Four-way race for two Board of Supervisors seats

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Dick Dinan (D)
Steve Doeppke (R)
Joleen Jansen (D)
Sharon Keehner (R)

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

The upcoming retirements of Clayton County Supervisors Gary Bowden and Ron McCartney leave two open seats on that board. Four candidates are vying for the vacancies, Democrats Dick Dinan and Joleen Jansen, and Republicans Steve Doeppke and Sharon Keehner.

The two candidates with the most votes following the November 6 election will win, regardless of political affiliation. In other words, two people from the same party or one person from each party can fill the positions. Again, it all depends the final number of votes.

The Register recently contacted all four candidates with a list of questions. Their responses appear below.
Briefly tell readers about yourself (for example, where you live, family, education, career, and previous government or volunteer experience, leadership qualities including budget management and supervision of employees, and so on.)

Dick Dinan
Briefly tell readers about yourself. I farm the Dinan Century farm near Elkader, which was homesteaded in the 1850s. I now live in Elkader with my wife, Betty, and treasure being a stepfather and grandfather.
I started farming in partnership with my dad at age 14. At that time, I purchased 10 head of my own sheep. I have now farmed for 55 years. In farming, I gained knowledge of veterinary work, soil, water and air control, along with bookkeeping and money management. I also worked for Fisko Construction doing cement and culvert replacement on county roads.
I attended St. Joseph’s Elementary School, graduated from Central Community High School in Elkader and attended NICC in Calmer. I have lobbied as a volunteer at the State House for farmers through the Farm Bureau. In recent years, I advocated along with Betty for Healthcare, clean water and air. We are Charter Members of the Iowa Coalition for Mental Health and Aging. Now we participate in 5C committee work locally.  Another part of my volunteer work is providing transportation for Dr. and VA appointments.
What is your vision for Clayton County? My vision for Clayton County is to evaluate the present services already in place and to work towards fulfilling more needs of the county. In listening to many people during this campaign, most of the needs expressed to me have been ones of concern for me also. These concerns are agriculture, access to rural roads, sound budget with taxpayer money, healthcare and mental wellness, clean air and water, education and job opportunities to help new graduates stay in Clayton County.
My vision is to have these areas addressed and to have county residents feel free to bring their ideas to supervisors with reassurance they will be heard, and their concerns addressed.
How will you use 21st Century skills to enhance your position as supervisor? I understand the 21st Century skills to be: creativity, collaboration, communication, information literacy, media, technology and flexibility.
I will continue to use all means of communication to stay in touch with Clayton County residents. I will be open to utilizing all forms of communication and technologies that are currently used and am open to new ones on the horizon.
However, my best form of communication is talking with and listening to people, one on one. During my campaign I have personally spoken to over 100 people throughout the county. I ask them their concerns and what their worries are so that I can be informed by the people and know their vision for our county.
What are your ideas for attracting and keeping young people in Clayton County? As your Clayton County supervisor candidate, I support new business ventures, tourism and creative agricultural ideas from young entrepreneurs to retirees. I listen to business and agricultural leaders. This allows me to hear their ideas and what they feel we need to do to attract and keep young people here.
We have had several young people start new businesses locally. Recent articles in the county newspapers stated some of the reasons why people were drawn to this beautiful area. Throughout my years of farming, I have hired high school and college students, giving them an opportunity to work and learn new skills. Overseeing these young people and teaching them required using my supervisory skills. I think a coordinated program for summer jobs could be an option to consider. I support all ideas for attracting and keeping young people in Clayton County.
How would you promote economic development and job creation while also preserving quality of life and natural resources? I don’t believe it has to be an either/or situation, but rather we can focus on all four of these areas at the same time.  However, we must follow the regulations for new economic development and honor the rights of citizens of our county. I will advocate wherever needed in Clayton County, in Des Moines and even in Washington D.C. if needed. When we, as citizens, treasure all these four things, it draws people to our communities, as well as promoting tourism. I believe strongly in the current Main Street programs available to support younger and new entrepreneurs in business.  County newspapers recognize new business and those articles are promoting awareness in these four areas and I support this also. When one community has a success story, and if they share that story with other communities in the county, it can become a goal for the whole county.
How would you use the Comprehensive Plan to inform your decisions? I would base my decisions on ideas suggested in the plan, keeping in mind that cost versus benefits must be considered. Working with neighbors on the farm was the example I observed for how compromise and hard work promoted success for all of us. A vote for me as your supervisor will bring hard work and compromise to the table.

Steve Doeppke
Briefly tell readers about yourself. I am Steve Doeppke, I am running for Clayton County Supervisor. I am a life-long resident of resident of Clayton County and graduated from Central School in Elkader, Iowa. I’ve worked for the Iowa DOT for 42 years and as a Reserve Police Officer and volunteer fireman for 25 years. I also served on my church council for 2 years  I’ve been married to my wife Janita for 45 years and we raised 3 sons, William, Grant and Shane. During my time with the IDOT I spent 10 years inspecting concrete, asphalt roads, culverts and bridges. I plan on using my experience and knowledge to make sure we are keeping up on our current infrastructure system. I support continued economic growth and development in the agricultural count with farm to market roads. I am a good listener and will keep open lines of communications between all departments.  My goal is to make sure the taxpayers are heard on issues that are important to them. I am open-minded to new ideas and will work to achieve a balanced budget and curb wasteful spending. I would like the opportunity to improve spending and better the county with my knowledge of the public road system, new construction and general maintenance.  I would appreciate your vote on November 6th.
What is your vision for Clayton County? My vision for Clayton County is our infrastructure system with farm to market roads and bridges and increased business development in the county. I plan on making sure that we pay attention to mental health issues as it is one of our needs, especially for our veterans.  The county budget is very important to me and a large part of my vision.  We need to make sure that we stay on track with the budget, stop wasteful spending and utilize county resources the best we can.
How will you use 21st Century skills to enhance your position as Supervisor? It is important today to make sure we are available to communicate to the county residents and with the technology today, I will make sure that I am available by phone, email, in person and at the supervisor meetings. Communication skills are very important today and understanding our residents needs and coming up with solutions that are agreeable to both taxpayers and supervisors is my goal.  
What are your ideas for attracting and keeping young people in Clayton County? I think it is important to have young people stay in our county and to encourage that, we need to work to provide new jobs and opportunities with good wages. We need to make sure that we have the housing available to attract the young and possibly provide incentives to encourage them to buy and stay in the county.  I think it is important that we work with existing businesses to expand and provide employment opportunities to our youth through apprenticeships and on-the-job training programs. It is important to make sure our youth know that Clayton County is a great place to work, live and enjoy recreational activities provided by our natural surroundings
How would you promote economic development and job creation while also preserving quality of life and natural resources? I think that we could provide incentives to encourage businesses and manufacturing companies to consider Clayton County for development. This would bring new job and tax dollars.  Creating jobs is a priority to keep people in the county, but this needs to be done while also remembering to make sure important natural resources are not disturbed and all environmental concerns are addressed before development begins.
How would you use the Comprehensive Plan to inform your decisions? First, I would determine if it is a want or a need. I would then prioritize the issues and problems to be addressed. I will certainly consider the Clayton County Comprehensive Plan, but I will just as importantly give considerations to the concerns and ideas I hear directly from the people as I travel around the county. I will do this by talking with and listening to their concerns.

Joleen Jansen
Briefly tell readers about yourself. My husband, Jim and I and our youngest child Jenna, a senior at Central, live south of Elkader near the Motor Mill. Our daughter Jessica is a teacher and our son Jacob attends Loras College.
For 20 years, I have ran Jansen Products, a web development & media transfer business. The majority of our clients are local businesses and organizations.  I am also the program manager for the Clayton County Energy District, a non-profit organization dedicated to building community, by keeping energy clean, local and fair.
I am a Coe College and St. Luke’s School of Medical Technology graduate. I started my career in hospital labs, and later became a public servant working as the sanitarian for the City of Dubuque where I oversaw the food safety program and enforcement of public health ordinances. I also worked as the Winneshiek County Sanitarian and Zoning Administrator.
I served eleven years on the Central Community School Board; where I helped set student achievement goals, plan numerous capital improvement projects, monitored education legislation and oversaw a $7.5 million dollar annual budget.  I also enjoy being a catechist at St. Joseph’s in Elkader. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to help organize various community projects.
What is your vision for Clayton County? I am committed to serving as a Clayton County Supervisor because I believe we should serve what we love, and I love life in Clayton County. Clayton County’s rural small town life is something to behold, nurture and celebrate! As an optimistic county leader I would work to maintain a fiscally sound budget, while using the county’s financial resources for the good of everyone. I envision a responsive, respectful and caring county government wisely engaging the counties’ fiscal, physical, human and natural resources.
An efficient, safe and vast secondary road system is central to Clayton County’s agricultural and tourism industries, therefore it is essential to prioritize funding our county road department.
Protecting and enhancing the natural beauty of Clayton County and minimizing the devastation of flooding is a priority for most residents. I envision the advancement of sustainable farming practices to conserve our precious topsoil and protect our waters, and the limitation of floodplain development. I also support the Clayton Energy District’s vision to be using 100% local renewable energy by 2050.
To strengthen the middle class we must foster partnerships between communities, schools and workforce development groups, which retrain residents, and train high school students with needed certified skills.
How will you use 21st Century skills to enhance your position as Supervisor? As a web developer, promoter and energy district program manager I understand the efficiency of 21st century technologies. Most of my days are spent communicating with clients and peers though text messaging, email and social media. In today’s workplace communication is fast paced and information is processed quickly. I will use these 21st century skills to collaboratively solve problems, to stay informed and organized and to complete high quality and quantities of work.
What are your ideas for attracting and keeping young people in Clayton County? I recently heard it said, “people don’t move to communities out of pity.” In general, people want to live where communities are strong and thriving. Strong, thriving communities play to their strengths and are welcoming. Clayton County’s landscape of bluffs and valleys, dotted with farmsteads, together with strong public schools, a vast farm to market road system, vibrant main streets, a growing tourism industry, and a network of quiet small towns with rivers running through them make our county a paradise on earth.
Since 2016, I have been a member of the Clayton County Comprehensive Plan steering committee. This process has identified our strengths and weaknesses. The developing plan will capitalize on the strengths and safeguard against potential threats. As a county leader I would adhere to this new strategic plan, knowing good plans lead to desired results. As a county leader I will work to build communities and attract new residents by playing to our strengths and remaining cognizant of our weaknesses. 
How would you promote economic development and job creation while also preserving quality of life and natural resources?  I know there is no silver bullet for long term prosperity. I will be informed and open minded about viable economic growth options considering those which are best for the common good. The new comprehensive plan will provide the framework to evaluate growth opportunities.
First, a clean energy transformation has enormous potential to responsibly grow the economy. Emphasizing energy efficiency and solar generation leads to positives for the local economy and the environment. This transformation will create a new clean energy job sector and energy savings will be reinvested into our communities.
Next, Clayton County needs more suitable housing.  The county should promote compatible housing development so people who work in Clayton County have the best options to live in Clayton County.
Finally, we should also create a conducive environment for sustainable and diverse agriculture ventures and  focus on what we can do to attract young farmers.  Also, because  of the unique beauty of this Driftless region, and our cultural and historical heritage, tourism is a natural way to grow our economy. We must capitalize on the fact Clayton County is a premier outdoor enthusiasts destination.  I will alway support ways to grow the agriculture, clean energy and tourism sectors.
How would you use the Comprehensive Plan to inform your decisions? As a new supervisor, I will prioritize implementation of the newly developed fresh comprehensive plan. This plan addresses the many aspects of life in Clayton County such as: resident well being, housing needs, public health, infrastructure, our rich agricultural tradition, natural resources, and importantly the county’s economic interests. This plan has been in the making since 2016 and comes from the grassroots. Through the hosting of public meetings, stakeholder focus groups, the conducting of statistical significant survey this professionally facilitated process has been of the people and will be for the people of Clayton County. The comprehensive plan will be the guiding, reference document county leaders will use to make short & long term priorities and decisions.

Sharon Keehner
Briefly tell readers about yourself. Randy and I have owned and manage a cow/calf operation outside to Guttenberg for 38 years. I have been responsible for the farm financial records, herd records, and helped with all aspects of the operation. We have two daughters, Kayleen Keehner and Kristine who is married to Dan Andersen. I have been a Business Teacher at Clayton Ridge Community Schools/Guttenberg Community Schools for 38 years teaching Personal Finance, Accounting, Management, and Entrepreneurship, which will help me as a supervisor.  My additional responsibilities included:  26 years Volleyball Coach, 5 years Athletic Director, 9 years Yearbook Advisor, and 10 years Assistant Drill Team Coach. In 2010 I received Iowa’s Outstanding Secondary Business Educator award.  I have dedicated my life working with young people. I have also volunteered for countless school and community activities including Quilts of Valor, 4-H leader, Clayton County Cattleman, Elkader Opera House Players, and have been active in my church. I have served on the Program Management Committee for Business Education with the Iowa Department of Education, serving also as a member of the National Business Education Technology Committee where I was invited to present at several National, Regional, and State Conferences about Technology in the Classroom.
What is your vision for Clayton County? My vision includes a strong infrastructure. Maintaining and expanding safer roads and bridges in the county is important for everyone. It is critical for our farmers and businesses. We need to make sure we get the best “Bang for our Buck”. Another priority is Mental Health. I understand the challenges and impact of mental health issues. I will work to investigate how we can deliver better services for mental illness and substance abuse here in Clayton County.  Veterans should be a higher priority for our county. We need to make sure our veterans are getting the help they need and the services they have earned.  
Our biggest challenge will be balancing the needs and wants of the county with the taxes required. Every dollar the government spends comes from a family that earned it.  Just spending more money doesn’t always make things better—we have to spend it in the right places.  
I will make sure to listen to the residents of Clayton County and make sure their concerns are considered.
How will you use 21st Century skills to enhance your position as Supervisor? I teach many of the 21st Century skills everyday as a Business and Technology teacher so I am well connected with technology. However, you still can’t beat a face-to-face meeting or a phone conversation when discussing a problem. 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 return calls and messages as soon as possible. I am available now through email at sharonkeehner@gmail.com.  I will continue to speak and attend meetings in area communities. Please invite me now though email or through my website www.keehnerforsupervisor.com or on Facebook Keehner for Supervisor. I would love to come and talk to your group or have a private conversation about your concerns.
What are your ideas for attracting and keeping young people in Clayton County? Economic growth and keeping our youth go hand in hand, so most of my ideas are answered in the next question.  Good paying jobs are critical in order to keep our youth.  We have many good paying jobs available in the county.  We need to make sure students are trained to fill those jobs. Working with all stakeholders: industry, high schools, and NICC to provide that training is important. We also have to expand opportunities for employment in other fields. We need to work with homebuilders to address current housing shortages.
How would you promote economic development and job creation while also preserving quality of life and natural resources? I have been teaching Business and specifically entrepreneurship for over 30 years. We need to think differently. Online shopping is pressuring sales at brick and mortar stores. We should consider ways to help our local businesses remain competitive and participate in this changing marketplace. We should work with NICC to provide technical training to assist local residents with the training to get online. We can leverage the investment made by Alpine Communications in fast Internet by developing an industrial park for technology-based businesses at minimum cost. I think this would provide opportunities for our youth to stay and raise their children in Clayton County. I also feel that strong technology investment in the county will open new avenues for agriculture and businesses alike. The global market place is open for business and we need to expand into that market.
How would you use the Comprehensive Plan to inform your decisions? I have attended comprehensive plan meetings, followed the process, and I have seen the first draft. The comprehensive plan will be a wish list of the needs and wants of the citizens who filled out the survey or attended meeting assembled by Upper Explorerland. I will carefully study this plan and consider what is in the final draft. However, it will come down to “pocketbook issues.” How much more in taxes are we willing to pay for what is in the plan? 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. Being a fiscal conservative, I am not in favor of raising taxes—so that would mean we may have to figure out where we can cut in order if we are to implement parts of the plan. I will carefully listen to the residents of Clayton County and make sure their priorities are considered when making these tough decisions.

 

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