Candidates share their plans if elected supervisor

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Candidates for the Webster County Board of Supervisors participated in an election forum at Iowa Central Community College on Tuesday. From left are, Webster County Supervisor and Democratic candidate Niki Conrad (District 4), Republican candidate Reggie Simmons (District 4), moderator Jim Kersten, Democratic candidate Tommy Coleman (District 1) and Republican candidate Austin Hayek (District 1).

Webster County voters had the opportunity to hear from the people who want to represent them on the county Board of Supervisors during an election forum at Iowa Central Community College on Tuesday night.

Candidates for Webster County District 1, Republican Austin Hayek and Democrat Tommy Coleman, are hoping to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Webster County Supervisor Keith Dencklau. Current District 4 Supervisor Niki Conrad, a Democrat, is facing Republican Reggie Simmons in her re-election race.

Tuesday’s forum was hosted by the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance and Iowa Central Community College.

“It’s outstanding to see this huge crowd,” said Jim Kersten, Iowa Central vice president of external affairs and government relations, to the fully-packed Triton Cafe conference room.

Opening the forum, the candidates introduced themselves to the audience.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Community members packed the conference room at Iowa Central's Triton Cafe on Tuesday evening for a Webster County Supervisors candidate election forum.

“I’m a big supporter of agriculture, being a third-generation farmer,” Hayek said.

Hayek lives on his family’s farm just north of Duncombe. He served as an officer on the Fort Dodge Police Department for six years following his graduation from Iowa Central in 2006. Currently, he works as the facility safety manager at Nestle Purina PetCare in Fort Dodge.

“I feel that we can help drive change in this county, we can help work with community leaders within our small towns and city councils, and also drive improvements within our county,” Hayek said.

Coleman also farms east of Fort Dodge on a farm that has been in the Coleman family for 125 years.

“I think it’s important that we have a farmer on the supervisors to represent the agricultural part of our community,” he said.

Coleman said he’s running for office because he’s tired of the divisiveness that politics has brought in recent years and hopes to change that.

“We’re all doing this because we want to help our community, we want to make our community a place where our children can grow up and be safe and happy,” he said. “We have to remember that we are all neighbors.”

Simmons, a delivery driver for a FedEx contractor, said his campaign is based on three principles — personal liberty, fiscal responsibility and moral integrity.

“It is my promise to the residents of this great county that if I’m elected, I will always preserve and protect your rights and privileges,” he said.

Conrad recalled four years ago when she was first running for office and how she prepared for the election forum with notecards full of her thoughts on a variety of issues. She said she recently found those note cards and reviewed them.

“Once I finished reading those note cards, I realized I basically outlined everything that I had dreamed of doing as a supervisor,” Conrad said. “And then I did them.”

Conrad said she ran on the promise of transparency, accessibility and empathy and that she believes she fulfilled those promises to the citizens of Webster County.

“Speaking of transparency,” she said. “No other local government official provides the level of transparency that I do. I am prolific in making sure that my constituents know what I’m doing as their supervisor.”

During the forum, the candidates were asked what they believe is the biggest problem that Webster County is facing today.

Simmons said the county’s biggest concern right now is crime.

“We have a major drug problem here in Fort Dodge, and that is driving the crime rate,” he said. “I will work with the Webster County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that they are fully funded and adequately equipped to do their jobs to the highest degree.”

Simmons added that he supports the proposal for a new county jail and law enforcement center.

Coleman said the biggest problem is political division in the community.

“There are a lot of issues that we have, like crime, like our streets, like our property taxes, and all those things,” he said. “But we can’t even begin to start having the conversations about those things and working together because so many people that are divided. … If we come to the table, listen to each other and hear each other, there is no problem that we cannot solve.”

Hayek said one of the primary concerns of the constituents in his district are property tax rates.

Conrad said mental health is the biggest problem Webster County is facing.

“Our first responders have become our first line of defense for mental health issues,” she said. “Our medical professionals are overburdened.”

There isn’t a one-size-fits all solution to mental health, she added.

“We need a holistic approach in order to learn more about them and work toward a solution,” Conrad said.

Each candidate was asked why they believe they are the best person for the job of county supervisor.

“I believe strongly in protecting the personal and property rights of our residents,” Simmons said. “And as a property owner, I would seek to find ways to lower property taxes while seeking to be conscientious of our spending. I will also seek to work with the Webster County Sheriff’s Office to ensure that our county is well protected.”

Coleman said that since he announced his candidacy earlier this year, he’s made it a point to show up and learn as much as he can about the job and show the residents of the county that he’s taking this seriously. He said he’s been attending nearly every Board of Supervisors meeting.

“My goal is that on Day 1, I’m ready to step into the shoes of Keith Dencklau and help do what we need to do, because our government isn’t going to stop just because somebody is new at the table,” Coleman said.

Hayek said that being a third-generation farmer and a former police officer, he has a firm grip on the things that this county needs.

Conrad said she believes she’s proven herself in the role over the past four years.

In closing, the candidates had one last opportunity to appeal to the room of potential voters.

“Democracy starts and ends with citizen engagement and an informed public,” Conrad said. “I believe that I’ve proven myself to be an experienced, honest, ethical supervisor and candidate who prioritizes the needs of District 4, who listens to all citizens — voters or not — regardless of party affiliation, and who uses ingenuity and common sense to solve problems proactively.”

Simmons spoke once again about his principles for running for office.

“I specifically got into this race because of my opponent’s decision to vote in favor of a face covering regulation that infringed upon the personal rights and privileges of the residents in this county,” he said, referring to the December 2020 vote of the Board of Supervisors to enact a county-wide mask mandate during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coleman touted his ability to work well with others to solve problems.

“I can work with anyone, I’m happy to talk to everyone,” he said. “Anyone that knows me knows that I’m open-minded, I’m willing to listen and I’m willing to work with people.”

Hayek said he has a heart and a passion for Webster County.

“I’m fired up to be in front, serving the people,” he said.

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Early voting through the county auditor’s office starts Oct. 19.

District 1 includes Badger, Duncombe, parts of northeastern Fort Dodge, Vincent and rural areas of northeastern Webster County. District 4 covers the western and northern parts of Fort Dodge, plus a small amount of rural area just north of the city.


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