Candidates For Open Supervisor Seat Debate The Issues
Oskaloosa, Iowa – The special election to fill the open Mahaska County Supervisor seat, left vacant when Ken Rozenboom moved into his new chair in the Iowa Senate, will be decided on next Tuesday, January 29th.
Both candidates for the position, Mark Doland (R) and Tom Rielly (D), participated in the public forum at Smokey Row on Tuesday, January 22nd.
The candidates were each given 2 minutes for an opening statement. Tom Rielly lead off those statements.
Rielly, who squared off against Mike Vander Molen in the general election but came up short, joked about the upcoming Groundhog Day. “Because it’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day for me up here,” Rielly said jokingly, in reference to the 1993 movie starring Bill Murry who repeated the same day over and over. He said he was honored to be running for the office again, after area residents encouraged him to, “I think based upon my love for public service, my experience in elected office.” Rielly outlined his experiences from being a state senator to Mayor of Oskaloosa, and his years as a small business owner as qualification for the position.
Doland took time in his opening statement to highlight the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. “I’ve worked and fought tirelessly for the pro-life cause and sanctity of marriage. One man, one woman marriage.” He also said, “I’ve been asked to take a stand on protecting private property rights and the issues that are on the horizon.” Doland stated he believes he has a lot of good qualities that will be discussed during the debate.
Amy Langdon of CRI moderated the forum, and she started out with the first of questions that had been provided ahead of time to the candidates. “How has your work experiences helped prepare you for your role as county supervisor?”
Doland started out by saying he has been a resident in Mahaska County for the past 8 years, but has been a lifelong Iowa resident. Doland explained that he is the minister for a local church, “which is run like a business.” Doland is a counselor in a business ” that I run out of our church.”.
Doing those jobs, Doland says he gets to see a lot of people struggling with problems, and he gets to help find answers to those problems. “I’ve been entrusted with a great gift, I am a steward of some very serious things pertaining to people’s eternity. When that’s at stake, it’s a very high task that I’ve been charged with.” Doland said that responsibility helps him to put other things into perspective.
Doland said that during his time on the school board in Fremont, he worked with the budget there, and also serves on the executive committee for the State Republican Party. He says that those experiences will serve him well as a Mahaska County Supervisor.
Rielly was the next to answer the question posed by the moderator. Rielly said he’s been a lifelong resident of Mahaska County. “Born and raised here, went to high school here.” Rielly said that he will use his 23 years as a small business owner and will use those experiences to help him if elected to Mahaska County Supervisor. Rielly said that over that time, he has had to learn to budget his business correctly. “I do have business experience, in addition to that,” Rielly outlined his public service record to date, where he has served 8 years as a state senator, “and the 6 billion dollar budget we dealt with.” He also highlighted his time as mayor of Oskaloosa.
Rielly also believes that his experience in the insurance industry would be valuable,”I’d like to bring that kind of perspective to the supervisors.”
Rielly also said he would like to build his “track record of listening to both sides”. He says that during his time in public and business services he’s learned that you have to listen.
Langdon then asked the candidates, “What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Mahaska County and what would you do to solve it?”
Rielly said that the biggest challenge is retaining our “best and brightest”. Rielly said that instead of having students leave here, go to college and then move on, “I’d like to have them move back to Mahaska County, mainly because I think Mahaska County has an awful lot to offer.” Rielly said that in order to attract those “best and brightest” back to the area “we need to create a business atmosphere for businesses to expand and we need business to relocate here.” Rielly said you accomplish that by having a “business friendly environment”. Rielly also believes that quality of life issues need to be looked at as well.
“I believe the greatest challenge facing Mahaska County is the gridlock that is brewing between landowners in western Mahaska County, County and City officials on the very divisive issue that I don’t think it’s gonna go away any time soon. This issue of the airport as part of the 163 corridor was voted on by the residents of Oskaloosa. It went down in defeat 4 to 1. That provision sunsetted two years after the vote. I believe it has caused an us versus them mentality.” Doland says that there hasn’t been a lot of communication with landowners. “We need somebody to stand up for private property rights,” Doland said. “I’m standing in the gap for them [landowners],” Doland said.
Langdon posed the prepared question, “How do you think the current regionalization of mental health services will affect the care Mahaska County provides?”
“This is a tricky one,” Rielly said. “There’s a lot of moving parts, and I’m not trying to dodge the question, but because it’s evolving daily, even as the legislature speaks. We had a real good advocate for Mahaska County who served on the committee, Ken Rozenboom. I thought he did a great job, and I hope he continues to do that, cause an awful lot of what will dictate the services we’re going to be able to provide the citizens of Mahaska County for mental health really depends on whether the state’s going to hold their promises. Rielly says that the state has yet to appropriate 60 to 70 million dollars to the counties. “We need a strong advocate to go to Des Moines and hold their feet to the fire, and I’m willing to do that.”
“I’d have to echo and agree with what Tom said,” Doland stated in his opening comment. “With the loss of $100,000 in the area of mental health funding, it will be a difficulty. And like he [Tom] said, there’s a lot of moving parts. We don’t know all the specifics, but we do know about the mental health regionalization. It is a good thing. There are people in 99 counties receiving 99 different kinds of services. Some people were getting some and some people weren’t getting some. So this will be more equitable for everybody. It will make sure everybody is receiving the level of care and services they need for mental health.” Doland said overall the change to regionalization will make services more equitable across the board. Doland said that since he is familiar with process, he as well could be a very strong advocate. “I have a lot of people I’ve worked with up in Des Moines as well, in the legislature, to help get things passed.” Doland continued by saying he thought that this is an area where the county needs someone with experience and believes he has the experience to do it.
The debated ended after an hour, with a handshake. The candidates then greeted supporters and answered questions from voters.