Houston County Board candidate profiles

The Caledonia Argus is again pleased to bring you candidate profiles for local contested races set to take place Nov. 6. Participants were asked the same set of questions and given no limit on their responses.

In today’s issue, Houston County Board representation for districts 1 and 5 are featured.

Incumbent Jack Miller is facing the challenge of Judy Storlie in district 1, while Dana Kjome and Pastor Lane Zaffke battle it out for the district 5 commission seat currently held by Tom Bjerke. Bjerke decided to not run for another term. Their profiles are on page 8.

Upcoming will be profiles on incumbent Greg Davids, who faces the challenge of Ken Tschumper for the state representative district 28B seat.

Incumbent Jeremy Miller faces the challenge of Jack Krage for the state senator district 28 seat.

Houston County Board representation for District 1
Storlie vs. Miller

Judy Storlie

Age: 54

Town: La Crescent

Family: Married to Jerry Storlie for 32 years; children, Jason, Jen (Bill) Conroy, Justin (Stacey) and Jeff (Amy); grandchildren, Jackson, Colton, Mason, Jillian, Anthony, Nicholas and Blake.

Years in political office: This is my first time running for public office.

 

Why do you want to hold this office?

I have been following county government for the last 25 years. It has always interested me. I felt that it was the right time in my life to run for office.

 

There is a clear divide in Houston County between those who want to mine sand and those who don’t want the industry in the county – where do you stand on the issue?

I feel that before we can proceed with mining frac sand we need to be more informed on how it will affect Houston County. If we decide to go forward with this I feel it should be well regulated and monitored. I think we need to know what kind of regulations the state is also going to put on it.

What ways can we as a county regulate it? How much will it cost the county to regulate and monitor it and how will we cover those costs without it affecting other programs?

The list of questions goes on, and we need answers to them before we can make an informed decision.

 

What is your budgeting strategy in light of the fact that certain county services are needed but money to provide such services is limited?

I feel that all aspects of a budget need to be looked at and cuts made where it is necessary. I don’t feel across the board cuts are always the best way to solve budget problems. Sometimes you have to find creative ways to make a budget work. You have to be able to think outside the box. Are there ways we can join other counties, states (Wisconsin and Iowa) maybe even the federal government to come up with cost affective ways to provide services?

 

What personal or professional experience can you draw from when making decisions for your constituency?

I am a lifelong resident if Houston County. I am a licensed child care provider and foster parent. I feel I have a lot of understanding of the Human Services Department having been involved with them for almost 30 years. The Human Services Department employs almost half of the employees in the courthouse. I feel that having a good understanding of this department will be very helpful in making decisions as a county commissioner.

Through my role as a foster parent and childcare provider I have also been involved with public health, the county attorney’s office and the sheriff’s department.

I was treasurer for Applefest for three years. I am a board member for the La Crescent Lions Club. I am a graduate of Blandin Community Leadership Program. I am vice president of the ABLE Foundation. I was the 2011 recipient of the Community All-Star Award from the La Crescent Lions and Rotary Clubs. I am involved in my community and I will listen to the people in my community!

 

If financing was not an issue, what county service would you change or improve?

I am a realist and I don’t feel there will ever be a time when financing isn’t an issue. If this was to happen there are so many ways I would improve our county.

This county has many poor people who really need services to be offered to them to improve their quality of life. If we could address these needs it would help many other areas of concern in our county. Hopefully it would lower the crime rate in the county.  Children would be getting services while they were young so when they came to school there would be a better learning environment. All children would benefit from this.

If we are going to improve our county you have to start with the children. While we are doing this we also need to address the needs of the elderly. They have given to the county and also deserve affordable services to help them be able to stay in their homes as long as they want to. Getting people to work together would improve many county programs.

 

Jack Miller

Age: 67

Town: La Crescent

Family: Married to Janet, two daughters and three grandchildren.

Years in political office: Mayor of La Crescent for three terms. Completing fourth year on Houston County Board, the last two as chair.

 

Why do you want to hold this office?

These are very challenging times for all levels of government due to the reduction in state aid to counties and increased demand for county services due to the continuing slow economic growth. I believe I have the experience and leadership skills to lead Houston County through these challenging times.

 

There is a clear divide in Houston County between those who want to mine sand and those who don’t want the industry in the county – where do you stand on the issue?

The silica sand issue has touched all counties in southeast Minnesota. We will inevitably have silica sand mining in Houston County. My goal is to ensure that these mining operations do not threaten the health, safety and welfare of county residents. We definitely need more employment opportunities in the county, but we also need to protect the resources that make Houston County a special place to live and visit. The visit aspect reflects the importance of tourism.

 

What is your budgeting strategy in light of the fact that certain county services are needed but money to provide such services is limited?

My budgeting strategy with limited money is to concentrate on essential services while searching hard for additional funding sources. Our budget for 2013 may involve some painful cuts for departments, but I am determined to not hit taxpayers hard.

 

What personal or professional experience can you draw from when making decisions for your constituency?

I have three terms of experience as the mayor of La Crescent and am completing my fourth year on the county board with the last two as county board chair. Furthermore, I have had experience as a college administrator (10 years) and as a manager for 22 years in the private sector. Additionally, I have had experience on many organization committees, including Rotary Club, church council, Applefest board and La Crosse Riverfest.

 

If financing was not an issue, what county service would you change or improve?

If financing was not an issue I would provide more funding for victim services and provide improvements for computer services for the social service department. Improvements for the county highway shop are also on my wish list. I do not favor any new building in the near future.

 

Houston County Board representation for District 5
Kjome vs. Zaffke

 

Dana Kjome

Age: 60

Town: Spring Grove

Family: Married to Elaine; three children, Heather (Russ) Buege, Trevor and Nathan; grandchildren, Natalie and Jocelyn Buege.

Years in political office: Five and half.

 

Why do you want to hold this office?

I’ve always been interested in politics and feel that I can represent the people of Houston County in both a common sense and fiscally responsible manner.

 

There is a clear divide in Houston County between those who want to mine sand and those who don’t want the industry in the county – where do you stand on the issue?

There are several issues to be resolved, and many questions yet to be answered, about frac sand mining before I feel I can make an informed decision about this. I do have some environmental concerns but also realize the potential for jobs.

 

What is your budgeting strategy in light of the fact that certain county services are needed but money to provide such services is limited?

I would study the budgets of all the different county services and see if some services could get by with less to provide funds for those county services that are deemed necessary.

 

 

What personal or professional experience can you draw from when making decisions for your constituency?

I was on the Spring Grove city council for five and half years serving on various committees during that time, as well as helping with the budget process. I am presently on the plan commission for the City of Spring Grove working with issues such as building permits and zoning ordinances. I have worked 37 years at Spring Grove Public Schools, 26 as head of maintenance. I was involved in decisions on two major building projects at the school. I also served 27 years on the Spring Grove Fire Department in various leadership rolls. I feel I am prepared to serve as a county commissioner.

 

If financing was not an issue, what county service would you change or improve?

I would like to review the zoning ordinances and land use requirements with the intent and purpose of making them fair and equitable to everyone.

 

Pastor Lane Zaffke

Age: 56

Town: Spring Grove

Family: Married to Mary, Andrew, Isaac and Peter, sons.

Years in political office: I have held no political office, yet.

 

Why do you want to hold this office?

I have always been interested in politics and public policy debates. I can add some energy, creativity and innovation to the Houston County government. My family, friends and community leaders have encouraged me to run for the county commissioner position.  I am convinced that I have some unique qualities and perspectives that would be beneficial to the county board.

 

There is a clear divide in Houston County between those who want to mine sand and those who don’t want the industry in the county – where do you stand on the issue?

Mining frac sand would bring needed jobs to the county; provide income to the workers and private land owners. It also would hurt the roads and perhaps the environment. The present county commissioners have set up a study group to examine both sides of the issue while the mine moratorium is in place. People have taken some stands, but I prefer to listen and study the conclusions of the committee before I take a stand one way or another. Too many times people jump to conclusions without knowing all the information. As commissioner I want to make wise decisions based on all the facts.

 

What is your budgeting strategy in light of the fact that certain county services are needed but money to provide such services is limited?

The county receives money from many different sources. Besides property taxes, the county receives grants and fees for services. Often the State and Federal government will give part of the money for a project as an incentive but not all of it. It may be that the county should turn down some of those incentives because it would cost the county more than we can afford in the long run.

We need to contact and cooperate with neighboring counties when appropriate to save money. We must do the best we can with what we have, and sometimes we will need to say no. We can focus on preventative programs that generally save money in the long run. Maybe liken it to a household budget;  you look at the details and can make some changes which impact the whole, such as setting your thermostat lower. It does not mean that you don’t have heat.

 

What personal or professional experience can you draw from when making decisions for your constituency?

As a pastor I have developed listening and communication skills that will help me be responsive to the residents of the fifth district. I am also a landowner. My wife is the third generation of her family on our 104-year-old farm. I have experience at budgeting and sorting priorities at Cross of Christ Lutheran Church of what needs to be accomplished and can be accomplished.

 

If financing was not an issue, what county service would you change or improve?

The county provides a number of services for senior citizens. These are people who have paid taxes all their lives but now are hardest hit with changes to the economy, such as energy prices and property taxes and health care costs. They are on a limited income and may be no longer able to work. Many seniors are beginning to outlive their money and retirement finds. This is also the fastest growing generation with the baby boomers beginning to retire. We need to provide more home health care options, transportation services, etc., to make sure they continue to live with dignity.

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