Mahaska County supervisor candidates Mark Doland and Tom Rielly squared off at a candidate forum Tuesday night at Smokey Row.
Doland and Rielly are competing in a special election next Tuesday to fill a seat on the board of supervisors vacated by Ken Rozenboom, who is now serving in the Iowa Senate.
The candidates gave their views on a variety of issues ranging from economic development to mental health.
When asked about the county’s greatest challenge, Rielly said: “retaining our best and brightest.”
“Mahaska County has a lot to build on,” he said.
In order to create jobs and to allow local businesses to expand, the supervisors need to hold the line on spending and look at quality of life initiatives, Rielly said.
Doland said the biggest challenge facing the county is the “Us versus Them” mentality between landowners and government officials in regards to acquiring land for the regional airport and other projects.
“We need someone to stand up for private property rights,” Doland said.
In regards to the regional airport issue, Doland said he favors it on a county-wide ballot.
“We need to get the public’s opinion and the public’s pulse,” he said.
“I believe in a representative form of government,” Rielly said. He favors having county supervisors and city council members represent their constituents on the matter. If the elected officials do not represent the wishes of the electorate, “fire them — don’t reelect them,” he added.
Rielly said Pella needs a new airport and Mahaska County needs a new four-lane Highway 63. The federal government wants to combine the two projects into one. He said the regional airport and new Highway 63 would expand the tax base.
“It’s good for our area,” he said.
On the issue of eminent domain, Doland said: “I’m not in favor of it. I favor putting it on a ballot.”
Rielly said that with eminent domain, the government just doesn’t take ground. Government officials have to offer the fair market value or better for ground.
“The site selection hasn’t been made yet,” Rielly said.
On the issue of mental health funding, Rielly said the area needs a good advocate to travel to Des Moines to make the case for state funding of local mental health services.
“Mental health regionalization is a good thing,” Doland said. As mental health services become regionalized, it is more equitable for everyone, he added.
When asked about the best ways to promote economic development, Doland said it is a matter that starts at the state level and trickles down. He said eliminating burdensome regulations and lowering corporate income taxes would be good. Also, a county supervisor should be “a good salesman” to promote the area to businesses.
Rielly said county supervisors can work with county communities, area chambers of commerce, agribusinesses and to listen to the major employers in the area to discover what their needs are.
When asked how the supervisors can improve communications with the public, Rielly said the supervisors can attend city council meetings, hold town hall meetings and listening posts. He also added that they can use technology such as Facebook and Internet chat rooms for online communications.
Doland wants to have an “open door” and to be available to talk to people. He also wants to be open minded when communities talk about projects they want to do.
Polls will be open for the Jan. 29 Special Election from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.