CLAY COUNTY — Outgoing State Rep. Jon Carpenter faces current Clay County Assessor Cathy Rinehart on the Democratic primary ballot for western Clay County commissioner. The winner will face the Republican primary winner on the November ballot.

To educate voters on where candidates stand on issues, questionnaires were sent to each candidate. They were asked for biographical details as well as answers to questions on issues facing the county. Answers are printed in alphabetical order of last name.

What is the biggest issue facing the county and your district and how will you work to resolve them?

Carpenter: “We need to regain confidence and trust from the people (by) improving transparency, adhering to the Sunshine Law, listening to voters, spending taxpayer dollars wisely, always putting the people’s interest first and making Clay County a place where businesses want to invest and people want to live and raise their families.”

Rinehart: “Money is the largest issue for Clay County. How are we going to pay off the certificates of participation? How are we going to keep excellent employees without more money to pay them with?”

What do you feel the role of commissioner is in relation to the public and to county staff?

Carpenter: “County commissioners are representatives of the people. They should work collaboratively with each other as well as staff in the best interest of the people. The new commission needs significant improvement in both transparency and accountability, and needs to return to allowing open comment from citizens at commission meetings.”

Rinehart: “Clay County commissioners have passed off their duties to county administrator/administrators. It is imperative the commission take back the duties of the commission and reinstate confidence and respect to the public as well as staff.”

Do you support the state audit of the county? Why or why not?

Carpenter: “Yes. I signed the audit petition and strongly believe an outside, neutral audit is critical for our county. It’s the best way to get factual information that can help guide us into the future. I trust (State Auditor Nicole) Galloway’s team and oppose the lawsuits that have delayed this process at significant cost to all of us as taxpayers.”

Rinehart: “The state audit has already cost the citizens of Clay County over $500,000 in legal (fees). I don’t believe a state audit will provide new information or criminal charges being brought forward. New commissioners will remedy the foolish spending.”

Does the commission provide adequate opportunities for public input? If not, what will you improve if elected?

Carpenter: “Currently, there are barriers in place preventing the public from speaking about issues that concern them unless that issue specifically was put on the agenda ahead of time. We should return to having an open comment period. Elected officials don’t have all the answers, they need to hear from the people.”

Rinehart: “The first thing I would do is put public comments back on the agenda as well as officeholder comments.”

Do you think the form or structure of Clay County government should be changed? If so, how would you like to see if changed?

Carpenter: “I support long-term changes to the structure of county government. Voters must remain empowered, and it should contain recall provisions to improve accountability. I will respect the citizen process if/when it occurs and will stand up to any elected official who attempts to obstruct it.”

Rinehart: “New commissioners can instill the trust and transparency the citizens deserve to have. So no, I do not think we need to change the form of county government.”

Are you in favor of the county’s certificates of participation bond projects that include building a new Annex and nature center at Smithville Lake? Why or why not?

Carpenter: “I think it’s extremely unwise to borrow tens of millions of dollars for unnecessary projects during a time of unprecedented economic challenge. Revenues to local governments are down and balancing the budget will already be difficult enough. A public vote should be required before the county takes on significant debt.”

Rinehart: “We need more space, however, a three-person commission should not be voting on $52 million of debt. The public should be voting on the bonds. I realize we desperately need improvements to Smithville Lake and the Annex, but the public needs to approve this, not the Clay County Commission.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at or 903-6001.

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