Most areas of Burleigh County government are running smoothly despite the coronavirus pandemic, but those elected to the county's governing board might need to adapt to some difficult economic times, the county's auditor said.
"When they're elected in November we'll have a better idea," Auditor Allan Vietmeier said. "Hopefully we can move on. These are uncertain times for all of us."
Whoever is on the Morton County Commission next year likely will face similar challenges. Five candidates are running for three seats on the Morton County board. The terms of commissioners Ron Leingang, Cody Schulz and Bruce Strinden will expire at the end of the year. Only Leingang is seeking reelection. All five candidates will move on to the November election.
In Burleigh County, four candidates -- two of them incumbents -- are vying for two seats. All four candidates will move on from the June primary.
Incumbent Burleigh County Commissioners Jerry Woodcox and Brian Bitner seek reelection. They are being challenged by business owner Brian Geloff and Becky Matthews, an early intervention mentor with Bismarck Public Schools. Commissioners serve four-year terms.
The county has weathered unprecedented events before, Vietmeier said. Property owners along the river were hit hard by the floods of 2011, but the impact wasn't as far-reaching as that of the national pandemic. State aid distribution and gas taxes could drop by 20% to 25%, Vietmeier said, and the commission "will have to make up those funds somewhere."
"The commission will have to do as much or more with less," the auditor said. "It's hard to predict what will happen seven or eight months from now."
Woodcox is a 20-year veteran of the commission and currently serves as chairman. He owns Arrowhead Cleaners, a business he bought from his father in 1977, and is semiretired. He is on the social services zone board, planning and zoning board, and Burleigh Morton Detention Center committee, and handles the county's buildings and grounds and human resources portfolios.
Bitner was first elected to the commission in 2008. He handles the county portfolios for building, planning and zoning, finance, recorder, superintendent of schools and the Dakota Prairie Resource Conservation and Development. He is the owner of a construction company and a veteran of the Marine Corps.
Matthews has served on the Bismarck Early Childhood Program Policy Council and was appointed by the governor to the state Council on Developmental Disabilities advisory board. She has been chairwoman and treasurer of the North Dakota Women's Network and chairwoman of the Bismarck High School Boys Soccer Booster Club. She also is a board member for the Bismarck Share, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support chapter. The mother of five attended high school in Hazen.
Geloff is the owner of FNG Repair in Bismarck. He is a 1988 graduate of Bismarck State College and worked as an auto technician before going into business 10 years ago. He attended grade school in Sterling and high school in Wing. He's been married for 23 years and has three children and two grandchildren.
Incumbent Ron Leingang is seeking his third term on the Morton County Commission. Leingang was first elected in 2012. He holds numerous county portfolios including information technology and social services. The St. Anthony grain farmer has served on the Little Heart School Board and with the Missouri River Education Corp. He's a member of St. Anthony Catholic Church. He and his wife, Shelly, have two children.
Also seeking a seat on the commission is Nathan Boehm, a Mandan dairy farmer who works as a livestock field investigator for the State Board of Animal Health. He has served as secretary/treasurer for the North Dakota Dairy Coalition since 2004, and president of the Morton County Farm Bureau since 2007. Boehm is secretary/treasurer of the West District Holstein Association, and serves on the CHI Mandan Patient Family Advisory Committee and the Morton County Crop Improvement Board. He served for 14 years as the animal health board’s dairy representative and was president from 2006-11. He and his wife, Heather, have one daughter and two grandsons.
Wayne Papke has worked as a financial advisor for Smith Barney financial services and Morgan Stanley investments, and at one point owned a branch of Investment Centers of America. He sold that interest and retired in 2005. He holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of North Dakota. He also has worked for 17 years on his family’s farm. Papke and his wife, Christi, have lived in Mandan since 1994.
Raymond Morrell is a six-year Marine Corps veteran and served as vice chairman of the Morton County Park Board from 2009-14. He’s worked with city, county and tribal governments as a hazard mitigation officer for the North Dakota Department of Energy Services. He helped start the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame before becoming the organization’s executive director. Morrell is a charter commandant of Dakota Leathernecks 1419, one of the Marine Corps League detachments he helped organize in North Dakota. He has been a lobbyist for the North Dakota Veterans Legislative Council and is vice president of the Western North Dakota Honor Flight. He and his wife, Mary, have four children and two grandchildren.
Thomas Peters is assistant Mandan Middle School principal, a position he’s held for 15 years. He’s been with the Mandan School District for 29 years, having also worked as a teacher and guidance counselor. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from North Dakota State University. Peters has two grown sons.
Reach Travis Svihovec at 701-250-8260 or Travis.Svihovec@bismarcktribune.com
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