County Commissioner - District 2 Candidate: James Stratton
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: As a long-time resident of Douglas County, I understand the issues and challenges the citizens of Douglas County face as we move forward. As a home owner, I have an interest in maintaining a tax structure to keep the county competitive for business and for residents.
I will bring new energy and prior experience developing teams in both the business and public sector to the board. The commissioners need to work together and make a commitment to keeping Douglas County a leader and a place where people want to and can afford to live.
I will bring a history of proven leadership skills to the board. Examples of this are serving as past president of the Viking Sportsmen and a member of the Sertoma executive board.
I have demonstrated the ability to work with a variety of people from both the business and private sides of the community. With a varied employment history that includes service, management and non-profit, I have developed strong verbal and written communication skills. I feel this will serve the position well because it is essential that issues and possible solutions be discussed with the constituents before major decisions are made. I value people's opinions and opinions with data even more.
Q: What do you view as the biggest challenge facing the county right now and how would you deal with it.
A: We have an issue of runaway spending. I would address the issue by looking at the real needs of the county. Once they are identified, close examination of budgets past and present may lead to potential savings and cuts.
A list of the wants that are presented can be analyzed and determine if they are needed. If the prospective project has a potential pay back to the county, we need to determine what the benefit truly is and work out a time line that will enable it to be completed without increasing taxes.
We have been on a run that has convoluted them into one category, and it has cost the taxpayers way too much.
The recent court decision concerning the Alexandria Lakes Area Sewer District will be one of the biggest issues facing the county in the near future. I would do my best to bring the facts to the public so they can understand what the issues are and what the potential costs to the county could be.
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 can remember my father would say, "You can't make a silk purse from a pig's ear," if I had an unrealistic idea. The county has spent many dollars trying to turn an old school building, that the school did not want for many reasons, into what we have today.
But this is not productive. It is a decision that was made, and now we have to live with it.
What I would like to see now is a budget line item to pay for the cost of maintenance to ensure that in 10 years we are not in the same situation, with people saying we need a new law enforcement or 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: Everyone is quick to point fingers and blame someone else for bringing invasive species to our area lakes. The hard part is to come up with a coalition of all the players and focus not on blame but on solutions. Many of these aquatic species are not new to the lakes and streams in the U.S. We need to pressure the DNR to be more aggressive in their research to kill mussels. The financial impact of tourism to the county makes it very important in finding a solution to prevent the further infestations in our area.
We must make the first thing everyone thinks about when moving boats, docks and lifts is what chance is there of moving a mussel? We need to treat every lake as if it is infested because we never know if and when it could be identified and added to the list of infested lakes. When, in the meantime, we have moved our boats and other equipment to other area lakes and infested them. This is going to have to be everyone's responsibility and foremost on their minds when dealing with anything concerning our lakes and waterways.
Q: County commissioners have recently opened communication with the Alexandria City Council. What would you contribute to this partnership?
A: My thoughts on this process are: Why did it take so long? Alexandria is just one of the many pieces of the puzzle that make up Douglas County. Although it is a major part of the Douglas County community, all communities in Douglas County need to have input into county plans. Without their commitment to the county's overall plans, it would be like leaving out one of our townships and their residents.
I would encourage more conversation with the Alexandria City Council. What I see happening is a potential partnership in services and systems in the city and county.
What I would bring to the partnership would be a clear goal of streamlining any replicated service or process that both the city and county perform. As we look toward the future, we cannot afford to do business as usual simply because it is what we have always done.
I see the next several years as pivotal in our being able to provide the level of services our county residents have come to expect. With new growth and added needs, resources will be stretched. Now is the time to plan for the future.