In the Morton County Commission race, to be decided Nov. 6, incumbents Jim Boehm and Andy Zachmeier face challenger Jackie Buckley for two open seats.
The three candidates recently shared their top priorities, as well as their motivation to run for office.
Boehm, who was first elected to the commission in 2002, lives in rural Mandan, where he’s spent his “lifetime” farming and ranching. A former member of the North Dakota House of Representatives, he’s been involved in public service for more than 20 years.
“I have enjoyed public service, and the board and citizens have been very good to me,” he said. “I have had a lot of encouragement from the staff — the county has some of the best employees anybody could want — and public to seek re-election and give the people a choice. Everybody should have a choice.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes for the people,” he said.
Boehm said he wants to continue working in areas of planning and zoning for the county, especially as it pertains to new developments. More and more people are moving farther out into the country, he said, which creates “challenges,” such as the need for additional schools, roads and water resources.
He went on to say he doesn’t have a “real big issue” with new developments, as the county has a “really good” planning and zoning board.
Boehm, who holds the emergency management and engineering, roads, bridges and gravel portfolios, said he wants to continue his work in these areas.
“Roads — everybody needs roads. There’s a constant battle of keeping these roads in good repair,” he said, noting one of the biggest issues is trying to find enough gravel, followed by trying to keep the gravel on the roads.
Boehm, who has 19 grandchildren, is married to Joyce, who works for Mandan Public Schools. She has two granddaughters.
First elected to the commission in 2006, Zachmeier, who lives north of Mandan, said he “thoroughly enjoys” working in public service and helping find solutions to the various issues the county faces. He said he’d like to see the county continue to progress in business development and quality of life.
“Morton County is doing very well right now. Budgets have been followed, county expenses have been controlled and the county population has been growing,” he said. “The rural communities have seen some growth and have remained healthy.”
Zachmeier, who works as a law enforcement officer for the Bismarck Police Department, said a project he’d like to help see through is the Heart River levee system improvement project.
“FEMA wants the dikes to contain 5 feet more freeboard. What was to be a $25 million to $30 million project could now be a $30 million to $35 million project,” he said, noting Morton County will need to work with other government entities to secure funding for the improvements.
Rural water for county residents is also important, he said, because rural subdivisions do not grow without access to the resource.
Zachmeier said the county is working on hiring an additional case workers to assist with an increase in case load pertaining to social services, in areas of child protection — a cause he says he supports.
“Foster care recruitment is another area within child protection where the county will need to continue to focus efforts,” he added.
If re-elected, Zachmeier said he will continue to cheerlead for controlled property taxes and competitive wages for county employees.
Buckley, who lives in rural Mandan, said her experience working as an NDSU Extension agent in Morton County makes her a good candidate for the job.
“I believe that I can be an asset to the Morton County Commission because of my knowledge of urban and agricultural issues. As an Extension agent, I worked in three different counties in North Dakota. I believe this has given me a lot of experience in county government,” she said. “I would like to give back to the community of Morton County after being an employee of more than 26 years.”
If elected, Buckley said she’d like to spend the first year “learning the ropes,” with the goal of becoming the county employees’ voice on the commission.
“As a past employee, I feel that employee morale is important to keep a happy and sustained workforce,” she said. “I will be a good listener and work with the board to be responsible to my clientele.”
Buckley said she feels property taxes will be one of the biggest challenges the county faces in the next five years.
“The commission will need to determine how they will be able to meet the needs and services of their constituents and, in turn, have a balanced county budget. Maintaining our rural roads is also a concern to all,” she said.
Buckley, who serves as the chairman of the county’s planning and zoning commission, said dedicating roads, easements and development in an “orderly fashion” is “very important” as Morton County continues to grow.
She is married to Sam, who is retired from Northern Plains Equipment and works as a groundskeeper at the Mandan Union Cemetery, and, together, the couple has two grown sons.