Candidates make their cases

As dusk fell over Marshall County Monday, area residents gathered at Dejardin Hall of Marshalltown Community College to watch candidates for county auditor and recorder, sheriff and supervisor debate.

Auditor and Recorder

The Marshall County Auditor and Recorder deals with real estate and taxation, accounting and elections within the county. Deanne Raymond, the Republican incumbent selected for the position by the Board of Supervisors in 2015, said she was carefully vetted for the position by the board.

“The county supervisors entrusted me with the position,” she said, adding she wants to be elected to provide continuity to the position.

Raymond served as an assistant recorder immediately prior to the resignation of former auditor and recorder Dawn Williams before being appointed in 2015.

Democratic challenger Luisa Ortega, owner of the Midnight Ballroom and formerly of Ortega’s Restaurant, said her business experience would maker her a good auditor and recorder.

“Applying my business skills, I think it’s important to be efficient,” she said, adding she sees county taxpayers as customers of the county, and would serve them to the best of her ability.

The two differed on the idea of online ballots for elections.

“Online (voting) would be a great thing,” Ortega said, providing proper security measures were in place.

Raymond said she isn’t a fan of the idea, citing potential electronic errors interfering with the election process.

The two also differed on the amount of public outreach the office of auditor and recorder should perform.

“Reaching out to our schools… we have all these (high school) seniors turning 18,” Ortega said, adding she would encourage voting by visiting area schools.

Raymond said her office has done some public outreach, but said it may not be cost-effective for the office.

“It’s great to go out and teach,” Raymond said, adding she is willing to answer voters’ questions. “If you don’t understand something, come in and ask us.”

Both candidates cited their personal experiences as reasons voters should choose them for auditor and recorder.

Raymond asked Ortega of the importance of recording documents as part of the position duties.

“You’re dealing with sensitive documents,” Ortega said. “I worked many years translating, and so one of my biggest things is confidentiality.”

She added she understands the importance of keeping vital records for others as auditor and recorder.

Ortega asked Raymond if she would stay on in the office if Ortega were to win the election.

“I think I would look into it,” Raymond responded, saying she had reason to hesitate. “I don’t want to be the one everyone goes to still.”

County Supervisor

Running to take the place of Board of Supervisors Chair Denny Grabenbauer are Republican Steve Salasek and Democrat Jon Muller.

“I would like the opportunity to guide the county’s future,” said Salasek, who retired from Key Cooperative in Le Grand in 2015. He said he’s been active at Hope United Methodist Church.

Muller said he felt compelled to run when the opportunity came.

“When I heard Denny Grabenbauer was stepping down… I knew I had to run,” he said. “My whole career has been toward customer service.”

Formerly of Emerson Process Management and a current substitute teacher, Muller said he has dedicated his time to several area groups, including the Central Iowa Arts Association, Marshalltown Public Art Committee and Marshalltown Public Library.

The two candidates differed little in their expressed beliefs. For example, both said minimum wage should be a state-level decision. However, Salasek said many county businesses can provide wages above the required $7.25 wage.

“We’ve settled into pretty strong pay in the area anyway,” he said.

Muller said the state should work to increase the minimum wage, as many other businesses do not provide adequate wages. He said he would push for area legislators to get minimum wage taken care of at the Iowa Statehouse.

Both candidates said the county faces major questions when it comes to mental health patients, and Muller said there aren’t nearly enough beds for people with such issues.

Salasek said the sheriff’s office often takes on responsibility for mental health patients because of a lack of beds.

With the current situation at Central Iowa Healthcare, the supervisor candidates were also asked if they would be for providing financial help to the organization.

“As a supervisor, I would not want to get involved,” Muller said, adding he wouldn’t be opposed to personally helping in negotiations.

Salasek said CIH is estimated to be $18 million in debt, a figure that would take a significant amount of the county’s budget.

“There’s not a lot of room for taking anything on like that,” he said.

Muller asked Salasek what he would do as supervisor to improve the lives of Marshall County residents.

“Marshall County is a great place to live in right now,” Salasek said, adding he couldn’t think of many things aside from some of the bridges that need major attention.

Salasek asked Muller what, in his opinion, is Marshall County’s most pressing issue.

“The condition of some of our bridges,” Muller said. “I think the roads and bridges in the county are a major issue.”

Sheriff

Republican candidate Chief Deputy Steve Hoffman faced former deputy Randy Price of the Marshalltown Company at Dejardin Hall Monday.

Price, running as an independent, said his years in law enforcement and experience in business make him a good candidate for the job of sheriff.

“I feel it actually makes my case stronger,” he said of his experience in various fields. “With that (Marshalltown Company) position, I meet CEOs, VPs… I believe I have the perfect balance.”

Price worked for the sheriff’s office from 2001-2009, and acted as Gilman Police Chief for seven months in 2009. He was an officer with the Meskwaki Casino between 2010-2012.

Hoffman, who has worked for over 25 years at the sheriff’s office, offered his experiences in patrol, as investigator with the drug task force, jail administrator, sergeant and chief deputy as reasons to elect him sheriff.

“In the 25-plus years, it’s been a continuous evolution of learning,” Hoffman said. “I’ve continuously updated my training and education.

The chief deputy said he would have an open-door policy, adding he does not plan to run the office in the exact same manner as outgoing Sheriff Ted Kamatchus, and would be open- minded to changes.

Price echoed the idea of having an open-door policy.

Hoffman went after Price’s time away from law enforcement, saying his sustained involvement makes him a better candidate.

“Throughout this debate, we’ve heard ‘since I left there (the sheriff’s office)’ over and over,” Hoffman said. “Law enforcement is ever-changing.”

Price said he has a balanced perspective because of his years in and out of being a peace officer.

When asked about the county jail’s compliance with the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act, Hoffman said the county has measures to ensure rules set by PREA are followed.

“We have PREA investigators, we installed a PREA reporting hotline, we’ve installed a number of the measures,” he said. “(Compliance) is currently being worked on at our facility.

Price said he was not familiar with the current situation at the jail.

“I never worked in the jail, I worked on the road as a patrol deputy,” he said. “I think it’s a very safe and nicely-run facility that we have.”

Hoffman asked Price if he had been updating his standing with peace officer certification since leaving the field.

“My certification will stay valid,” Price, who graduated from the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, said. “I have not done any continuing education since 2011.”

Price asked if Hoffman would stay on at the sheriff’s office if Price were elected. Hoffman responded that he would retain his current position even if he loses the election, and would not leave his job.

The Times-Republican will host a debate for state-level races tonight at 6 p.m. at Dejardin Hall, 3700 S. Center St.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com