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Candidates for Commissioner Go Face to Face with Voters in Bi-Partisan Forum

The candidates’ forum held last Thursday evening contained several segments, including the candidates running for Kiowa County Commissioner District 2. In a format that mirrored that followed for the candidates for treasurer, the candidates were asked to open with introductory remarks prior to asking prepared questions.

Commissioner Cindy McLoud, Republican and incumbent for Commissioner's PositionIn kicking off this segment of the forum, Cindy McLoud was the first to take the stage. What follows are her comments which have been edited to allow for space.

Cindy McLoud, a Republican and incumbent for the position, describes herself as a third generation graduate of Eads High School who, with her husband, Mike, has also raised five children, all of whom have earned some level of college degree. Upon graduating from high school, McLoud earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer and Information Systems from DeVry University in Kansas City. From there, she moved to Detroit having been hired by Ross Perot’s company Electronic Data System, a subsidiary of General Motors, followed by a position developing automation systems, followed by a position training engineers on the use of computers in their positions. When McLoud returned to Eads, she spent years in secondary education followed by time spent raising her children and writing grants for building renovation on Maine Street, a process that taught her a great deal about resources and county procedures. This work also involved spending significant time in commissioners’ meetings, so much so that she decided to run for office. Since being elected, the buildings on Maine Street have new exteriors and grants are being written to finish off the project. The county has a fire district plus 1041 rules in place to work with energy companies. She’s also worked with the state to have a good county website while also focusing on the budget, which is difficult with increasing unfunded state mandates. She feels it’s the responsibility of the county to have the infrastructure to build a good economy, specifically housing and child care and states that additional low to moderate income housing should be available soon. She’s also been working with a group that should be opening child care next year. In summary, McLoud states that Murdock should be finishing up soon. She’s been working on the roads. She believes Kiowa County should do as much as possible to bring people off the highway. She also believes the commissioners should be a buffer between the state and federal government.

Democratic Challenger Howard Her Democratic challenger, Howard “Butch” Robertson, thanked those who put on the forum for a chance to speak and added, “Most of you know me,” he said, “but, for those who don’t, just call me Butch.” Robertson stated he’d lived here all his life, growing up in the same house where he lives now, working the family’s farm and ranch. By the time he was old enough to buy a car, he was able to do so by selling off part of the herd he’d already raised on his own. He describes his youth as being similar to others raised in the area, graduating from Eads High School and Denver Automotive and Diesel College. Three months later, he was drafted and received honorable discharge in 1971. He and his wife expanded their business and stay busy keeping up with church and their two boys. Soon, they started HB Trucking, hauling grain and livestock. “Many times it was hard to get everything done,” he stated, “but we made it with a little teamwork.” He said at different times over the 26 years, he’d thought about selling the trucks from his business, a decision he finally made and followed through on earlier in the year.”It was the right decision at the right time,” he said. He feels his experience has helped him develop good business sense as has being successful on his own. In campaigning, he’s heard various concerns from residents and is committed to learning more about those concerns, should he be elected. “We need new business,” he said, “but we need to focus on what we have and help them grow. I’d also like to see the new senior citizens’ center completed as soon as possible so that people can enjoy it. If elected, I won’t work just for District 2 but the whole county. I want to work for you and for the whole county, and I appreciate your vote.”

Questions for the candidates for commissioner, again edited to allow for space, were as follows:

Q1: What ideas do you have that could make the commissioner’s office more accessible to the youth of our county and to areas other than the county seat?

McLoud: In Prowers County, they have county commissioner meetings in places besides Lamar, and that’s something we could do here, as well. I’ve also seen the Crow Luther organization and the town of Eads have had a position for youth to actually be on the council, so an idea would be to have youth from the two school districts. Also, our county commissioner meetings are quite long and can’t be held in the evening because they are so long. We would need quite a lot of input to see how to have that happen under our current format.

Robertson: There needs to be more opportunities for kids in the county, give them something to stay busy with and stay out of trouble and look for the future and see how they can help once they get old enough to be in these positions. I’d do what I could to make that happen.

Q2: Dealing with the county budget is a large part of the duties of a commissioner. How would you prioritize budget items, including the necessity of providing matching funds for grant projects and meeting landfill requirements, without taking funds from other necessary projects?

Robertson: The grants are great, to a point, but if you don’t have the money, they’re not doing that much good. But, if you don’t use the grants and they’re available, they’ll go to someone else. I was raised that, if I needed something and had the money, I would buy it. If I didn’t have the money, I’d go without. The landfill is getting to be a problem everywhere, and it costs a lot of money, I’m sure. But, as long as you work with it with everybody, you do what you can. It’s just something we’ll have to deal with.

McLoud: Our budget is in pretty good shape, and I appreciate the responsible way offices make their budget requests. As far as the grants, last year, we applied for GoCo grants to make improvements to the fairgrounds--like ADA compliant rest rooms, new seating and fixing electrical problems. We didn’t get that grant, but, we still needed to make sure we had ADA complaint rest rooms and other things. We ended up paying about $22,000 to do the work. However, if we’d gotten the grant, we would have been able to do about four times as much work. As far as the landfill, when I got into office, we were about six months away from closing the landfill. Since then, we’ve been working very hard and have had some stern conversations with the state. And we’ve made some progress. But it’s an ongoing process, and we’ll continue to work on this as are most of the other counties in the state.

Q3: Are you satisfied with the way the fire district has been funded? What improvements or changes do you think could be made?

McLoud: I’m satisfied with the changes experienced in the last year. Before the district, the fire department relied on $40,000 to $50,000 from the county commissioners to support the department. Haswell and the town of Eads were also both very generous. Under the county, the fire department wasn’t competitive for grants. Now that there’s a fire district, they’ve been the recipients of some very generous donations. Now, they also have their own board to concentrate on their specific needs.

Robertson: I think the way the fire district was set up was a good idea. That’s one thing I don’t feel like should be shorted. If you look at this year with the moisture we’ve had and the grass, it’s probably going to be a pretty bad fire season. I’m in favor of giving the fire district everything they need. We have some good, reliable people on that board, and I just want to thank them.

Q4: What future do you see in Kiowa County for cultivation and/or retail sales of marijuana and of the production of industrial hemp?

Robertson: Hemp is probably all right. It’s a good cash crop for agriculture, and it’s regulated to the point that you can just keep an eye on it. But I’m not much for marijuana. I look at the counties that are doing that, and it looks like their problems have increased a lot. So, I just don’t think Kiowa County is the place for marijuana, but hemp could be a real good thing.

McLoud: With both Kiowa County and the Town of Eads, the people on the boards at that time had the foresight to exclude hemp in the language they wrote forbidding marijuana. I’m more concerned about hemp being viable for Kiowa County. I’m not sure we get enough rain. As far as marijuana, people in other counties at the commissioner level love it, but the people in the sheriff’s department and Social Services are swamped with problems related to it. I’m just not personally interested in doing that.

Q5: Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, are abundantly available here in Kiowa County. What is your philosophy regarding the county encouraging or discouraging the introduction or expansion of these sources on a commercial basis?

McLoud: In the past four years, the county commissioners and the zoning commission have spent hours setting up our rules, making sure that solar farms and wind energy who want to come in can do so. We do that thinking that, once they follow all our rules, they’ll be set to follow the state and federal rules. We’re still just waiting for the transmission lines. They should have been built by now, but they’ve been postponed again, but we keep still keep asking things to make sure we don’t get forgotten.

Robertson: I think the renewable energy like wind and solar are a great thing. I think it would be great for the county. The taxes off it for the schools and everything can’t do anything but help. It might be a little hard on the county roads, but they need a little attention anyway.

Mr. Robertson closed with comments encouraging people to vote and to especially vote for the assisted living.

Mrs. McLoud expressed her support for Prairie Pines, as well. She also said that, as commissioner, she’s been trying to do all she could to bring extra revenue in when possible. She also encouraged people to reach out to commissioners’ office as well as her opponent to encourage open dialogue.

Kelly and Preston Courkamp watching the Kiowa County Candidate ForumAll in all, the reviews of the first candidates’ forum were very positive with people expressing an interest in making it a regular event related to elections and stating it was an excellent way to hear from the candidates directly.

For their part, the organizers felt it went well.

“I was very pleased with the turnout for the first bipartisan event,” James said. “Considering the current culture of our country in which a person feels as though they must despise and ridicule those with whom they disagree, it was refreshing to see opposing candidates speaking respectfully to one another and staying on the issues rather than personal attacks. Both parties are considering the idea of doing this again in the future.”

Katie Kopasz expressed a similar sentiment. “I feel the forum was successful and gave the candidates a great opportunity to share their views on how best to serve Kiowa County,” she said in a statement. “I was pleased with the turnout, both in person and those viewing the forum online. I hope this will be something we will continue to organize for future elections.”

Anyone with questions about their voter registration should contact DeLisa Weeks, Kiowa County Clerk and Recorder, at 719-438-5421.

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