County Commissioner - District 1 Candidate: Gerald "Jerry" Johnson (Incumbent)
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: Lifetime resident, born and raised in Douglas County. Father was Orvin, mother Nadine resides in Evansville. Married to Cheryl 43 years. We have three kids and six grandkids, two of whom attend Brandon-Evansville Charger High School. Graduated from Evansville High School and Staples Vo-Tech. Member of Chippewa Lutheran Church and Evansville American Legion. More than 140 years of family history in Douglas County have imprinted the need to keep Douglas County a good place for our kids, grandkids and, someday, great-grandkids to live. My work history of farming, a tour of duty in the Army in Vietnam, raising a family and being involved in their church, school and 4-H activities, doing construction work and township assessing, driving snowplow for the township, 13 years on the Urness Town Board and 8.5 years on the county board has given me the experience to do this job.
Q: What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the county right now and how would you deal with it?
A: As always, it's the budget. Since our 2009 budget (assuming the 2013 budget is approved at 2 percent), the levy has increased $3.2 million. The cost of fuel, labor and $1.2 million in state revenue cuts to the county has made budgeting interesting. The way county government works must change if we expect real estate taxes to continue paying 50 percent of the total budget.
Q: Would you say the current board has shown commitment and follow through on current projects, for example the law enforcement and services center and courtroom remodel? What would your strategy be to further progress?
A: I think our board has followed through with the remodel of the service center (old Central High School). This has been a very long process, but it will be completed by the end of the year. Some of the remodel decisions have not been easy and not always a 5-0 vote, but after the vote, the entire board has supported the decision. The county board's choice has been very clear: catch up with fix-up, or scrap this building and spend three times more to replace the space used by Douglas County in the service center.
Q: Is there anything more the county can do to combat aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels? Share other thoughts about protecting water quality.
A: We will continue to support education about invasive species and continue use of the county's power wash at boat landings as long as needed. Removing large quantities of carp has made a huge difference in water quality in Red Rock Lake.
Q: County commissioners have recently opened communication with the Alexandria City Council. What would you contribute to this partnership?
A: The joint meetings twice a year provide a chance for our Douglas County Board and the Alexandria City Council to discuss shared responsibilities, such as the 5th Avenue extension to the Public Works building, the turning back of county roads to the city and flood board. Many of these things are routinely handled by staff with no face-to-face discussion by our elected boards.