Saturday, October 25, 2014

Contenders: Service beats retirement

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 7/30/2014

Don Stottlemire considered retirement from public office, he said, but a group of supporters — namely his wife, business partner, brother, constituents and other commissioners — made him think twice.

“What can you say, especially when your business partner and your wife are two of those people?” Stottlemire, 66, said. “Usually those are the people telling you not to.”

Don Stottlemire considered retirement from public office, he said, but a group of supporters — namely his wife, business partner, brother, constituents and other commissioners — made him think twice.

“What can you say, especially when your business partner and your wife are two of those people?” Stottlemire, 66, said. “Usually those are the people telling you not to.”

Stottlemire, Rantoul, hopes to retain the Franklin County Board of Commissioners District 5 seat in Tuesday’s Republican primary, where he faces Randall Renoud, former Wellsville Elementary School principal. Stottlemire has served on the board of commissioners for 14 years. Renoud, 65, Peoria Township, on the other hand, has served in other capacities of public service, including currently as treasurer of his local township, he said.

The candidates spoke July 22 at a candidate forum organized by the Ottawa and Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as with The Herald, about their campaigns.

While Stottlemire considered retirement, Renoud said he deferred thoughts of running for the Kansas House of Representatives and decided the county board was a more realistic opportunity.

“I think the county commission position is a logical step from the standpoint of that’s where I live and that’s what applies to me,” Renoud said. “The statewide — the big thing — that’s not me right now. And I don’t really have those aspirations anyway.”

Stottlemire might best be known throughout his district for attending almost every city and township meeting in the communities he serves. He has appeared at Wellsville City Council meetings — more than 300 times — so often the council made Stottlemire’s county updates a regular agenda item, he said.

“Somebody once asked me when I first ran ‘What are you going to do for our town?’ And I said ‘Nothing I wouldn’t do for any other town in my district or throughout the county.’ And I’ve always felt that way,” Stottlemire said.

If elected, Renoud said he plans to be available at meetings as well. He doesn’t expect constituents to come talk to him, he said, but for him to make the extra step to reach out.

“As a commissioner, I will be involved with the county, the people of the county, the activities of the county, in order to find out what the county residents are saying we need to move this county on,” Renoud said.

BUDGET

Renoud wants to change the way the county budgets, he said. Based on his experience crafting such financial plans for public schools, Renoud said, he wants to build a budget by taking away all the accounts and then addressing what is needed in each department, rather than just increasing or decreasing the budget for each department every year.

“We take a blank piece of paper and go to each [department leader] and say, ‘Build a budget from zero,’” Renoud told the July 22 candidate forum audience.

With state funds decreasing in recent years, Renoud stressed the importance of fiscal responsibility for each county department.

“Efficiency and effectiveness are two crucial components to help create the budget,” Renoud said.

Stottlemire said his experience on the board has given him unique insight into the county’s budget challenges.

When he joined the board of commissioners in 2000, the county was receiving about $750,000 revenue from the county’s idle money, Stottlemire said, but now only receives about $30,000. The state also pulled demand transfers from the county, which cost about $500,000, he said. Despite the loss of revenue, Stottlemire said the commissioners have challenged department heads to craft the most efficient budget possible, and they have done a great job.

“We know [the departments] got to provide the service. We know what level you have to provide the service,” Stottlemire said. “We’re giving you the challenge of being able to do it by finding the most efficient — not the cheapest — the most efficient and the best way to operate.”

Responding to Renoud’s idea of working with the cities to lower budgets for both entities, Stottlemire said the board of commissioners has allowed cities to use anything purchased by the county, meaning less spending across the board.

“We don’t just think of our budgets,” Stottlemire said. “We think about the townships’ and the cities’ budgets also.”

GOOD GROWTH

When it comes to economic development, splitting up the Ottawa Area Chamber of Commerce and the Franklin County Development Council has been a great endeavor for the county, Stottlemire said. He praised Jeff Seymour, development council director, for his efforts, specifically how he works with city and the county governments.

“He’s doing a great job,” Stottlemire said. “All the commissioners are 100-percent behind what Jeff is doing and the direction he is going with our economic development.”

Planned growth is crucial not only to dealing with the revenue shortcomings, but also for the living conditions of county residents, Renoud said.

“We can make this county an unbelievable place to live for us and those who follow us,” Renoud said.

Renound reiterated the importance of working with municipal governments to help boost economic development of the county. He told the Herald one of his biggest initiatives is finding a way to spread internet services into rural areas, which is essential for new companies moving to the county.

“If you don’t have cell phone service and you can’t run a computers in a rural area, a lot of people work from homes and businesses out there that they need access to those types of things,” Renoud said. “We can stay like we are, but if you’re not growing you’re probably losing ground.”

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