June 5 primary - Six Republicans are on the ballot

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By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Six Republican candidates for the Clayton County Board of Supervisors are vying for a chance to advance to November’s general election. Joining them on the final ballot will be Democrat contenders Richard Dinan and Joleen Jansen. Since two candidates from each party will advance, Dinan and Jansen will automatically be placed on the November ballot along with the primary’s two top Republican vote-getters.

Following are profiles of the Republican contenders. Each begins with a brief introduction followed by a question-answer interview. Dinan and Jansen will be profiled later as the general election date approaches.

Charles Carroll

McGregor resident Charles Carroll is a native of Northeast Iowa. The oldest of nine siblings, he graduated from MFL Mar-Mac High School and later earned degrees at Loras College (BS) and the University of Iowa (MS), both in computer science. He retired after 26 years as a software engineer at IBM and currently farms.

What other elected positions have you held? McGregor City Council - presently serving.

What are your reasons for seeking this position? I serve on the Regional Housing Authority Board of Directors.  A fellow member of the housing board encouraged me to consider running for one of the two open seats.   I felt it would be a great way to continue my public service to our area communities. I am a fiscal conservative, and believe government should be run the same - efficient, but effective. 

What are the biggest challenges facing Clayton County? The county is a rural county and needs to keep a good infrastructure in place.  

How do you plan to address these challenges?  The county needs to continue the investment of replacing aging bridges and the upkeep of the roads, and the associated road facilities. The current supervisors have done a great job of running a efficient and effective county government that was able to reduce the tax levy seven of the last eight years, and I would hope to maintain this efficiency.

If elected to serve, what do you hope to achieve during your term? Since the year 2000, the county has lost 6% of its population, which needs to be reversed.   The county board alone can’t reverse this population loss.  The board needs to continue to work with: employers, the county economic development committee, housing boards, and higher level education institutions, if this trend is ever to be reversed.  Most towns in the county now enjoy fiber optic access to the internet. Rural areas need to have that same high-speed access to the internet.

How will you reach out to area residents?  I hope to meet as many residents as possible at various county events throughout the summer and fall.  They can also contact me via phone or email.

What additional comments about your candidacy or platform would you like to make? Clayton County is a great place to live, and I would be honored to serve as a supervisor.

Steve Doeppke

Steve Doeppke is a life-long resident of Clayton County. Born and raised in Elkader, he graduated from Central Community School in 1972. His family includes his wife of 43 years, Janita, and their there sons William, Grant, and Shane.. Doepkke worked for the Iowa Department of Transportation for 42 years. He served Elkader as a police officer and volunteer firefighter for 25 years. Doeppke has been retired since June 2016.

What elected positions have you held? I was elected as Assistant Fire Chief for the Elkader Fire Department for 2 years and also held a position on the Church Council for 2 years.

Why did you decide to run for this position? I am running for County Supervisor because I feel like I have a lot of understanding and knowledge of the different departments within the County and as I am retired from the IDOT will be able to continue to serve the public in an effective and dedicated manner.

What are the biggest challenges facing the county and how will you address these issues? I believe that some of the biggest issues facing Clayton County are making sure we are spending the taxpayer money effectively in all departments. We need to make sure we are applying for extra revenues and grants that are available to us and then using money wisely. We need to make sure the departments are researching and purchasing the right equipment and product for the work required. There needs to be a focus on continual improvement of our County roads infrastructure. We need to make sure that the departments have good communication internally, but also with the taxpayers of Clayton County so that we  can accomplish things in a productive way. I think many of these things can be addressed by making sure the Supervisors have continued open communications with all departments as well as being available to all taxpayers opinions and concerns as well.

If elected to serve what do you hope to achieve during your term? If elected to County Supervisor, I hope to be able to bring a fresh set of eyes to the public issues facing the county today. I would like to increase the communication throughout the organization and between the departments and the workers. I would like to contribute to cutting the wasteful spending of our taxpayer money.

How will you reach out to area residents? In order to be an effective Supervisor, I will be available to any Clayton County resident by phone, email, or in person to listen and take their concerns seriously. I will make sure to attend as many events in Clayton County so the citizens of our County can speak to me at any time with any concerns or issues. I believe that Supervisors are here to listen and serve the County residents and I will make sure that I am available whenever needed.

What additional comments about your candidacy or platform would you like to make? I believe with my many years of experience working with the public as IDOT and police officer will serve the County will and make me the best candidate for County Supervisor. I look forward to serving Clayton County and its residents and I am confident that I can make sure the concerns of the taxpayers are heard and can serve the county with integrity.

Sharon Keehner

Guttenberg resident Sharon Keehner and her husband, Randy, have owned and managed a cow/calf operation outside to Guttenberg for 38 years. She’s been responsible for the farm financial records, herd records, and helped with all aspects of the operation. A graduate od Upper Iowa University (BS, business education) and the University of Northern Iowa (MS, education psychology), she has been a business teacher at Clayton Ridge Community Schools/Guttenberg Community Schools for 38 years where she’s also served as volleyball coach, athletic director, yearbook advisor, and assistant drill team coach. She is a recipient of Iowa’s Outstanding Secondary Business Educator award. 

What other elected positions have you held? I have never run for a public office.  I have volunteered for several agricultural, business and educational organizations. I have served on the Program Management Committee for Business Education with the Iowa Department of Education. 

What are your reasons for seeking this position? I have always felt that public service is a noble calling. I believe I would bring a perspective and a background that would be helpful in dealing with the problems we face. My firsthand knowledge of farming and business background gives me a great understanding of challenges our rural economy faces. I also think I have the right demeanor. Having lived all of my adult life working with the public, I’ve developed good listening skills. I am approachable, have a sense of humor, am a creative problem solver, and understand the importance of public trust. Public trust requires honestly dealing with people and the issues that come before the County Board. I believe successful people know how to listen and ask great questions. I am humble enough to know I don’t have all the answers but I promise to work hard and ask the tough questions.  I would consider it a high high honor to serve the people of Clayton County.

What are the biggest challenges facing Clayton County? Infrastructure, economic growth, tax relief, and keeping our youth here in the county would top the list. Progress on these issues will require creative thinking and open lines of communication with all stakeholders. Our biggest challenge will be balancing the needs and wants of the county with the taxes required. Every dollar that government spends must be taken from a family that earned it. As Ronald Reagan once said, “You can’t spend yourself rich.”  Just spending money doesn’t always make things better—we have to spend it in the right places.  Families balance their budgets by setting priorities. So should the County. As a supervisor I feel the hardest part will be deciding appropriate spending priorities. I will make sure to listen to the residence and make sure their concerns are considered when making the tough decisions. 

How do you plan to address these challenges? I have spent my whole life problem solving in my classroom and on the farm, figuring out new ways to solve old problems.  I believe with researching alternatives and by listening to the residents of Clayton County we can make informed decisions and solve problems.  My motto has always been, “Hard work pays off.”  I will pull up my sleeves and work hard to find a consensus to move the county forward.

If elected to serve, what do you hope to achieve during your term? I will take an assertive approach to learning my role and would expect to be productive within the first few weeks on the job.  I hope my real-world experience and knowledge will inspire trust among residents.  Like many of you I hope that we can tackle the problems we face together with dignity, optimism and a belief we are making a better tomorrow for all the people of Clayton County. Together, we can make it happen. The people that came before us, left us with a great place to raise a family. We owe it to future generations to make wise decisions and establish smart priorities.  It›s about your priorities and our future. 

How will you reach out to area residents? I will be visiting towns and reaching out to community organizations to have open forums for questions and answers.  I will have an open door policy. I will be returning calls and messages as soon as possible.  I am available through email (keehnerforsupervisor@gmail.com) I would love speak or attend meetings in your communities.   Please invite me now through email or through my website (www.keehnerforsupervisor.com).  I would love to come and talk to your group or have a private conversation.

What additional comments about your candidacy or platform would you like to make? I bring both a background and a perspective that will be helpful in making decisions that will affect our County and our future: Experienced leader & lifelong area resident; farm wife, mother, and business teacher; a hard-nosed fiscal conservative who understands that it’s your money; a good listener. it’s about your priorities. i will listen and make sure your concerns are considered. 

It would be my honor to represent your values and concerns on the Clayton County Board. I look forward to the opportunity to meet with you and earn your support.  I will bring leadership with common sense.

 Doug Puffett

Strawberry Point native Douglas Puffett is a 2004 graduate of Starmont High School. He had his wife, Anne, have two school-aged children, Noah, 10, and Sarah, 3. Puffett is an Iowa State University graduate with degrees in agricultural studies and agronomy. He is a self-employed farmer and his farm consists of  corn and soybean production and grasslands (hay) along with livestock production of cow/calf and feeder cattle operation

What other elected positions have you held? Elected to the Starmont Community School District board of education September 2013 and then reelected in September 2017 and currently serving as board president.

What are your reasons for seeking this position? I want to give the residents of Clayton County an option on who they want to represent them on the board of supervisors.  I want to make sure that Clayton County government is working in a sustainable fashion for the best use of taxpayer monies.  I am running for supervisor to help maintain the balance and keep Clayton County on strong financial footings while providing core county services as well as maintain county facilities and infrastructure in a safe environment for the residents of Clayton County to live, work, do business and raise a family. 

What are the biggest challenges facing Clayton County? Aging infrastructure; loss of reoccurring state and federal monies; aging population (loss of younger people staying in, returning to, and coming to Clayton County).

How do you plan to address these challenges? Development of a construction and maintenance priority list for all new or replacement construction.  When revenue is lost, the board of supervisors will have to develop a policy of ‘maintenance from within’ to address the cost and benefits to the residents.  Economic development must be a top priority for the supervisors because without increased business activities within the county, means no increased employment, increased housing demand, and no increase in the school-aged children to attend area public schools.  

If elected to serve, what do you hope to achieve during your term?  I want to be able to replace aging infrastructure while maintaining a positive position in the county’s budget.  I would also like to move Clayton County government more efficient with all aspects of county operations. 

How will you reach out to area residents? I have a campaign email which is the best way to contact me. PUFFETT4SUPER@gmail.com  I will continue to make myself available at community functions throughout the county.

What additional comments about your candidacy or platform would you like to make? I am part of the younger generation that returned to Clayton County to live and work.  I know that there are many opportunities here in the county that can attract new business and people and I would like to take the time to explore those options during my time as supervisor.  I understand that the county has a core function to preform and the board of supervisors is solely responsible to the voters of the county. 

Jim Smith

Jim Smith, Elgin, is a veteran who joined the Navy out of high school and served a tour of duty on the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga. He has an Associate of Science Degree in Drafting and Engineering Technology, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Florida, and a Master of Arts Degree in Architecture from the University of Colorado. He was a vice president and partner for a 12-person consulting engineering firm that provided structural, mechanical and electrical engineering services for all types of buildings; senior design engineer for Martin Marietta Denver Aerospace (now Lockheed Martin) involved in designing satellite launch complexes for Titan 34D rockets.  He was also a partner, architectural and structural department head for a 60-person architectural and consulting engineering firm that provided architectural, structural engineering, civil engineering and surveying services for buildings and bridges. He currently owns Jim Smith PE/AIA.

Smith and wife, a retired registered nurse, have five grown children and several grandchildren.

Smith’s narrative follows.

I now have time to run for my first political elected position.  I am presently serving on the Clayton County Zoning Board of Adjustment and on the Clayton County Republican Central Committee.  I am a fellow member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), America Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and American Concrete Institute (ACI).

When checking on the requirements to run for this position I found three. And those were to be a citizen of the U.S., a citizen of Iowa and be at least 18 years old.  I meet those requirements plus I also have the experience and skills to be a Clayton County Supervisor.

I am a team player.  I will work with other county elected officials and department heads so that we can all do the best job for our county regardless of political party.  I do not have an agenda and my philosophy is if it is not broke do not fix it but, it may need a little tweaking along the way to make it work better.  With my experiences I know budgets, taxes, and infrastructure are always a big deal.  The county is within budget, we have low taxes and roads and bridges have a scheduled three year plan.  Although unemployment is low at this time we could use more jobs in the county.

We have traveled abroad in the past and if religion and politics are not discussed, I have learned that we all basically want the same three things with minimal influence from our governments. We want to be able to have a family, we want to be able to support our family and we are hopeful that our children have as good a life or a better life than we have had.  But I have also found that religion and politics can be discussed if you have mutually agreed on a set of guidelines. One of those guidelines is that you do not take the discussion personal and after the discussion we may have to agree to disagree, but depart as friends.

I should also mention that I am pro-life. I believe our nation was originally founded on Judaeo-Christian principles.  I am a strong constitutionalist that is for states rights and a small federal government. I believe that one of the primary responsibilities of our federal government is to defend us from all enemies foreign and domestic. 

Eldon Troester

Eldon Troester is a McGregor native. As the oldest of seven children, he assumed primary responsibility for the family farm at a young age. He served six years in an engineering unit in the Wisconsin Army National Guard while he also farmed. He and his wife, Lorna, raised two children in Northeast Iowa, Todd and Rhonda.

In addition to a full-time farming operation, Troester has operated a successful auction business conducting many diversified auctions in Iowa and Wisconsin. For the last 30 years, he’s been a seed representative for a major, U.S.-owned company. He’s also worked security at the Isle of Capri Casino and has served his community as a Farm Bureau director for Mendon township and a Mendon township trustee.

What other elected positions have you held? Zoning Board and Mendon Township Trustee

What are your reasons for seeking this position? I feel I have a broad range of experiences on many different levels to face every day challenges.

What are the biggest challenges facing Clayton County? To keep our tax base strong, in order to keep our communities vibrant. The county has over 200 jobs available and not enough homes to meet their needs.

How do you plan to address these challenges? Do our best to bring industries and new businesses into our county.

If elected to serve, what do you hope to achieve during your term? I hope to increase industrial growth, keep improving roads and brides plus seek new technology for rural areas.

How will you reach out to area residents? Being a good listener to each one’s views.


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