Polls open Tuesday

Polls open Tuesday by David Lias Democrats in Clay County will go to the polls Tuesday, June 6 to select one of three candidates for United States Representatives.

Democrats also will vote for three of four candidates running for Clay County Commission.

There are no state or local political races for Republicans to decide Tuesday, but they will have reason to go the polls. Registered members of the GOP in Clay County will be asked to select a slate of delegates and alternates for one of four Republican presidential candidates: John McCain, George W. Bush, James Attia and Alan Keyes.

A Democratic primary election is needed June 6 for voters to select three of four Democrats running for county commission. Nominating petitions have been filed by Heath Nelson and incumbent Ralph Westergaard, both of Wakonda, William P. O'Connor, Burbank, and Tom Vogel, Vermillion.

A Republican primary election won't be necessary for county commission. Three Republicans have filed petitions: incumbent William Willroth Sr., Mary E. Jensen and Dick Brown, all of Vermillion. They are automatically nominated for the three positions on the commission that will be up for election later this year. Incumbent County Commissioner Paul Hasse has not filed petitions for re-election.

No one is opposing State's Attorney Tami Bern and Clay County Treasurer Catherine Powell, both of Vermillion. They automatically will serve another term in office.

No June primary election is needed for District 17 House or District 17 Senate.

Democrats B.J. Nesselhuf and Maxine Johnson, both of Vermillion, have filed nominating petitions for the district's two House seats. Incumbent Republican Representatives Judy Clark, Vermillion and H. Junior Engbrecht, Marion are seeking re-election.

Republican Donna J. Schafer and incumbent Democrat John J. Reedy, both of Vermillion, have filed petitions for District 17 Senate.

Following are the responses by Clay County's four Democratic candidates for county commission to a Plain Talk questionnaire.

Heath Nelson

Age: 24

Family: Single, parents are Ron and Cyndi Nelson and I have one sister, Lindsay Nelson.

Occupation: Farmer/student.

Education: Pursuing a degree in political science and economics.

Hobbies and Interests: Golf, hunting, and reading.

Why are you running?

I am running for the Clay County Commission so that I can do my part to make the future of this county better for all its residents. I want to make sure that the county's infrastructure is sound and that there is a balance between the needs of those in our towns and cities and the rural community. I am running because I think the commission needs to take a stronger proactive approach in terms of county development. I have seen our neighboring counties' commissioners aggressively pursue economic development and they have succeeded, the fact that Clay County is being bypassed is not acceptable.

What kind of county commissioner would you be?

I will be a very active county commissioner; I will do everything in my power to help in the development and prosperity of this county. When facing a new or existing issue that requires some education I will seek this education out. I will research the topic to find material and information and I will seek the opinions of experts in the relevant area so that I can make the best-informed decision for Clay County. A commissioner should not be content with maintaining the status quo because that is not what the citizens of this county deserve. I will make every effort to go the extra mile and provide the citizens of this county with a good government, not just government.

What are the biggest challenges facing Clay County?

I think some of the problems facing this county include economic development, providing necessary service on a limited budget, and trying to maintain a proper balance between our rural and urban community's needs. Economic development, especially in our rural communities. Clay County needs more development like the Buffalo Run Winery; we need projects that will bring value and prosperity into our communities as

we go into the future. We have a golden opportunity for further economic development because of the new bridge that will be built south of Vermillion, and we need to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by this bridge.

Limited budgets mean that we constantly need to be looking for ways to improve efficiency so that we can provide optimum value on our tax dollars. We also need to be aware of what is happening in our townships, many of which are struggling financially to maintain their services. The county needs to cooperate and work with our township board members as much as possible. The balance between our urban and rural areas is a very delicate situation. We need to protect the interests of our farmers, but we also need to protect the quality of life for all residents in Clay County.

If you could change something about Clay County tomorrow, what would it be?

The changes I want to make are related to the building of infrastructure in our county and economic development, these are clearly the most important things for the future of Clay County. The way to do this is to have a much more aggressive approach on our county commission.

What is your number one goal if elected?

My number one goal is to provide to the best of my abilities good government to the citizens of Clay County. I will be available to all constituents and will do everything in my power to help them and meet their concerns. I recently was appointed to a task force to develop zoning regulations for animal livestock operations in Clay County. This task force was only formed after a proposal was written and ready to be passed. The proposed changes were made without seeking any input from experts or from the people impacted by these changes. That is not good government and is not the kind of service the people of this county deserve. This task force should have been formed right away. If I am elected commissioner I pledge to make sure that I will always make the extra effort that separates "good" government from government.

General comment:

These statements reflect why I want to be your county commissioner and why I think I could best serve you. I have a strong understanding of the issues and problems facing Clay County today and I am truly concerned with building the future of this county. I hope that you will give me the opportunity to serve you so that together we can make Clay County the best place it can be.

Thomas E. Vogel

Age: 63 years young

Family: Wife � Ione, Children � Tom Jr., Joseph, Amy, Bob and Ann.

Occupation: Certified Public Accountant and management consultant.

Education: Graduate of Nettleton College and La Salle Extension University.

Hobbies and Interests: Fruit and berry gardening.

Why are you running for election to the Clay County Commission?

I am running for the office of commissioner to offer my training and experience to the people of Clay County. My background in financial affairs would be helpful in budgeting cash flow management and financial statement interpretation.

What kind of county commissioner would you be?

I would be a commissioner that would continue the support of:

* Good roads and bridges.

* Efficient law enforcement.

* Fair property assessments.

* Education funding.

* The fine working relationship between the employees and the commissioners.

* Cooperation with township and other governmental entities.

* County welfare office.

What are the biggest challenges facing Clay County?

The biggest challenge to Clay County is to continue the present methods and procedures that are in place. The county government is not a place to radically alter.

If you could change something about Clay County tomorrow, what would it be?

Based on the knowledge that I presently have, I am not aware of any changes that should be made. Steady as you go!

What is your number one goal if elected?

The number one goal would be to continue the present methods and procedures that are in place.

William P. O'Connor

Age: 50

Family: Wife � Paula, four children � Willy, Shane, Carolyn and Don.

Occupation: Farming and rotary dryer repair business.

Education: Graduated from high school, Akron, IA; served four years in the United States Marines.

Why are you running for election to the Clay County Commission?

In the past many people have been in to see the commissioners, including myself. Normally they table everything and have difficulty making a decision. I would like to take action and try to help people with their problems or concerns.

What kind of county commissioner would you be?

I would be a commissioner that goes by the law and treats everyone equally and fairly. I would be a commissioner that works for the people and addresses issues and concerns.

What are the biggest challenges facing Clay County?

Road repair, taxes, ditch repair and maintenance, excessive spending. I do not believe that commissioners should get free health insurance from the county when they are part time.

If you could change something about Clay County tomorrow, what would it be?

I would like to change the condition that our ditches are in. I would like to see them maintained and kept free of trees, rocks, silt, etc.

What is your number one goal if elected?

My number one goal is to be a decision-maker and a leader, and to bring a rural voice to the commission. I would like to bring more industry to Clay County with competitive salaries. I would like to put a stop to money spent on needless studies.

General comment:

In the repair business that I am in, I have to make quick decisions and stand by them, using the best of my judgement. In the past, I believe that county government has not had the ability to make a timely decision and take action. A new bridge is being built south of Vermillion. This bridge has been closed for 15-20 years or so. In my opinion, the bridge should have been rebuilt years ago. This bridge would have kept a lot of truck and traffic out of town from the west.

Ralph H. Westergaard

Age: 64

Family: Wife � Sally; four children � Matt, Mark, Sue and Beth; seven grandsons and one granddaughter.

Occupation: Farmer/flagpole and flag sales.

Education: Twelve years: four years in the Air Force, eight years Clay County Commission.

Hobbies and Interests: Bird watching.

Why are you running for election to the Clay County Commission?

I would like to finish some of the projects that are in progress and some that need to be started.

What kind of county commissioner would you be?

One that listens and then tries to correct the problem.

What are the biggest challenges facing Clay County?

Drainage and upgrading roads and bridges.

If you could change something about Clay County tomorrow, what would it be?

The way land and property home owners are assessed. The money that is needed to run the county should not keep coming from the land and home owners.

What is your number on goal if elected?

To continue to work on cleaning ditches and upgrade and save our present highway system.

General comment:

I enjoy working for Clay County and the people. Unfortunately, some of our decisions are decided by law.

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