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Belgard, Buhmann seeking District 1 seat

FAIRMONT — Martin County commissioner filings have closed, with incumbent Elliot Belgard set to face off against challenger Brad Buhmann for the District 1 seat.

District 1 encompasses the eastern edge of the county, and includes the cities of Truman and Granada, as well as Ward 4, Precinct 2 in Fairmont.

Commissioner Kathy Smith, District 3, and Commissioner Steve Flohrs, District 5, face no challengers for their open seats.

Belgard said he is running for re-election because he has enjoyed the challenges of the job.

“I feel that I still have more to give to the job and some projects that I would like to see finished,” he said. “I like helping people and finding a way to solve problems that arise.”

He said he has a great love for the county, stating he has lived in the area his entire life, and his children live here with their families.

“It is a wonderful place to live and I would try to do whatever it takes to keep it that way and improve it where possible,” he said.

Meanwhile, Buhmann recently retired from serving as a full-time police officer for 30 years. He said he has a strong desire to continue caring for his community as a county commissioner.

“I have always been passionate about building a bright future for the residents of Martin County,” he said, “and would be proud to continue to provide support and dedication to the people who call it home.”

When asked what he brings to the table, Buhmann believes he possesses exceptional problem-solving skills, as well as an appreciation for open and honest communication.

“I take time to listen to people’s concerns and give them an opportunity for their opinions and ideas to be heard,” he said. “I stand up for what I believe in and take pride in advocating for rights.

“Once I commit to something, I follow through with it all the way to the end. I remain professional no matter what situation presents itself.”

Belgard believes he is “level-headed, even-tempered, honest, relatively intelligent and, most importantly, compassionate. I believe in the commitment to the job and doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Belgard noted his experience.

“I was on the Truman City Council for 18 years, with 14 of those as mayor,” he said. “I am on the MCEDA, Region Nine Development Commission, the Region Nine Transportation Advisory Committee and currently the chairman of the South Central Emergency Medical Services agency, as well as several other boards. I believe in being present at meetings and participating in all discussions to reach the best outcome.”

When it comes to the needs of the county, Buhmann believes the top issue is responding to and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are facing unknown circumstances related to the pandemic,” he said. “We need to be sure we are well-informed and ready as a community to take appropriate actions. We should be prepared to embrace recovery while preserving financial security.”

Meanwhile, Belgard stresses the importance of maintaining a responsible county budget.

“Getting all the jobs done as efficiently as possible, while still meeting all the rules, can be quite difficult at times,” he said. “When I got on the board, we were facing double-digit levy increases while using money from reserves. We have brought that back into a little better alignment with a lot of hard work by our employees.

“This year will be very critical for our ag families trying to survive in a terrible market situation. Land values still went up by the state formula and yet farmers are not seeing any improvements in the commodity markets. It will be very challenging to balance the budget this year with all the fallout from the COVID-19 situation.”

Both candidates believe county infrastructure is important.

Belgard commended the highway department for keeping county roads maintained.

“Roads are a very important part of the ag economy and we are struggling to keep up at current funding levels,” he said.

“Lobbying our legislators for sustainable funding will be an ongoing battle until they finally can get together on some long-term funding options.”

Buhmann noted the importance of roads and bridges, while also taking a broader view of infrastructure.

“In Martin County, there is a definite need for widespread easily accessible, reliable internet, especially for those that are living in rural areas,” he said. “Education infrastructure has to be preserved, and attention should be focused on resources for online learning.”

Another issue facing the county is facility needs. Belgard notes that the historic courthouse needs several million dollars worth of repairs while other buildings continue to need maintenance.

“Our five-year capital plan that was put into place recently should address that without a detrimental impact on the budget,” he said.

“We felt we were in a good place for getting some state bonding money for a new justice center with it being a bonding year and the state having a large budget surplus, but the COVID-19 pandemic has wiped that surplus out and we are now facing a large deficit. That means that our chances of funding are getting less likely. We’ve been kicking this can down the road for a long time and it appears that we will be going back to the drawing board to find a less-costly answer.”

Regarding the justice center, Buhmann believes more research on alternatives is needed.

“With the potential economic stress that we are facing, I believe that we have an obligation to look at an alternative course of action to the proposed justice center,” he said.

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