Candidates discuss the issues in public forum held at WHS

From left, sheriff candidates Kevin Hirsch, Neal Rohlfing and Dennis Schreder participate in last week’s forum at WHS. (Kermit Constantine photo)

(To view a video of the entire candidates forum, click here:

Candidates running for county board, assessor and sheriff expressed their views on a variety of topics last Wednesday night during a “Meet the Candidates” event before a crowd of nearly 100 potential voters at the Waterloo High School auditorium.

The first portion of the public forum focused on the race for Monroe County commissioner between incumbent Democrat Mike Kovarik and Republican challenger Bob Elmore.

On the question of most pressing needs for infrastructure or capital projects, Elmore said Monroe County needs a hospital and should try to do something about bringing advanced education opportunities to the area, such as remote classrooms.

“We need more jobs in the county,” Elmore added.

Kovarik responded to the same question by saying the county needs to continue to work on keeping the taxes as low as possible while maintaining the level of safety its residents currently enjoy.

He added that county leaders are going to have to “face the reality” of increased traffic flow on Route 3 between Columbia and Waterloo.

On the question of what area of county services needs additional resources should they become available, Kovarik said the ambulance service has had the toughest time as of late.

Elmore said that as the county grows and more move in from other areas, drugs will become a situation in need of monitoring. He also called for more traffic lights as part of improvements going forward.

Elmore and Kovarik both answered in the affirmative on the question of if the county should encourage building and development, and also said they’d support both public access to the Mississippi River and the chance for residents to vote on a referendum regarding a tax district that funds bike trails.

The next segment of the forum dealt with the race for Monroe County assessor between incumbent Republican Carl Wuertz and Democrat challenger Barrie Scott.

Scott said he would make changes to the 30-day appeals process and would broaden the

access of information regarding property assessments by making more forms available online.

Wuertz said he will continue to serve as he has the past 8.5 years. As for the question of public access, Wuertz said his office is open Monday through Friday.

“Come on in, give us a phone call. We’ll talk,” he said.

 When asked how his office arrived at a 30 percent increase in commercial properties in 2009, Wuertz replied that sales studies determined that figure.

“We make adjustments to try and arrive at a medium level,” he said.

Scott said his experience on the property assessment Board of Review led him to the conclusion that there needs to be a change.

“I will never forget that the citizens of Monroe County are my employers,” he said.

The final portion of the “Meet the Candidates” event was dedicated to the three-man race for Monroe County sheriff between Democrat Dennis Schreder, Republican Neal Rohlfing and Independent candidate Kevin Hirsch.

All three candidates agreed that the county must be proactive in community oriented policing.

Schreder praised the work of retiring Sheriff Dan Kelley and said he would continue to keep Monroe County among the safest in the state as Kelley has the past 32 years.

“I will continue to work as hard as he did,” Schreder said.

Rohlfing said that the growing use of illegal drugs in the region is the most important issue facing local law enforcement. He called for a proactive drug enforcement policy and to build stronger relationships with regional, state and federal agencies.

“It’s coming. I’ll tell you that right now. I’m ready to deal with it right now,” Rohlfing said.

Hirsch agreed that drugs are a concern, but also pointed out that deputies need to be better equipped to handle the ongoing problem of domestic violence.

“We need to do more with less,” he said.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 4. Be sure to pick up the Oct. 29 edition, which will feature profiles of these candidates and others.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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