By Aaron Eberle
Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum on October 24 in Hot Springs.
Candidates in attendance were Heidi Linngren and Jane Farrell, seventh circuit court judge candidates, Sue Ganje (R) for auditor, Deb Russell (D), Karla LaRive (D), Susan Henderson (I), Edward Harvey (I), and Joe Falkenburg (R) for county commissioner. Other candidates in attendance were Mike Verchio (R) and Gardner Gray (I) for District 30 SD Representative and Robert Evans (R) and Jeff Shannon (I) for county Sheriff. David Colburn (I), candidate for Auditor and Lance Russell (R), candidate for District 30 SD Representative, were not in attendance.
After a brief introductory and statements, questions were asked from the audience by the moderators.
In response to whether or not the candidates were in support of the effort to keep the VA hospital in Hot Springs open, all were in support of keeping it open at all costs. Bob Evans thinks it would be devastating to lose the VA. Susan Henderson said “If we win no other fight we must win this one. The VA needs to remain in Hot Springs.”
When sheriff candidate and current Hot Springs Chief of Police Robert Evans, was asked why there was such a high turnover rate in the Hot Springs police department, Evans said one of the main reasons, he believes, is low wages and that sometimes when they hire people with little or no experience, send them through the academy, and gain a little experience, and with no community roots, they look for higher paying positions with larger departments.
The county commissioners candidates were asked, as a panel, how they helped with the care of the poor and what their policies were on this subject. Joe Falkenburg, incumbent, stated that they have been helping with senior meals, Boys and Girls Club in Hot Springs, and the YMCA in Edgemont. Falkenburg also said that they are trying to channel people into areas where they can help themselves, instead of just getting a handout from the county. Deb Russell, incumbent, says that it is heartbreaking and she worries about how they will pay the bills, but like Falkenburg, supports what they can do and are doing. Candidate Karla LaRive believes in helping our own and candidate Ed Harvey wishes that there could be some way to have a social worker to review the cases. Harvey also agreed with Falkenburg that they need a hand, not a handout. Candidate Susan Henderson likes the basic services that are provided.
Candidate Henderson was asked if she had any cattle on her ranch. Henderson said that she owns no cattle, she has the ranch leased out right now. Henderson said “It is not economically feasible for me to have my own cattle on the ranch right now.” Henderson says that leasing is a better financial option for her at this time.
Candidate for sheriff, Jeff Shannon was asked if was certified and where he worked before moving to Fall River County. Shannon reported that he was a full time fireman in Fort Lauderdale Florida and also served in a part time capacity with the Broward County police department. Shannon showed his certificate at this time. During his part time work with the police department in Broward County, he did not get benefits. Shannon stated the only difference between a full time employee and a part time one, was one hour. Shannon got his benefits through the fire department.
Candidate for sheriff, Bob Evans, was asked about the hate tattoo that he has on his knuckles. Evans had no reason for it, stating the tattoo doesn’t mean a thing. Evans admitted getting it at about 15, a dumb kid thing to have done, and it has never had it removed.
Commissioner candidates were asked their feelings on honesty and transparency in county government. Incumbent Russell didn’t realize that they were not being transparent. Russell said in certain instances in county government you have to be private. Russell continued that commissioner meetings were public meetings, anyone was welcome to attend, however, county commissioners meetings are meetings held in the public, not public meetings. Candidate LaRive believes that there is a need to keep public informed through technology such as videotaping. Candidate Henderson wants the public to understand and they are welcome to ask questions. Henderson also believes the commissioners should abide by the open meeting law. Candidate Harvey believes that evening meetings or video taping them may help to get the public more involved. Incumbent Falkenburg recommends that everyone take a good look at the agenda and make calls to put something on the agenda or to ask questions.
Sheriff candidate Shannon was asked if there was anytime that he felt that law enforcement could enter somewhere without a warrant. Shannon felt the only time he could enter was if he felt that a life was in danger.
Sheriff candidate Evans was asked if he enforces the bike law. Evans doesn’t feel he can write the kids a ticket for this (though parents could be ticketed) and he has strongly recommended that they ride on trails instead of sidewalks or the street in the business district.
When commissioner candidates were asked if they supported video taping meetings, incumbents Falkenburg and Russell were not in support of this, but invited all to look at the minutes and call with questions. Henderson, Harvey and LaRive were in support of video taping meetings.
A question was asked about the workings of the County auditors office. Sue Ganje, incumbent, responded that she, by law, receives the money collected by the treasure, and is accountable for its disbursements.
Circuit court judge candidates Farrell and Linngren both believe that common sense, integrity, hard work, and the law go hand in hand.
Vericho, incumbent, was asked if he would protect the water from PowerTech. Vericho said that right now it is a Federal Regulatory issue, not a state issue.
Commissioner candidates were asked if they were in support of the uranium mining. Russell has heard both sides and can see both points of view. Russell has decided to turn it over to experts, while Falkenburg doesn’t think it is a commissioner problem right now and agrees with Russell about letting the experts decide. Henderson, LaRive, and Harvey are all opposed to this project.
Candidate Evans was asked about task force and drug arrests. Evans is on the task force, but not the head. Evans has been on drug arrests but it does not make the papers because of confidentiality. Evans believes that this is one of the easiest things to work your way out of.
In closing all candidates asked every one to please vote.