Republican council candidates speak on issues

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

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

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

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 Republican candidates' answers in their own words.

Learn about the Democrats here.

 

Haas

Sonya Haas

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

I have gained experience working with the county, serving on multiple boards and attending many training seminars and meetings during my first term of being elected as a councilwoman. In addition to serving my first term, I have dealt with the Internal Revenue Service, Indiana Department of Revenue, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and Indiana Charity Gaming Commission among other government agencies. I have helped companies and individuals with all manner of licenses, permits and filings as well as payroll taxes and tax returns with my job. I believe being hard-working, sympathetic and trying to stay educated makes me an effective councilwoman.

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?

I feel all areas of the county government are equally important but there is an area that has always been of interest to me. I have been recycling for many years and I am now serving on the board as secretary for Dubois County Solid Waste Management District. I have previously participated in the Creek Sweep, Patoka Lake Clean Up Days and just recycling in general. I think we are blessed to live in such a clean and beautiful area full of hard-working people who take pride in hard work, family and keeping our county clean and well kept. I think it's important to be able to provide reasonably priced trash disposal along with free recycling as a service to our citizens. The more we can recycle and dispose of trash properly the cleaner our water, soil and surroundings will be. This in turn will make businesses want to hopefully move to our community to create better paying jobs for our citizens, our citizens will want to stay and raise their families and entice people to come visit our communities and partake in the tourism that our county has to offer. I feel if we can be supportive of upgrades and ideas for the Dubois County Solid Waste Management District along with volunteering to help keep our community clean this would be invaluable to the community.

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

The county has been fortunate to already have a firm financial footing and also to have had fiscally responsible council members, elected officials and departments heads who strive to work together on a daily basis.

I feel we all need to keep on the same path we are on with working together, sticking closely to our budgets and being fiscally responsible and transparent for the citizens of this county.

We need to continually search for grants that help us with upgrades and projects in the county. We have hard-working department heads and the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission that are always on the search for grants if we have projects or equipment we are in need of. This saves the county and taxpayers local tax dollars but still allows the county to continue to improve but not always at the cost of the county tax dollars.

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

There is a need to have good internet available to everyone in the county. We have so many businesses located outside of city and town limits that do not have the best internet service that is needed for them to run their business efficiently along with other entrepreneurs that are wanting to start small and run businesses from their homes. We are blessed to live in a county that is full of people with great ideas and wanting to start their own businesses and without good internet service that can be a detriment to these people. There is also a need for internet with families that have to deal with e-learning for their children, people working from home and for regular everyday needs such as news and entertainment. I know $1 million does not go far but it would be a start in the right direction.

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?

The council has been supportive of multiple projects to encourage people and families to move to the county including the efforts of Dubois Strong, Huntingburg Stellar Project and rural internet. Our county already offers safe communities, great schools, clean water and jobs to hopefully entice people to move to our area to live and raise their families.

I believe, as a councilwoman, we can be supportive and encourage these efforts and other positive projects in the county but I also believe we need to be supportive of the small businesses in our county. Without the small businesses where would our county be? That’s what makes Dubois County a great place to live and visit. The more we support the small business owners the more they can pay their employees and get and keep the qualified personnel they need and for everyone to live and thrive in our communities.

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

We are in uncertain times for tax incentives/breaks but would consider it if that would bring businesses to this county or a current business would be creating higher paying jobs. Creating higher paying jobs and additional income for the county would be an incentive for us to consider a tax abatement. Better paying jobs touches everyone in the community from, housing, retail and keeping the younger generation here for jobs instead of moving out of the county after graduation in search of the better job. If we can accomplish that it would be great for the county as a whole.

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

I do not believe at this time there are services the county offers that would be considered wasteful spending to consider lowering taxes. We would always be open to hearing from people if they feel there are any unnecessary services available that they would like to see go away to lower taxes or something else that would be better suited to replace it. Only out of new necessary services for the community would I entertain raising taxes.

Why should I vote for you?

During my first four-year term, I’ve gained experience serving on the council, multiple boards and attending training and meetings. In addition, I have 28 years of work experience dealing with multiple government agencies and helping people in my job. I strive to be hard-working, caring and to do the job to the best of my abilities. I have been proud to serve the citizens of this county and I would appreciate your trust in me to continue serving so I may continue working to keep Dubois County thriving and safe for you and future generations. I would appreciate your vote.

 

Kluesner

Mike Kluesner

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

I am a Republican candidate seeking re-election to the at-large seat on the Dubois County Council. I was elected councilman in 2016 and I’m very excited about the opportunity to continue to serve the citizens of Dubois County.

I was a former owner of various successful, small businesses in Dubois County and retired from Seufert Construction in 2014. I graduated from Jasper High School and I hold an associate degree in architectural engineering. I served in the Indiana National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve and retired after 21 years of honorable military service. I want to continue to use my knowledge, experience and leadership abilities to make “common sense” decisions for the taxpayers and citizens. Also, being fully retired gives me time to dedicate to public service and available to listen to the concerns of the county’s citizens.

Being a lifelong resident of Dubois County, I can acknowledge and appreciate the “quality of life” that we all share as citizens of the county. I will commit to continuing my work on the council in a fiscally conservative and transparent manner. It is my goal to work with the taxpayers and local government to assure that tax dollars are spent wisely.

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?

I am truly passionate about and firmly support public safety for all citizens of Dubois County. In my first term, I supported the approval of providing the Dubois County Sheriff's Office with body cameras for each officer. I supported the installation of school resource officers at Northeast and Southeast school corporations. My continued support is given to the Dubois County Sheriff’s Office for officer and personnel training and up-to-date equipment to perform their duties of law enforcement. I also support the work, study and analysis being performed on the current security center (jail) and the community corrections (work release).

I want to continue my work and support, when requested, for the upgrading of county-owned facilities. During my first term, the council has approved the funding of many improvements. Some of which are the courthouse annex building renovation of the commissioners/council chambers which included providing an early voting room with an entrance at street level, renovation of the prosecutor’s office for a more secure work area and to provide a safe work environment for county employees, including the courthouse security and COVID-19 upgrades, replacement of the truck storage building at the county highway department, support for the construction of the CASA Comfort Zone, providing furnishings and appliances for the new Ferdinand ambulance station and expansion of the Ferdinand solid waste dumpster site.

As a member of the council, I want to continue the work that was performed on the Dubois County Employee Wage Study and implementation of the improvement processes for the employees. This can be accomplished with the help of the newly created position for the “Human Resources Generalist."

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

Currently, Dubois County is on a very good strong financial footing, but due to the COVID-19 economic slowdown, future revenues will definitely be affected. As a member of the council, I will continue to review each budget request and follow up on the need and justification of the request. The county council will need to communicate with each department head and reiterate the importance of being fiscally conservative at all times, but especially during this possible revenue shortfall.

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

It would be so fantastic if Dubois County could receive a substantial financial grant of this size. My wishes would be to support a halfway house program structured for Dubois County. These transitional home facilities would offer a safe and sober living home for those that would be transitioning out of the community corrections program. When a person is released from community corrections, they are sometimes faced with the problem of returning to the same environment that led them to their original situation. This puts them under a lot of peer pressure and many times they return to their old habits. A halfway house would give them a safe and positive place to stay in a supervised and structured environment.

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?

So many great things are happening in Dubois County and we are the envy of many other counties in Indiana. The “Quality of Place” projects that have transformed old factory buildings into apartment units and small business enterprises has been unique to our area. Additionally, the beautiful historic 4th Street project in Huntingburg along with the ongoing work and completion of a variety of single-family, multi-family and work place housing units in all areas of the county has been a true asset. Dubois Strong is our local economic development organization and is supported by Dubois County and many private businesses and organizations that are invested in the economic development potential of the county. Some of the reasons that economic development is so important is that it can increase employment opportunities and wages, attract new businesses, grow existing businesses, and retain existing businesses that are located here. This helps increase our tax base for real property. As a council member, I’m a firm supporter for economic development in Dubois County.

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

As citizens of Dubois County, we have to realize that we operate and compete in a global economy. There are many cities and towns that envy our business and manufacturing base, but we cannot sit on our laurels. We need to be competitive with other communities seeking new businesses if we are going to be able to survive and thrive in this environment. Economic development is so important and, if required, we need to continue to offer property tax incentives to entice high quality businesses and manufacturers that offer above average wages for their employees.

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

As a current councilman, I feel that the services that we offer to our citizens are necessary for public safety and efficient operations of county government. We are operating on a limited budget and with the COVID-19 pandemic, more funding of special services has been required, but we have been able to provide financial support for these services. At the present time, I cannot foresee raising taxes for any additional government services.

Why should I vote for you?

With my considerable business knowledge, past military experience and having served on the county council for the past few years, I feel uniquely qualified to continue to hold a seat on the council. I am very proud of our county and will provide the leadership and hard work it deserves. I look forward to continuing the fine working relationship that I have with the other county council members, commissioners and employees for the betterment of Dubois County. I sincerely request that you consider me for another term on the council to complete unfinished work and respectfully ask for your vote.

 

Uebelhor

Doug Uebelhor

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

I bring enthusiasm, a hard work ethic, and practical experience to the county council. I was successful in increasing transparency and accessibility to county officials while county commissioner and I pressed for rehabilitation to be included in the current jail project while a council member. Rehabilitation is now included and more of a focus in the project. I have and will continue to bring my enthusiasm and experience to the office. I have participated in and completed multiple leadership training events, classes and programs to help me be a more effective and positive manager and leader. I graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and currently teach high school mathematics. I was previously a branch auditor for Jasper Engines, working with managers to assist in branch finances and operations. At Jasper Engines, I was challenged to formulate new ideas and use innovative thinking to solve challenges. I have and will continue to use this training and experience to bring new solutions to challenges during these currently trying times. Being a former county commissioner and current county councilman has taught me a great deal about how county government operates and interacts with other local and state agencies.

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?

I feel the county needs to develop a long-range financial plan to account and prepare for future expenses and projects we will need to fund. This plan will help us budget according to the needs of the various departments, determine projected available funds, and create a flexible timeline for the county. Having a financial plan is vital to keep the county financially sound given the current uncertainties with the COVID-19 pandemic. Another issue the county is facing is the unfunded mandate to improve deficiencies in our current jail and corrections facilities. This process has taken a long time to work through but by making sure the project doesn’t include unneeded expenses and is tailored to the county’s needs, we have cut a significant amount from the original projected cost. We need to take this conservative approach to any future projects as well. Another issue I’m passionate about is the need for the council to work closely with all of the various county departments and their budgets to ensure the county is prudent with all spending. We especially need to work with the departments who bring grant money into the county. The EMA department has been instrumental in creating a plan and process for using federal funds for COVID-19 relief. They and other groups like Region-15 bring in grant money for multiple departments in the county, and we need to encourage more use of these funding sources.

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

I feel we need to develop a long-range financial plan to control and direct spending. In the upcoming years the county budget will see the financial effects from COVID-19 and we need to be prepared and have a plan. I feel that is the first step to ensuring the county stays financially sound. We also need to work with the departments and understand their future financial needs. By working with and identifying essential needs for the departments, we will be better prepared to plan for future projects and adapt to any unforeseen expenses. This is another step for the county to keep a firm financial footing. Finally, by creating and working with the human resource department, we have been able to start creating processes that streamline parts of county government and in return, save time and money. We need to continue what we’ve started and work with the human resource department to establish well-defined evaluation processes and streamline other processes for county departments and employees. By making the processes more efficient, we will be able to save in areas like overtime and hiring of additional part-time personnel.

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

If the county were to receive a $1 million dollar grant to be used for anything, I would want to address some of the issues the smaller communities are currently facing. There are many areas in the county that do not have access to the internet. The need to be connected is now more important than it has ever been, and we need to address this issue so we can move to a point where everyone has access to the internet. The smaller communities in the county also have aging infrastructures in many areas such as water drainage, sewage and road. The county highway department does an excellent job of identifying and maintaining a high level of standards for the county road system but their funds are still limited. I feel that some of this money could go a long way in improving more miles of our county road system. I would use the rest of the money for economic development and tourism. Attracting businesses and families to the area is an important component to helping Dubois County thrive.

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?

Too often I hear people say “there’s nothing to do in Dubois County.” This is a misconception and unfortunately part of the problem of attracting and retaining people and families to the area. It’s unfortunate because Dubois County is rich in culture, has excellent school systems, and contains beautiful landscapes and architecture to go along with the many activities and events. Part of the solution needs to be accentuating all the activities, events and attractions, we, as a county, have to offer. Most importantly, we need to make sure everyone knows it. By working with groups like the Dubois County Visitors Center and Tourism Commission, we can brand Dubois County as “The County of Choice” for young, old, singles and families alike. The visitors center and tourism commission does an excellent job of attracting events into the area, but it is vital we understand the needs of the younger generation and focus on the activities and the events they want. We also need to address the problem of keeping young people in the county after graduation. The youth need constructive and safe activities to enjoy. As a councilman, I would encourage and facilitate discussions to determine what will attract and retain people to the area. Various developers have already addressed adding affordable housing to allow for growth, and VUJC has expanded their curriculum to meet the needs to fill needed positions. Businesses using the abatement process to expand have stated they would add more positions if there were more trained workers. With the expanded courses and training at VUJC, this will help funnel more people into those positions. Encouraging more businesses to use the abatement process and expand would provide more skilled positions that these programs could fill and ultimately provide long lasting positions for our younger citizens.

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

I feel that we should continue offering tax incentives to local businesses that reinvest in our community. These businesses help the local economy by creating new jobs, providing additional services, and stimulating local commerce. They also support local youth organizations and clubs which help keep kids actively engaged in their communities. By supporting our local businesses we strengthen the county as a whole. The current tax abatement process encourages businesses to expand and grow. This not only encourages job creation, but it also encourages other businesses to improve and expand to meet the growing demands.

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

We should always try to meet the needs of the citizens in our communities. There are, however, many alternate avenues available to help fund various services that we should pursue first. There are many useful programs and services our county could benefit from, but they are not necessarily the responsibility of the local government to fund. An evaluation process should be used to determine if a service is needed, because adding services just to add a service is wasteful and counterproductive. If there is a genuine need, I feel we should exhaust all possible alternatives before increasing taxes.

Why should I vote for you?

You should vote for me because I want to continue making a positive difference and give back to the community that has given my family and me so much over the years. I feel blessed to be able to live and raise my family in Dubois County, and I want to continue to do my part to help it improve and thrive. We need to be mindful of current and future financial needs that will impact our communities, and I feel I have the experience and passion to help formulate out-of-the-box ideas to combat and solve these challenges.




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