be delivered to the Auditor’s Office or postmarked by Oct. 5 to be counted.
The supervisor candidates are:
- Doug Kamm, 64, Republican, the incumbent who was first elected in 2010 and is completing his second four-year term. Kamm, of Charles City, owns Kamm Excavating Corp. He and his wife have two grown sons.
- Roy Schwickerath, 61, Democrat, of Charles City. Schwickerath is the former Charles City fire chief and was elected to a position as a Floyd County supervisor in 2012, but lost a bid for re-election in 2016. He is retired, married and has three grown children.
- Stewart Dalton, 65, Democrat, Charles City. Dalton is retired and is the former group home manager for Spring Harbor Residential Services. He is married and has a grown son and a grown daughter.
- Michael Staudt, 47, no party, of Floyd. Staudt farms and serves on the Rudd-Rockford-Marble Rock Board of Education. He is married and has four children.
Treasurer candidates are:
- Frank Rottinghaus, 68, Democrat, of Charles City, the incumbent who first took office in 1993. Prior to that he was involved in the family farm and feed and grain business. He is married and has two grown daughters.
- Todd Schreiver, 52, no party, of Marble Rock, has served two terms on the City Council and been a church trustee. He was a Marine and is the store manager for Harbor Freight in Mason City. He is married and has one daughter.