Democratic council candidates address issues

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The three at-large Dubois County Council seats are up for election this year. 

Democratic candidates Matt Brosmer, Todd Cassidy and Atalie Schroering aspire to fill the positions for the next four years. Republican candidates Sonya Haas, Mike Kluesner and Doug Uebelhor are looking to retain the seats.

Early voting started Tuesday, with the General Election on Nov. 3.

To get some insight into each person’s perspective, The Herald sent each candidate a questionnaire with a series of questions related to the council position. Each candidate received the same questions.

The responses that follow are the Democratic candidates' answers in their own words.

Learn about the Republicans here.

 

Brosmer

Matt Brosmer

What qualities do you have (characteristics, education, experience...) that you feel would help you to be an effective councilman?

My name is Matt Brosmer. If you know my grandpa, Ottie Betz, some of my family members say I am like him in many ways. I received two characteristics from him: his work ethic and his enjoyment in history and politics. While I grew up frequenting my grandfather’s farm where I learned about one of the largest industries in our state and how vital it is to our community. I understood why it is important to our county when my parents drove us back home from Celestine to Jasper, there are fields and farms everywhere and it’s vital for our community.

I received bachelor’s degrees in history and sociology from Indiana University. There, I learned extensively about a variety of government and economic policies throughout history. Since I entered the workforce at 16, I have gained experience in various fields such as retail, food service, criminal justice research, legal, manufacturing and legislative. At Starbucks, I earned the most valuable employee award, voted by my co-workers, because regardless of the job, I do the best I can to help out employees and improve the business. With all of this, I believe that I would a great council member for the county.

What issues under the county council’s jurisdiction are you most passionate about? How do you think you can tangibly affect those issues as a council member?

There are several areas that I am passionate about. The two primary issues regard ceasing the expansion of the jail and the Mid-States Corridor project. As a council member I would focus on bringing in more access to mental health and rehabilitation clinics to reduce our jail population. Research has shown how investing in preventative education and rehabilitative social support services can reduce costs to government. Overall, I believe we should be emphasizing more affordable housing options, well-funded public schools, and better access to childcare as preventative measures as well. The Mid-States Corridor is a vastly unpopular idea for so many reasons; it wrecks precious farmlands, local businesses and Hoosier family homesteads. For the last 10-15 years, we have been focused on quality of place rather than on quality of life. Rather than approving unnecessary roads and jails, we need to focus on what will make life better in Dubois County for families, children and workers.

The powers of the county council relate to reviewing and authorizing budgets from the county commissioners, establishing salaries for county employees, lowering or raising taxes, borrowing money. We need to be transparent and accountable to our county’s taxpayers’ funds. I will be a check and balance to make sure we use our county tax dollars wisely.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on a firmer financial footing?

There are several things I support. First, I will oppose the disastrous Mid-States Corridor project that will destroy our community, families, farms, local schools and small businesses. The road will lower property values around in the county, lowering our overall county tax revenue to fund important projects that will help our citizens. We do not need this project that none of us want and will hurt the majority of us while only helping the minority of wealthy business leaders to become a little wealthier. We could easily spend less money to fix up or expand the current roads rather than destroying our community and our beautiful county. Secondly, I would not support to use $1 million of our Rainy-Day funds to pay for the jail expansion. Those funds are set aside for emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic to help our people, such as CASA and the increasing number of cases this year, and not for pet projects. Lastly, instead of jail expansion, I would recommend those funds to be placed into expanding prevention and rehabilitation programs because we will get a beneficial return by getting people healthier rather than keeping the same status quo of lock up, release, repeat.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the county any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

I would use the grant money toward the Dubois County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and to fund prevention and rehabilitation programs. I would make sure the money gets to the people and programs who need it the most because I believe that would be the right thing to help our citizens and our next generation. CASA, Mentors for Youth and other programs like that are crucial for the county and could use grant funding more effectively.

Appropriating the grant fund into prevention and rehabilitation programs reducing recidivism will save our county tax dollars. Grant funds would be used for the community correction center. These programs will be a beneficial gain for our county.

What else do you think Dubois County can do to attract people/families and make it affordable for them to live here? How do you think you, as a councilman, could help in that effort?

My friends and I have this conversation fairly often. Dubois County is already an attractive county with so much to offer. However, there are a few issues such as lack of affordable housing, mental health care and job market diversity. As stated, I would want to partner with a community mental health and substance use clinic to improve access to services for all Dubois County residents. We also need to find ways to provide affordable housing options to our citizens so they can live in dignity, not in debt. Finally, I would want to welcome more businesses into Dubois County to diversify the job market and create wider career opportunities.

Should Dubois County offer businesses tax incentives/breaks at this time? Why or why not?

We should not offer business tax incentives because the major businesses in the county already receive tax incentives such tax abatements. However, I would be open to business tax incentives for small businesses and given the coronavirus pandemic be open to all businesses in need. According to an Economic Policy Institute report in 2018, Dubois County has the highest income inequality in the state of Indiana, ranking 88th in the nation, and pushing for more tax incentives for businesses will leave rest of us further behind than closing the gap and helping the working class.

Would you support cutting services if it meant lower taxes? Or would you support higher taxes if it meant more services? Why?

I would not cut taxes if it meant cutting services that help the people who are in need and I would support higher taxes if we would be able to provide more services to more people. However, it depends on the service we would be cutting, adding, or expanding and how that will benefit our county and all of the citizens. Also, it depends on our citizens' input into the service we would be changing. It is not a simple yes or no answer, so I lean each way depending how it benefits our county and our citizens.

Why should I vote for you?

You should vote for me because I will put the citizens first. I will stop anything related to the Mid-States Corridor and use our county tax money conservatively toward prevention and rehabilitation. During these financial stressful times and after, I will make sure our county tax dollars are used for our citizens.

 

Cassidy

Todd Cassidy

What qualities do you have (characteristics, education, experience...) that you feel would help you to be an effective councilman?

Having spent over a decade working at a small business in downtown Jasper, I have honed both my personal and professional skills in money management, as well as customer service. Since taking over my mother’s role at Midwest Cafe, my expertise in such areas has allowed for me to develop an enthusiastic and rational approach to business. Through responsible spending and high quality service, we have maintained our business as one of the premier small establishments in Jasper. Over the years, I have had the privilege of becoming acquainted with numerous residents of Dubois County. My interest in their concerns and satisfaction comes from a very personal place — the heart. As a small businessman with a devotion to my community, my considerations will always be founded upon the greater interest of the county’s residents, their businesses and families. My demonstrated efficiency in the aforementioned areas of money management and community relations makes me the ideal candidate for the small business owner and local consumer, both of whom will always need a friend such as myself in their corners.

What issues under the county council’s jurisdiction are you most passionate about? How do you think you can tangibly affect those issues as a council member?

One major concern of mine is the construction of the Mid-States Corridor. As one among many Dubois County residents opposed to this four-lane highway, which will cut through privately owned land, as well as tarnish a bit more of southern Indiana’s natural beauty, I intend to fight its construction until the end. I love my county. I refuse to stand idly by and watch an assortment of elite interests creep into my home and pervert the land of my fellow citizens. This is our home, and these “interests” will not be welcomed. It is my belief that those landowners being forced to accept compensation are still being robbed. Plus, one must consider nature, the beauty so many of us strive to preserve. After all, beauty has no ultimate price.

Another concern of mine is the treatment of those suffering from mental health issues by the judiciary system. The notion that such citizens, as well as those charged with petty and/or first time offenses, are being incarcerated alongside hardened criminals sickens me. I am proposing the construction of a specialized treatment facility, where a thorough holistic approach toward rehabilitation efforts will be implemented by a staff of trained professionals. “Offenders” such as those mentioned above will require treatment in lieu of jail time. It is better for all of us to see as many petty offenders rehabilitated and reassimilated into society than have them festering alongside gang affiliates and murderers in prison facilities where they are terrorized, tormented and degraded. This archaic approach has only proven to produce more hardened criminals of otherwise petty offenders.

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on a firmer financial footing?

Infrastructure has been a concern I have been voicing for years now. It is my belief that Dubois County needs to invest more into its infrastructure. I would like to see the roads and buildings of Dubois County held to that same standard. My house was built in 1927, though it seems to be holding up better than buildings constructed 20, 30 years ago. I vow to encourage the investment in infrastructure that is built to last.

I will also use my business prowess to detect any and all exuberant spending on part of the county. I believe in the responsible spending of resources on the future. Funds such as those in question should be spent to benefit all generations to come. I vow to “trim the fat” and curb unnecessary spending, so that excess funds may be funneled into other projects beneficial to the community. I would also like to take a more adventurous approach to diversifying the economy by encouraging the arrival/creation of new business opportunities and growth of older ones. We must sow the seeds of success for future generations to reap, and Dubois County is very fertile ground for such an endeavor. We will not allow for Dubois County to be left in the dust. This is a first rate county of winning towns where continued prosperity is easily achievable with the right attitude and a frugal, “common sense” approach to local economics. Much like my philosophy regarding infrastructure, an economy ought to be built to last — for a long time, not a good time.

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the county any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

With my million dollar grant, I would like to fund the construction of my aforementioned treatment facility. Issues involving addiction and mental health are not uncommon anywhere, and certainly not uncommon in Dubois County. I am certain that many residents either know somebody who has experienced reliance upon alcohol, pills, etc., or have themselves suffered from such a dependence. Some are functioning and are able to keep their addictions hidden beneath the surface, while others are spinning out of control, bringing destruction upon their own lives, as well as those of their family, friends and coworkers. All citizens in such a condition deserve adequate treatment. My proposed facility would be the first of its kind in Dubois County. Residents in the throes of such hopelessness do not deserve the firm punishment of the law, but the chance for a new life. I am devoted to maintaining a clean and virtuous Dubois County, and this treatment facility would be yet another step forward in ensuring we are able to do so.

What else do you think Dubois County can do to attract people/families and make it affordable for them to live here? How do you think you, as a councilman, could help in that effort?

When working at a cafe, you are often the first face a visitor sees. Throughout my 12 years of greeting from behind the counter I have seen faces both old and new. As time has passed, I have come to recognize the influx of new residents into our community. First and foremost, the number one way to attract new faces to Dubois County exists within our ability to welcome them, to make them feel valued and included. While many residents go above and beyond to do this, I have noticed that others are not so enthusiastic. I feel that extra effort on part of the latter group would help a tremendous amount.

Beyond social measures, I believe that Dubois County should do all it is able to attract as many innovators and job-creators as possible. We will not change, as Dubois County’s thriving culture and rich history is the heart of our region, but expand. Expand our influence and continue building our legacy as the top town in Indiana. We will be able to achieve this by making sure that our current businesses are thriving as well as our vibrant community is. I mentioned fertile ground earlier ... well, we should be doing our best to make sure the ground remains as such. We must grow our business district. Affordability is another concern. By adjusting our housing prices, we will allow for a broader range of prospective buyers, thus increasing our job force and potential business opportunities. Remember, “affordability” is not “cheapening.” The quality of our towns and cities will not diminish, and our standards and expectations for residents will not be lowered.

Another step I would like to take in welcoming newcomers and encouraging economic growth is the widening of our educational scope. I would like to expand our community college, VUJC, into a “fuller” educational facility. With the development of new architecture, we will allow for the addition of more programs and majors, turning our community college into a larger facility, creating generations of ambitious, creative and employable young people to continue representing success for Dubois County. With expansion, we give residents new and old one more reason to remain in our district for a lifetime.

As your representative, I will bring to office my devotion to providing the highest quality of life to all residents of Dubois County — old and new.

Should Dubois County offer businesses tax incentives/breaks at this time? Why or why not?

We need to remain in lockstep with the way in which the state has mitigated the potential economic disadvantages that certain local and national crises have brought. Small business loans to keep our local establishments afloat, relief efforts, etc. As a small business owner, I comprehend the day-to-day struggles of local establishments. We must create a forgiving and repairable environment for small businesses in times of crisis, which can be obtained through loans, relief and restoration.

Would you support cutting services if it meant lower taxes? Or would you support higher taxes if it meant more services? Why?

Dubois County retains it right to the swift utilization of such services, especially during these trying times. Through intelligent and considerate use of tax dollars, these essential services may be provided and used to the benefit of our community, not at the expense of the taxpayer. I promise I will spend each tax dollar as if it were from my own wallet.

Why should I vote for you?

Dubois County runs in my blood. It was my education, my coming-of-age, my home and the air that I breathe each day as I am given the pleasure of greeting so many of your faces. I know this place, I know its residents. I empathize with the triumphs and tribulations of Dubois County. If elected as your county councilman, I vow to keep your interests at heart. I cannot be bought, I will not be sold, I will not turn away from the public. The residents of Dubois County have become something of an extended family to me, and I will not let them down. I am young, ambitious and deeply passionate about our community. I am exactly what Dubois County needs. It is time for a new pair of eyes to evaluate the issues, a fresh set of ears to hear the voice of the people. I pledge to you, Dubois County, that your voice will be the only voice I hear. I would like to see all of us succeed. I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to help nurture the county’s potential to grow.

 

Schroering

Atalie Schroering

What qualities do you have (characteristics, education, experience...) that you feel would help you to be an effective councilwoman?

The “character question” is the one I tell my students to practice for their upcoming college interviews. So, it’s going to be fun to be on the other side of the coin today.  I would have to say that being a nurse, teacher and mom has prepared me for this role. Understanding and listening have always been the main job requirements in each of my roles. Caring for others, outside of myself, and making decisions that benefit the whole and not the dominant person in the room is my forte.  I like challenges and I’m one of the rare types that even likes change. I do my homework. I don’t speak to things that I haven’t yet researched. My nature is to question things and to collect the data from all sides; nursing teaches you that. I personally think politics gets lost when it starts looking at the data and numbers but forgets that those numbers and dollars are attached to a person(s). I feel my world has taught me to see the person as more than just a number.  

What issues under the county council’s jurisdiction are you most passionate about? How do you think you can tangibly affect those issues as a council member?

The things I am passionate about won’t always align with what others in this community are passionate about. I know this. I feel the greatest leaders must also be great listeners. I recently shared a survey on my Facebook page. The same answers seemed to be repeated several times over.  It seems many community members feel very passionate about their land being taken, mental health, recidivism, internet/cellphone access, attracting college grads, affordable housing, diversity training and maintaining the small-town feel. Many of these things, I too, feel strongly about. As a community, many of us share the same hopes, wants and dreams. We want to be safe/secure, have good jobs, have access to great schools and health care, know our home/land will not be taken from us, and most importantly — people want to know they are valued.

To quote one of my favorites, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unlike” – Maya Angelou

If elected, what three steps would you take to put our county on a firmer financial footing?

1. Being a mom and teacher has definitely taught me to budget and save. I understand how to stretch a dollar. This way of thinking started by observing my parents and their work ethic. My siblings and I were raised in a household where my parents both worked two jobs to provide for our family. They taught us to appreciate the things we had because they didn’t come easy. I feel their approach in parenting (regarding money) was making sure we understood want vs. need. My dad’s famous saying was, “Do you want it, Atalie, or do you need it?”

2. We need to invest in the future, but that must come with an analysis that proves the cost does not outweigh the benefit. Saying buzz words like “economic development” and “being for progress” is great — with data. Prove it.  

3. I tell my students to let a fresh pair of eyes look at something to find errors before submitting. The same can be true in looking at the budget. Sometimes spending money on surveying and collecting data, before a new rollout, can go a long way and save the county money. 

If you received a $1 million grant to use for the county any way you wanted, what would you do with it and why?

Being a nurse and an educator, I feel a million dollars could always be used on schools and health/wellness. A healthy and educated society benefits everyone. COVID-19 exposed some crucial weaknesses that should be addressed — yesterday. Access to reliable high-speed internet is a huge setback for many in this county. Working and teaching from home made this undeniably clear for many of us. We might have a Jasper address with a high-speed line directly in front of our house, but it isn’t available to us or our neighbors. We are stuck with really two options — slow and slower. Having high-speed internet countywide would be a game-changer. That is the resource that fuels today’s economy. It leads to more remote jobs, improving small business, e-learning, access to telehealth/teletherapy, and continuing education for those furthering their degrees. Each one of those equates to added growth and advancement for our county as a whole.   

What else do you think Dubois County can do to attract people/families and make it affordable for them to live here? How do you think you, as a councilwoman, could help in that effort?

“Build it and they will come” has new meaning in today’s world. We need to focus on what “build” now means to people looking to move back here. To many, this means affordable housing, great schools and a need to radiate that small-town feel with a modern-day spin. I teach high school seniors. Many say they want to come back here while others still say the same thing I said, “I’m never coming back.” Well, here I am, never say “never” kids. What changed? I started a family and I needed and wanted to be closer to mine. So, the key here is seeing the value in our small towns, our families, their land and how all this impacts the whole. Building an interstate through our county will not be considered a “positive” in enticing those to move back here or to attract new families to move here. Building doesn’t always have to mean infrastructure. Building relationships and understanding the reason many of us already moved back here could be part of the answer itself.

Should Dubois County offer businesses tax incentives/breaks at this time? Why or why not?

We can’t continue to use last century solutions for today’s problems. Lower wage job creation can’t be the determining factor for how we measure growth in our future decades. Tax incentives can make sense but everything needs to be measured by asking the return on investment. You must ensure these benefited the county and not just the business. These incentives are not a novel tool. Past data needs to be analyzed to prove these tax incentives did in fact better the county. We have to remember that abating property taxes take from the budget, which affects funding to your schools, libraries, towns.

Would you support cutting services if it meant lower taxes? Or would you support higher taxes if it meant more services? Why?

There will always be a balancing act with any budget. When discussing a county budget this can impact your taxes. Doing more with less can only work so long and then you have a bust. No politician runs on a campaign that states, “Vote for me, I want to raise your taxes.” Clearly, I don’t want to either. The job of the council is to make sure every county dollar is spent in the best way for the county as a whole. 

Why should I vote for you?

I care. I care about this community and the people in it. I care about our kids, their futures and what impact we all currently have on that. I care about my footprint and what it leaves behind. I care about how to make this place better for the people that call it home and the people that will one day call it home. To borrow the simple words of my friend’s 10-year-old son when trying to come up with a slogan — “Schroering is caring.” I will end on that. Thank you.




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