Editor’s Note: In addition to answers provided here, videos of a majority of candidates answering more questions are available. Sharon Spero chose not to participate in videos.
CLAY COUNTY — Three candidates are up for the new western seat 2 commission seat on the August ballot as the Clay County Commission prepares to expand to a seven-member commission as designed by passage of the county constitution.
Candidates on the August ballot for the Western 2 commissioner seat are Rodney Phillips, Sharon Spero and Scott Wagner. Voters will select one candidate from these three on the ballot. If a candidate gets 51% or more of the votes cast, he or she will be the winner and no general election in November will be held. If no candidate gets more than half of the total votes, the top two vote-getters will move on to the general election.
The Courier-Tribune asked each candidate biographical and issue questions related to the county and the commission. For fairness to all candidates, responses were limited to 50 words per question. Answers longer than this limit have been edited to the nearest end of a sentence and have an ellipsis (...) in place of missing words. Answers are published in alphabetical order of candidate last name.
What is the biggest issue impacting your district and how will you work to resolve it if elected?
Phillips: “The rising crime rate in the Northland. I am the only Western candidate with a working knowledge of law enforcement. I know the importance of good training and support. I will never vote to reduce or defund the sheriff’s budget and will look for ways to attract and retain deputies.”
Spero: “I believe drug abuse involving fentanyl and associated crime is a great problem and education along with supporting law enforcement and treatment is of utmost importance.”
Wagner: “Residents want their confidence restored in Clay County government. This is clear after a new Constitution passed after many failed attempts. I will work with the new administration and commission members to put in place systems that allow for much needed transparency and allow our county to be professionally run.”
How will you work to aid and improve transparency of government operations if elected?
Phillips: “I think the key to being transparent is to be completely open, honest and responsible. These are three of the traits that I will bring to this office. I will be above board with everything and promise there will no secret or backroom deals.”
Spero: “I would endeavor to continue the current policy of public meetings and observance of the Sunshine Law.”
Wagner: “I will work to establish five-year business and financial planning that involves a public process. The administration will report on metrics and outcomes that fulfill those objectives so we know if we are headed in the right direction. These reports would be available to the public.”
Do commissioners provide enough oversight over the county budget and how funds are spent? If not, what will you change if elected?
Phillips: “The commissioners are gaining four new sets of eyes that will have input on how taxpayers’ funds are spent, and to ensure the funds are being used for their intended purposes. I would also encourage audits to be conducted at any time.”
Spero: “I believe the commissioners do. I have made it a point to sit in on the meetings and observed the care taken to know how much, where and why funds are justified.”
Wagner: “In my second City Council term, I oversaw a $1.7 billion budget. During my tenure, we instituted a number of best practices in budgeting and procurement. Now is the time to introduce the business and financial planning processes necessary to establish what we want to spend money on and why.”
What county services do you feel most needs additional resources and why?
Phillips: “Public safety is of the utmost importance. I would like to see armed security in every school, be it sheriff’s deputies, retired law enforcement officers or other qualified individuals. This would be coordinated through the sheriff’s department to include training, supervision and placement. Our children’s safety is priority No. 1.”
Spero: “Infrastructure, growth and enhanced further support of our law enforcement.”
Wagner: “The sheriff’s department needs modern equipment and competitive salaries. Clay County’s jail will be antiquated in just a handful of years. Roads need improvements throughout the county. Plus, it would be nice if Clay County had a Parks & Recreation Department that operated, instead of one in name only.”
Are county taxes adequate for the needs of Clay County?
Phillips: “Yes, I believe they are adequate as long as the taxes are being utilized efficiently. When elected, I will work to eliminate wasteful spending. I’m a taxpayer just like you, and I sure don’t want to see my money wasted.”
Spero: “I think we can always use more financial support.”
Wagner: “How do you define ‘needs?’ If you ask the people of my district what they get for the taxes they pay, the answer will be ‘a tax bill.’ It’s simple: Understand what our cities and residents need from Clay County. Make a business and financial plan against that. Then, execute.”