Trio vying for District 4 seat

FAIRMONT — Martin County Commissioner Dan Schmidtke is facing a primary challenge.

His District 4 seat, which covers the southwest portion of the county, is open this year. Two other candidates have filed for the position — Richard Koons of Welcome and Neal Potthoff of Dunnell.

The top two vote-getters on Tuesday will advance to the general election in November.

When asked about the job, Schmidtke said he enjoys working with the different county department heads while trying to make things better for citizens of the county.

“I think some of the important things are law enforcement to keep safety in our communities and roads and bridges,” he said. “Without good roads and bridges we’re never going to get good economic development, and that is important to me.

“Another thing that’s important to me is veterans services,” he continued. “I can’t thank anybody enough that has served or who has had a family member who served. So we try to do as much as we can for veterans, not only by giving them services out at the [county veterans] office, but the Veterans Memorial project [in Fairmont] is important to honor those, not just the ones we see every day, but those who never came back.

Koons said he has decided to run because he believes it is time for a change on the board, and in the county budget.

“I am a three-term Manyaska Township supervisor, and I spent four years of that on the Martin County Township Association board of directors,” he said. “I considered running four years ago, but I wasn’t ready then and my township wasn’t ready. So I spent the last four years taking time to study the ins and outs of the county board, and basically I think the board needs a new set of eyes.

“I have nothing against Dan [Schmidtke], but I’ve been urged by a lot of people to do this. It’s a situation where we’ve got a budget that just keeps creeping up and up, and somebody needs to take a look at that.”

Koons also said the drainage ditch system in the county is more than 100 years old and in dire need of repairs, saying, “It’s failing, and it’s not keeping up with what’s going into it anymore.”

He also wants to work on getting better internet and cellular service in rural areas.

“There’s little to no internet and cell service in a lot of the other areas of Martin County,” he said. “That’s something that, while our county has been working on it and there’s been some grants, rural people are seeing no benefit yet. If they’re going to keep talking about it for five years, we should probably start seeing some improvements at some point in time.”

Meanwhile, Potthoff said he simply feels the time is right for him to try his hand at the position.

“I’ve got four sons and a daughter in law, and my youngest one graduated from high school this year,” he said. “Years ago I thought it would be interesting to do this, and I just figure my time is now.

“The timeline is right for everything, and I figure I’ve got some life experience and the ability to try and help people. I spent 35 years as a township assessor, and 32 of those were in Martin County. I worked with nine different townships and feel I represented those people and know how to work with the public because I’ve been doing that for many years.”

While Potthoff does not see many problems with the way the county is run currently, he does see some obstacles coming in the future.

“Our jail system with the security building is going to be an issue eventually,” he said. “I know people want to see their money spent frugally. I know they understand there’s got to be a certain amount of tax money spent for good schools, decent roads, and some basic police protection to feel safe around their community and around their homes.”

As for the time demands of the position, all three men say they will be able to meet the needs of the county.

“I do have a full-time job besides this,” said Schmidtke. “I don’t do this to make money, I do this to give back.”

Koons said he did not make the decision to run lightly and, if elected, will put the needs of the people first.

“I’m self-employed and my schedule will allow for this. I’ve got my constituents out here in Manyaksa Township and if they call, I’ll stop what I’m doing to go look into their situation. I will build my schedule around the county schedule if I’m elected.”

Potthoff said he too will prioritize his time to make things work.

“I do work part-time at a couple of different places, but that may change if I do get elected,” he said. “I do farm yet, but I feel that’s it my time to put my name out there.”

Touching on why people should vote for him, Schmidtke noted his experience and devotion to the people of Martin County.

“I’ve been doing this since 2001, and I love the job,” he said.

“I want to give back to the community, I have integrity, and I want to see this county grow,” he said. “I know it’s a downhill slide with our aging population, but I think with good hard work and leadership we can get things turned around and get some businesses growing around here.”

Koons said he will work to make the county board feel more open to the general public.

“Transparency is something that I will bring to the table,” he said. “I have a very good working knowledge of the county, and I’m dedicated to what I do. If somebody has a question, I’m sure that the 200 some residents of Manyaska Township will be more than willing to give me a good reference, because I take care of what I’m doing.”

Potthoff feels that he has the ability to communicate well, and is open to learning more about what people want and need.

“I think that my years of life experience in working with different townships and people in general is good,” he said. “My ability to communicate one on one with people is real high. I guess it’s really something that I would like to try, and I think I can bring forward a little different viewpoint.

“I’m one that always likes to question a lot and I like to learn. I just want to learn something, take some risks, and I think it’s important to just once in a while do something out of your comfort zone. I’m just simply a guy that wants to try.”