Three candidates are on the ballot for the District 3 Finney County Commission seat.
All three are Republicans.
The candidates are incumbent District 3 Commissioner Duane Drees, Nick Doll and Andrew Carlson.
Attempts to contact Doll for this report were unsuccessful.
Duane Drees is a native of Finney County and a 1973 graduate of Garden City High School.
After high school he attended Garden City Community College until 1975, when he transferred to Kansas State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in agronomy in 1977.
Following college, he returned to Finney County to his family’s farm, where is a fourth-generation farmer. The Drees’ farm has existed since 1919.
He currently lives in Garden City with his wife of 42 years, Ann. They have four children: Jason, Adam, Scott and Jennifer. Jason, Adam and Scott live in Garden City and Jennifer lives in Lawrence.
Drees first ran for county commission in 2002 and has held the position ever since.
Drees said he decided to run for commission originally because Finney County is his home, he loves it and he wanted to serve.
"I've always tried to give back to the community that I really care for and it's the same with commission," he said. "I had no preconceived things I wanted to accomplish, I just wanted to serve the community as best I could because I really care about this community. It's a wonderful place to live and I'm very proud of it."
Andrew Carlson was born in Las Vegas but has lived the majority of his life in Finney County.
He was home schooled, completing his education in 2014. He attended Garden City Community College, where he received an associate degree in accounting.
Carlson now works at two local businesses, one as a crane operator and crew foreman and the other at Mad Dog Metal as a welder and metal fabricator.
He lives lives in Garden City with his wife, Adanari. They have two young children.
Carlson said he decided to run for the District 3 seat now because it has always been something he’s wanted to do but it was never the right time.
COVID-19 made it the right time, Carlson said. He saw how the commission and other local governments and the state and national government handled the situation and didn’t like how their decisions affected local businesses that weren’t deemed essential.
"I personally wasn't affected, we were very blessed in our small business there, we actually got busier, but I know a lot of people that slowed down personally," he said. "I know the effect that this all had. It was frustrating to watch, so that's what kind of pushed me over the edge to run. I want to help the little guy out, that's where my heart is, that's where my vision is for them."
Drees said he wants to maintain a low tax.
Taxes go up, and that is unavoidable because property appraisal values go up, Drees said, but he wants to keep the mill levy flat.
Drees said like everyone else he doesn’t like property taxes and feels he pays too much, but the funds are needed to help the county fund departments like the sheriff’s office, roads, courts, public health, EMS and outside agencies like CASA, City on the Hill Substance Abuse, Compass Behavioral Health and the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
"County commissions are extensions of the state, a large portion of what we are in charge of is mandated by the state," he said. "It's a balancing act in my mind to provide responsible government with responsibility back to our taxpayers."
Carlson said he wants to find a way to lower the property taxes as they are high for southwest Kansas.
He also wants to make it easier for older people to pay taxes.
In speaking with commissioners for another county Carlson said there was a group of elderly, widowed ladies who came before that commission asking if there was a way they could break up their tax payment by 12 months rather than once a year because they were on a fixed income.
In working with the state, the county was able to allow them to make a monthly payment on their taxes, Carlson wants to do that here. He feels it would be a good thing for older adults and those on a fixed income.
"I think we can make a balance there and be lenient with them and let them pay it throughout the year if that's something they would wish to do," he said. "I think that would be a good goal. I don't see it being very difficult to achieve, but that would help some of them out greatly, being able to break that out month by month."
State of the roads
Carlson believes as a whole the roads are in good shape but thinks the county can do better.
"There's got to be some way we can figure out a schedule, especially with the dirt roads, that we can figure out a schedule there to keep things as well maintained as we can with as much infrastructure as we have," he said. "There has to be a balance."
Drees also believes Finney County’s roads are in good shape but that there is room for improvement.
"Roads are important to everybody and honestly in times of wet weather probably 80% of my calls are road issues," he said. "But our roads are in really good shape, just compare us to our neighboring counties. But that doesn't mean there's lack of improvement."
Finney County COVID-19 response
Drees said he knows he’s upset some people with the county’s response to the pandemic, that people have said the commission has ignored medical advice, but he stands with the decisions made.
They were tough decisions, Drees said, but he didn’t want to lose local businesses. He was frustrated with how big box stores were allowed to stay open and smaller, independent businesses could not, and the "economic collapse" of the community was not acceptable.
"I have no regrets on my votes, on the way I lead the discussion as chairman this year," he said. "I think for me, judging the hospital admissions was the determining factor. If we were overloading our hospital, I'm sure we would have voted completely different as a commission."
Carlson said he believes that with the situation the commissioners were put in, they did a good job.
He feels that the impact of the pandemic, especially on revenues, sales taxes and property taxes is still unknown and it won’t be known until months down the line and into 2021.
"I think there's a lot of things in the future that we're going to run into that we may have caused ourselves issues with. I don't think we quite fully understand that yet," he said. "But, as a whole, as a general whole, I think responsive wise they did about as good as could be expected."