Since I announced my candidacy, I’ve heard many questions. Some of the more common questions I’ve received are listed here along with my answers.
What is the job of a county commissioner?
First, it is helpful to know what positions and entities fall under the umbrella of the county. Elected officials include commissioners, sheriff, register of deeds, county clerk, treasurer, and county attorney. Appointed positions include the county appraiser, county counselor, director of information technology, ambulance director, public works director (departments include road & bridge, solid waste and noxious weed), health department administrator and emergency manager (departments include county health and fire). See barber.ks.gov for more details about our local officials and departments.
County commissioners’ duties include budgetary approval for all of the above-mentioned departments, spending oversight, and hiring county employees. They address land, easement, and access disputes. Commissioners also have the authority to enact local ordinances, a responsibility that has come to the forefront this year due to the pandemic response.
The budget encompasses the overhead—salaries & wages, heating & cooling, maintenance, long term capital expenditures—for many services on which our citizens rely. These services include emergency response such as ambulance and fire, health care via the Barber County Health Department, roads and bridges, the county court system, appraisals, land and mortgage records, and county elections. Funding also goes to entities that are not directly managed by the county; the county contributes to social services (Horizons Mental Health, Arrowhead West, and Mirror, Inc.), Barber County Extension, the Barber County Fair, soil conservation (NRCS), BCCOA senior center located in Hardtner, Hazelton, Isabel, Kiowa, Medicine Lodge, and Sharon, and Barber County Economic Development.
Why did you choose to run as an independent and why now?
I registered as “unaffiliated” my senior year of high school. At the time, I had very little life experience on which to base an affiliation. But I do recall that I did not want to be lumped into a certain category and therefore wanted to remain independent. I have always voted for the person, not the party. I have never liked how the party system affects elections at the local level. It is my view that we are a small enough county that we truly can learn enough about our candidates to vote for someone who understands and represents our needs, regardless of party affiliation.
As for the timing, the fact that I am running unaffiliated had an impact on that decision. Only candidates affiliated with a major party (Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian) run in the primary. The purpose is for each party to nominate its top choice, then the primary winners for each party run against each other in the General Election held in November. Unaffiliated candidates do not have a primary; instead, they must submit a petition signed by at least 4% of all registered voters in their districts and turn it in before the August election. The deadline is designed to prevent someone from running only after seeing the results of the primary election.
In June I went to the County Clerk’s office to inquire about the process of running for office the same week that two of the four candidates in the Republican primary filed to run. In Barber County, only Republicans filed for the primary. This single-party participation has been the case many times in the past, and it has become the norm that whoever wins the Republican primary in Barber County is unopposed in the General Election. I decided to delay filing publicly for a couple of reasons: 1) the Republican candidates are friends and neighbors whom I respect and I did not want to interfere with the primary election process, 2) I was concerned it could have caused confusion for voters since my name would not have appeared on the ballot for the primary election. Therefore, I gathered my signatures the week before the primary, personally reached out to candidates to inform them of my decision to run so they would not be surprised on primary election day, and, finally, I submitted my petition on Friday, January 31st, prior to the August 4th primary election day.
Why am I a good fit for the county commissioner job?
As an active participant in the community, I have interacted with nearly every department in some capacity. My interactions with the Sheriff’s department include tours with the Boy Scouts, fingerprinting for teaching license, and response to emergency calls. Not long ago, we saw firsthand how our emergency services and multiple fire departments could work together to protect property and lives during the Anderson Creek Fire.
As part of my work with Indian Oil, I do land research at the Register of Deeds and have taken oil and gas appraisal classes alongside our assessor’s deputies in order to become proficient at filing hundreds of annual renditions. My interactions with the treasurer are very similar to many drivers, landowners and business owners. I have worked with road and bridge on applications for new road entrances and road bore permits. Our local health department keeps our family on track for immunizations and physicals recommended by the school.
Most recently, I have been working as the project manager for the Barber County CARES Committee. This committee has been given the task of allocating the CARES Relief Funding that was provided to Barber County to help with COVID-19 needs for public entities like the county, schools, and cities, as well as private and non-profit needs. My job is to coordinate the requests from all entities and to ensure that all approved budgets and expenditures are documented according to the state and federal guidelines. This involvement has already given me a great deal of insight into our local needs, as well as the outstanding public programs in Barber County and the people who ensure they continue.