2018 General Election Questionnaire: County Candidates

By Reader Staff

We believe strongly in informing the community about candidates running for public office. As part of our commitment to this effort, we present this questionnaire for candidates in Bonner County races, including the commissioner and assessor races. SandpointOnline.com is also a great resource for election information, as well as the Bonner County Elections Page. Finally, don’t forget to vote Tuesday, Nov. 6. Polls are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Questions for Bonner County commissioner candidates:

1. The current Bonner County Board of Commissioners has taken a hard stance against the designation of wilderness in the county, per the Natural Resource Plan and discussions surrounding the Scotchman Peaks. Where do you stand on establishing wilderness areas in Bonner County?

2. The issue of wake damaging county shorelines ramped up this summer, and continues to be a hot topic. What do you think should be done to curtail wake damage?

3. When it comes to Bonner County roads and other infrastructure, what do you feel is a fair process to serve the county with prioritization of maintenance?

4. Please share some thoughts on the Bonner County budget. Where are some places you feel changes could be made?

5. Washington is beginning the scoping process for its EIS on the proposed Newport smelter. What do you think about the smelter, and what influence do you think you could have on the approval process if elected?

6. We’re beginning to learn more about BNSF’s proposed expansion to its rail system in Sandpoint. What is your opinion of this project?

Commissioner District 1

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson.

Democrat

Age: 68

Years of residence in North Idaho: 60 years

Marital status/family: Marguerite and I have 4 grown children and 8 wonderful grandchildren

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: johnsonforcommissioner.com

Phone: (208) 255-8055

QUALIFICATIONS:

Education: Sandpoint High School Graduate 1968. University of Idaho Bachelors Degree in Education 1972. University of Idaho Masters Degree in Administration 1982. University of Idaho Specialist Degree in Administration 1985.

Recent or pertinent employment history: 40 plus years Elementary and High School teacher, 35 of those years in Bonner County, 10 of those years as an administrator. 40 years Farming/Ranching, Homebuilding, Selective Logging.

Public offices held: Board of Directors for The East Bonner County Library District; Education Director for The Sandpoint Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Team Member of the Bonner County Facilities and Planning Committee that proposed and won voter approval for new school buildings and major school facility upgrades throughout Bonner County.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: More than 40 years working with a wide variety of groups and individuals ( public and private), supervising and evaluating staff, and balancing large budgets.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

1.  I believe the vote on Scotchman Peaks was a good idea and I will certainly abide by the result. In the future there may be more votes and I pledge to support the results.

2. Citizen input is needed and I would help facilitate those discussions. There may need to be areas where the wakeboats are not allowed to go.

3. Input from the public is necessary and increases ownership and cooperation. The process needs to be transparent and proactive. The roundabout construction and the Sagle bicycle tunnel on Bottle Bay Road are prime examples of projects that needed more public input. Once people understand the benefits they are more likely to be supportive.

4. The county budget process needs to be explained effectively and honestly. I will look carefully at the recent raises for the commissioners and department heads. I will help facilitate a weekly radio and social media information procedure to keep the public informed. I will enforce the central accounting and auditing procedures.

5. I attended the scoping meetings in Newport and Priest River and provided testimony about my absolute opposition to this proposed smelter. I listened to cancer survivors who moved here because of the clean air and water, listened to people with life-threatening respiratory problems, and listened to retirees who saved for 30 years so they could live here in our paradise. I remember seeing the devastation that resulted from the smelter in the Silver Valley- Kellogg, Wallace, Smelterville, etc. where no trees or greenery could survive and where the pollutants saturated the ground to the extent that the entire area wound up being an EPA Superfund Site that has cost taxpayers billions of dollars and the corporations just declared bankruptcy and walked away.

6. The railroad is vital to our county and area. We need to all have the same facts from knowledgeable and neutral authorities. I believe an Environmental Impact Statement is the best way to understand the long term effects and will be a necessary document for meaningful and productive discussions. In addition I believe any campaign donations to commissioners from the railroad or the proposed smelter are NOT appropriate.

One question that was not asked was my position on Medicaid Expansion. I totally support this grassroots Proposition 2 that will make sure all Idaho Families have health insurance. Shawn Keough, our District 1 Republican fiscal conservative state senator for the past 22 years and the co-chairperson of the State Budget and Finance Committee has endorsed this Proposition 2. She is one of the most knowledgeable experts in the entire state and has written a comprehensive essay that urges its approval on both fiscal and human grounds (The Daily Bee Oct. 18).

Steven Bradshaw

Republican

Steven Bradshaw, running as a Republican for Bonner County Commissioner District 1 did not return multiple requests for participation in this candidates’ questionnaire.

Commissioner District 3

Dan McDonald

Republican

Age: 59

Dan McDonald.

Years of residence in North Idaho: 22

Marital status/family: Married, 3 children, 5 grandchildren

Email: [email protected]

Facebook: dan4BonnerCounty

Phone: (208) 661-0428

QUALIFICATIONS:

Education: Junior College.

Recent or pertinent employment history: The Garland Company, 22 years, currently Bonner County Commissioner District #3.

Public offices held: Bonner County Commissioner District #3.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Past President of the Panida Theater, Big Boy Ballet Company, Bearly There in Sandpoint, Life Choices Pregnancy Center Board Member and Treasurer.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: My record in office speaks for itself. However I have managed projects, set budgets and managed personnel for my previous employer. I was chairman of the Management Advisory Council, Chairman of the IT Advisory Council, ran two large commercial roofing companies at the same time with $40 million annual sales and over 400 employees.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

1. The Bonner County Board of Commissioners put the Scotchman’s Peak issue up for a vote of the people. All three Commissioners promised to listen to the people via the advisory vote. The people spoke in a democratic manner, and we acted per the vote. I’m not a fan of establishing wilderness as we have seen the poor forest health, the failing wildlife habitat and the exclusion of citizens who wish to access these types of areas as legally allowed. I believe in keeping the public land open to all the public. That being said, Wilderness designations take an act of Congress, and this is not a decision that can be made by county commissioners.

2. We started taking steps last year with the “Avoid the Shore, Ride the Core’ program and increasing Marine Sheriff’s patrol. Additionally, we have added 10 new no-wake buoys on the river in the hot spot areas to further educate the public. When looking at the issue from a scientific standpoint and recreating the same experiment on the river this summer, we saw no difference in wake height at 125, 200, 300 and 400 feet, so it was clear that changing the distance from shore for no wake zones would not be the answer. Additionally, there is case law from the Texas Supreme Court ruling stating we cannot discriminate between different types of legal boating activity. Keep in mind, most states have only a 100-foot no-wake zone and while not all wake violators are from out of state, a high percentage are. Education and enforcement are the way to go here.

3. In 2017 in my first year in office we approved a road standards manual for all County Roads. We also established specific guidelines via daily vehicle traffic to create a fair standard for determining more extensive road improvements and maintenance, With respect to basic road maintenance, we refocused Road and Bridge to maintain culverts, ditches and roadway easements that hadn’t been maintained for some time. The lack of maintenance is detrimental to the performance life of any road but more specifically our over 400 miles of gravel roads. I am happy to say that a review of the current status of our County roads finds them to be in some of the best shape they have been in for some time. Special thanks goes to the hard working men and women in our Road and Bridge department for the great work they do every day.

4. We have been moving the budget to a more sustainable position that it has been. For the first time in Bonner County history, we cut the budget not once, but twice in the last two years and all without cutting services that our citizens rely on. We also avoided having to take foregone which would have been a 10% increase in property taxes while choosing instead to tighten our belts. Again, were it not for the Department Heads and County employees joining us in changing the budget direction of the County, this would have been far more difficult. As it stands now, we may be close to a true balance point for next years budgeting however, it’s important to stay vigilant, to keep looking for savings through efficiency and good decisions as we are the caretakers of the taxpayers money.

5. The proposed smelter is in another county, in yet another state. Bonner County Commissioners clearly have no authority over that project. Additionally, environmental issues such as air and water quality are under the states authority via the Idaho DEQ. We have been tracking the process and have been in contact with both Idaho DEQ and the Washington Department of Ecology. Once we receive the draft EIS, we will review it and comment. If in fact the horror stories we have heard from some citizens are found in the EIS, we will gladly stand in opposition to it, however, again, we don’t have any real authority. Personally, I have always said I thought the location south of Newport was problematic to say the least.

6. Again, Bonner County commissioners have no authority over the railroad as they are federally regulated. I do however support the second bridge. We get a number of calls at certain times of the year from trains blocking intersections and access. BNSF has been a great partner in working to resolve these issues as quickly as possible however with the single bridge and thee track bottleneck, trains sitting and idling are our current reality. The second bridge will help resolve many of those issue and keep the trains running through Bonner County. BNSF has not only been responsive but they have also been a great partner to the County by helping us with material support with materials and equipment for our emergency management team. We do regular training in the event of a derailment utilizing all of the emergency responders in the County. BNSF has generously donated a large quantity of booms and other material so we can respond quickly in the event of a derailment. They are also providing the use of a hover boat for use during low water times of the year. BNSF takes their business seriously and understands their responsibility to the citizens of Bonner County in helping us protect our natural resources.

Steve Lockwood

Democrat

Age: 79

Steve Lockwood.

Years of residence in North Idaho: 19

Marital status/family: I’m married. My two adult sons and their wives live in Bonner County, one couple lives off the grid. Four grandkids were born here, played in the woods, played sports and went through the public school system. They all graduated from Sandpoint high school. All the grandchildren had to leave the area for jobs and college.

Email:  steve[email protected]

Facebook: lockwood4commissioner

Phone: (208) 590-7745

QUALIFICATIONS:

Education: Lincoln High, Reed College, AT&T Technical and Managerial schools.

Recent or pertinent employment history: AT&T: human resources; Operations Manager for Oregon. Self Employed (developer, property management).

Public offices held: Lake Pend Oreille School Board, Sandpoint Planning and Zoning Commission (including being elected chairman), Sandpoint City Council, Sandpoint Urban Renewal Board.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Bonner County Historical Society, Idaho Walk Bike Alliance, Rock Creek Alliance, Pend Oreille Arts Council, Idaho Conservation League, Idaho Smart Growth, Native Plant Society, Pend Oreille Pedalers, Bonner County Human Rights Task Force, Panida Theater, NAMI Far North.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: Chaired a variety of government committees and commissions before moving to Bonner County. For a year, Molly and I lived off the grid up Upper Gold Creek Road. We later moved into Sandpoint. Developer: Park Cottages, small, moderately priced apartments in Sandpoint. Licensed commercial and amateur (HAM) radio operator. Skills:  Working with public budgets and expenses. Listening, learning from facts, leading constructively. Working with a variety of viewpoints. Work to understand all points of view in making decisions. I vote in every election.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

1. Bonner County voters in May rejected naming Scotchman Peaks a wilderness. I respect that vote. Folks in Bonner County live close to the land. Many jobs depend on a balanced approach to managing natural resources, whether we work in the timber mills, up at Schweitzer, on the lake or for a restaurant in town. Full implementation of the Idaho Panhandle National Forest Plan is important. The county should be a major player in making sure the Forest Plan is implemented. This plan calls for increasing timber harvest, protecting water and wildlife, recreation, fishing and hunting, and for protecting the Scotchman Peaks as Wilderness. The Scotchman Peaks is a small fraction (less than 1 percent) of the 2.5 million acres in the Forest Plan. I support a balanced approach to our public lands, one that accommodates all interests. I would focus on the 17 -20 direct and indirect jobs per million board feet of timber harvested. If the Forest Service fully implements their forest plan, that’s an additional 1,200 jobs; a third or more of them would be in Bonner County. This doesn’t include the jobs that would be created by non-timber restoration improvements for water, air, wildlife, recreation, etc. We would all benefit.

2. County commissioners appointed a subcommittee of the Waterways Committee. This group worked for months to develop a set of recommendations to address the wake damage, most of which were not implemented. A number of the recommendations were not given serious consideration but could be easily implemented on a trial basis. Recommendations on public education could be implemented with little expense. Simply increasing potential fines, which the commission did, does not significantly contribute to a solution because tickets aren’t issued. This serious issue requires a multi-pronged approach that balances the interests of shoreline property owners with the recreational interests of the wakeboarders.

3. The county has a set of criteria for maintenance and improvement based on road usage. Those criteria should be used in prioritizing maintenance. It’s important that all county residents be treated fairly and equitably. Roads and solid waste are two county services that impact all residents outside city limits. They need to be delivered as well as careful management and revenue allow. Bridges need to be scheduled for maintenance and eventual replacement. Otherwise the budget isn’t balanced and deficit spending is occurring.

4. There are many opportunities for increased efficiency, including cross training staff so periods of varying workload can be met without adding personnel. Many expenditures do not have the required prior approval. As I attended the budget meetings, it was clear that there are frivolous expenditures in some departments. Other departments appear to do an excellent job. Central purchasing is far less effective than it could be, and cooperatively involving department heads would be far more effective than issuing mandates. Tracking the budget by department, by month, should be standardized. 

Some capital projects are running way over budget. Solid Waste is roughly $1,000,000 over budget. We need to understand why and correct the problem. 

5. The smelter concerns many Bonner County residents, including me. There aren’t nearly enough facts available now. We need to understand the potential impacts and react accordingly. 

Bonner County does not play a central role in the approval process. However, having the County be an active, well informed, involved player will have impact. The County can raise numerous appropriate issues, conduct independent research into the downwind impacts of similar smelters, rally the State of Idaho to action if impacts will affect the health of Bonner County residents or the natural resources we depend on, and be a visible, vocal participant. I have submitted scoping comments to the Washington Department of Ecology, which you can find on my website: lockwood4commissioner.com. The County should be submitting scoping comments as well.

6. BNSF is a powerful player nationally and locally. The bridge is almost certain to be built. BNSF would not be investing the multi-millions they are if they did not anticipate increased train traffic on this line. Shipping by train is often preferable to more truck traffic. Bonner County needs to work with the railroad and other agencies to ensure that we gain maximum safety advantage despite this additional train traffic, one priority is that the safety at all crossings be improved.

While the approval process is underway, Bonner County should represent the public in asking that emergency supplies be supplemented so we can deal quickly with a very major spill and that a nearby year-round boat launch be constructed so we have low-water ability to launch a rapid spill response. Today, cleanup can be forced to wait for supplies from Spokane or Whitefish and distant boat launches.

Questions for Bonner County assessor candidates:

1. What, in your view, are the most important responsibilities of the county assessor?

2. What motivated you to get into the race?

3. Explain the specifics for what goes into assessing a Fair Market Value for a home in Bonner County. Do politics come into play when assessing this value?

4. The housing market in Bonner County has been booming lately. How does this affect the job of a county assessor?

5. Is there any specific message you want to send to voters prior to the election?

Donna Gow

Republican

Donna Gow.

Age: 67

Years of residence in North Idaho: We moved to Hope, ID in 1980.

Marital status/family: Married to husband George for 44 years, two grown married sons and 4 grandsons.

Email:  [email protected]

Facebook: Donna Gow for Assessor

Phone: (208) 920-0494

QUALIFICATIONS:

Education: Some Jr. College classes, some online classes and over 500 hrs of appraisal classes.

Recent or pertinent employment history: 28 yrs in Bonner County Assessor’s Office.

Public offices held: No public office held.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: Hope GOP precinct committeeman, V.P. North Idaho Federated Republican Women, member of International Association of Assessing Officers, member of Idaho Association of Assessment Personnel, volunteer for Sam Owen Fire District.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: Realtor for 4 years for Century 21 under Val Kidd, Broker.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

1. Although there are many responsibilities of the assessor, such as mapping, changing names on properties, making sure exemptions are applied properly, and the Department of Motor Vehicles, the one that gets the most attention is assessments. It is up to the assessor to ensure the assessments are accurate, fair and equatable as possible using Idaho State Code, State Tax Commission Rules and Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice guide lines.

2. I have heard the concerns of property owners regarding their treatment by management and the results of some office policies on property values. I have also heard from staff members regarding policies that need to be changed.

3. The first step is the physical inspection. Notations are made regarding the age, size, quality of construction and general condition and location of the property. We then start with the cost to construct new, then after studying market sales of the most comparable properties, we apply depreciation and any other factors that apply. These factors are applied to all properties that a similar. Next is to run a ratio study comparing our assessed values to the sales prices to make sure we fall within the acceptable level range set by the state. This is a very simplified explanation. The appraisers review values of thousands of properties every year.

4. The housing market affects the Assessor’s Office whether it is booming or dropping. The boom market affects the office in that it is creating a greater work load due to the increase of properties to assess. It sometimes affects the appraisers in that they agonize over large increases to assessed values. Although whether the values go up or down the taxes are driven by the taxing districts budgets.

5. Because I have worked in the Assessor’s Office for over 28 years, I know what needs to be done and how to do it. I have good working relationships with the majority of the public, Realtors, fee appraisers, title companies, the State Tax Commission and other assessor offices. Knowledge and experience in the field you are managing is important for any job. The Assessor’s Office currently has smart, hard working employees.  Unfortunately, many in the Residential portion of the office don’t have much experience. My plan is for these employees to learn from my knowledge and experience.

Wendel R. Bergman

Independent / Unaffiliated

Age: 73

Wendel Bergman.

Years of residence in North Idaho: Born and raised in Sandpoint, having resided in Bonner county 42 years.

Marital status/family: Married to my wife Beverly Bergman for 27 years. I have 2 sons, 2 step children, 8 grand children and 1 great granddaughter.Email:  [email protected]

Phone: (208) 290-1664

QUALIFICATIONS:

Education: Graduated from Sandpoint High School in 1963. Received education and experience in computer sciences while serving in the United States Air Force pertaining to computer controlled navigation, bombing and radar systems. 1963 – 1972 (Eight year Vietnam era Veteran). IBM Corporation, Boulder, Colorado. Continuing vocational and college education in computer sciences and program management. Performed software systems development and program management for commercial and federal complex systems achieving the position of Sr. Staff Engineer. Duties included software systems engineering, development team management, program and department budget planning and project communications. 1973-1989.

Recent or pertinent employment history: Taking early retirement from IBM in 1989, Wendel & Mrs. (Beverly) Bergman became entrepreneurs founding and managing two successful software development companies in Longmont, Colorado. Prime Solutions, Inc, founded in 1989, became a multi-million dollar storage systems company that was sold in 1992 to Storage Technology Corporation. Subsequently Pena Systems, Inc was formed specializing in the development of medical equipment analysis and control software, merging into another company in 2003. In 1992, the Bergmans turned their attention to North Idaho forming a number of companies pertaining to real estate development and management. These companies were involved with new home construction in Post Falls and are currently involved in restoration and management of properties in Hope and development of property within the Seneacquoteen community in Sagle. The Bergmans are especially proud of the funding and successful restoration of the historic Hotel Hope in 1998 undertaken by MountainWest Ventures LLC, a Bergman real estate management company.

Public offices held: None. However, I have interacted with many public officials in the pursuit of business ventures, including extensive real estate activities in multiple jurisdictions including Bonner County. These interactions have been a valuable education in government operations, both whats good and, on the other hand,

where improvements are needed in serving the public interests.

Nonprofit groups, service or professional organizations to which you belong: None.

Other experiences or skills that qualify you for office: My professional real-time management tasks performed over many years demonstrate that my

qualifications are well suited to execute the responsibilities of this office. The above accomplishments pertain directly to my ability and qualifications to establish goals, manage scores of talented people, manage funds and achieve those goals.

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS:

1. To do everything possible to produce accurate, fair assessments according to the requirements of the law. To provide access to public information in a timely and efficient manner.

Manage the motor vehicle department/functions in an efficient and customer friendly manner. Improvement are needed here to reduce customer wait times, especially during the summer months when many folks are moving into Bonner County.

Manage the many talented people in the Assessor’s office in such a way to accomplish it’s very important tasks according to state law and existing guidelines.

2. I believe I am uniquely qualified to bring this office up to date with online services and make improvements in customer interactions. I have been on the other side of the counter often, therefore, I feel I can make valuable contributions to improving operations and efficiencies in this office.

3. Last question first. Politics should absolutely not have any bearing on the assessment process. I am presently running for office as an independent nonpolitical candidate.

I have been involved with property appraisals and assessments in my personal and business activities having owned, leased and rented personal and commercial real estate over a period of 45 years. It has been my experience that fair market value is usually determined by the entity commissioning the appraisal, within certain guidelines. Appraisals of the same property at the same period of time by multiple appraisers can vary by hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on the comparables chosen and neighborhood boundaries among many other factors. In Idaho, specific laws apply to this process that must be adhered to in order to arrive at Fair Market Value for taxation purposes.

4. This can certainly stress the system. It is the responsibility of the Assessor to insure that the increased work load does not hinder the efficient delivery of fairness and services to the public. Personnel, procedures, policies and tools need to be reviewed and updated where needed to adjust to the additional workload. Comprehensive online services directly accessible to the public could go a long way in reducing office workloads within a growth environment.

5. My opponent in this race for the office of assessor definitely has the qualifications to assess properties. However, the office of assessor needs to be managed by an experienced manager with multiple talents. That manager should depend upon and respect the capabilities of his or her employees and specialists to insure that the team works together to accomplish the common goal of serving the public efficiently, fairly and respectfully. At this point in time, I believe the office of Bonner County assessor needs an experienced non-political goal driven manager at the helm. My professional management qualifications are uniquely suited to execute the responsibilities of this office.

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