O'Brien County's Bell-Times-Courier -

By staff 

Video and Story Of the O'Brien County Candidate Forum

Held at the Sutherland Fire Station May 29, 2018


O'Brien County Candidate Forum

Candidates for a variety of O'Brien County offices came together Tuesday evening at the Sutherland Fire Station. All candidates with a place on the ballot were present: O'Brien County Attorney candidate, Rachel Becker; O'Brien County Recorder and candidate, Susan Smith; O'Brien County Treasurer candidate, Missy Hattermann. These seats are uncontested. Becker has been serving as Assistant County Attorney for more than a year. Micah Schreurs has chosen not to seek reelection. Susan Smith is seeking her second term as Recorder. Missy Hattermann has worked in the Treasurer's office for 26 years. Phyllis Rohlfsen, O'Brien County Treasurer, has announced her retirement.

Supervisor candidates are incumbent Tom Farnsworth and challenger Dennis Vanden Hull. They are vying for the District 4. Dan Friedrichsen fills the District 5 seat. Dennis Fogelman is also seeking that seat.

Much of the conversation was directed to a candidate's policy position for a few specific issues. Candidates were asked for their views of County Economic Development, County Conservation and their vision of the county with increased revenue from the wind turbine development. There was lengthy discussion from all candidates for their view of these organizations and what their support for the departments.

Asking about RIDES, a regional public transportation system brought out a great deal of discussion. O'Brien County gives significant funding to the organization, but receives very limited service. Dan Friedrichsen serves as the vice-chair of the service. He expressed on-going disappointment and frustration in a complete failure to improve service throughout the county.

Dennis Fogelman conveyed personal experiences with RIDES and with a like agency that serves Cherokee County. His view is that RIDES is not price competitive and that impedes its ability to be attractive to potential customers. He also shared a story highlighting operations that appear to be incredibly inefficient.

Roads in O'Brien County were a topic that drew some liveliness from both audience and from candidates alike. Tom Farnsworth made early statements that there is a great deal of effort to improving roads in the county with the anticipated increased revenue. Friedrichsen explained the limitation that state law imposes on county funding for secondary roads. The O'Brien County levy is currently just below its maximum levy. Over time, the roads are expected to get rock surface. Dick Hicks shared his recollection of the original construction of many roads in O'Brien County. He complemented the condition they are in.

One other issue was asked for clarification. Drainage District 5 flummoxes its trustees (Board of Supervisors), affected landowners, and the general public. Candidates were requested to explain the project and some of the fallout from the project. Farnsworth and Friedrichsen both contributed to explaining the background of the project, and the on-going frustrations with it. Looking into the future for how to minimize the Flooding it causes at its mouth, candidate Dennis Vanden Hull, a farmer, shared his personal experience with drainage. He shared how he had cleaned a waterway on his own property, only to have it filled in with dirt, corn stalks and other debris from fast moving water from upstream, that was also cleaned out. His view was pragmatic. "You don't want the stream to fill up, but it will."

The Primary election in Iowa is Tuesday June 5,2018. Absentee voting is open right now. Voting is not just a right, it is an obligation. Contact the O'Brien County Auditor's office for your voting precinct or how to vote absentee.


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