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ELECTION 2018: Sanders County Commissioner


October 11, 2018

Carol Brooker

NAME: Carol A. Brooker

EDUCATION: Went to the historic Cold Springs Grade School and Graduated from Sentinel High School in Missoula Montana. Attended University of Montana.

FAMILY: Married to my husband Tim for 44 years. One son Anders and his wife Meg, they live in Missoula.

OCCUPATION: Sanders County Commissioner

1. What one part of county government would receive more attention if I'm elected.

When I am re-elected I will continue looking at the budget through frugal eyes. Public health and safety are our number one responsibility. I will continue to allocate as much money as possible, as well as, investigate additional funding sources for county roads and law enforcement. I feel that the current board of commissioners works as efficiently as possible with existing revenue.

We have budgeted for a Records Management System in the Sheriff's Office and adding digital equipment to the officer's patrol vehicles. Vehicles are also rotated out every three years. Implementing the new system and equipment will provide quicker response time, create efficiencies for reporting, decrease expenses and in turn increase safety for both the officers and residents. Recently we have combined leadership in the Road Department under one foreman for both Districts 1 and 2. We have seen an immediate benefit and increased efficiency with communication and projects. In addition, we have hired a mechanic that works for the Sheriff's Office, Road Department, Solid Waste and Weed Department out of the Plains shop. This saves on travel and high labor costs. My focus will continue to be on strategic budgetary attention within the county to make the most of the taxpayers' hard-earned dollar.

2. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to budgeting?

The biggest challenge is meeting all of the department's needs. Costs are increasing, but the county is responsible to provide services, which require upgraded equipment. Every year we count on new construction and businesses expanding to create new money. There is new construction county-wide, so we can afford some new equipment for the department budgets. Another challenge is we get very little to no public input when it comes to budget preparation. One meeting out of 50 was attended by the public this year. The few folks that showed up for the Sheriff's budget were pleasantly surprised by how much the Sheriff receives. Public input to these processes is key to how we make decisions that represent our constituency.

3. What specifically would you do to promote economic growth?

Infrastructure is the most important factor when it comes to economic growth. It boils down to safety and environmental health. We will continue doing a good job making sure our bridges and roads are safe, and property values are retained. When someone wants to invest or expand a business in Sanders County they want to know we have healthy water, good sewer treatment and low crime rates. My commitment to economic growth is to sustain a quality of life that has always been and will be expected under my leadership. Consistently, a major problem for businesses, Clark Fork Valley Hospital and even schools is affordable housing for employees. If you talk to the hospital, Thompson River Lumber, USFS, Quinn's or the Lakeside in Trout Creek, they all say housing is a real issue for their employees. And with the Rock Creek Mine poised for operation, I will work to bring those families to Sanders County versus Lincoln and Bonner. I will encourage private enterprises to look at development to address the critical housing need. I talked to a woman last night that just finalized a medium size sub-division a month ago. More than half of the lots have already sold. There is a public-private partnership opportunity and I will leverage all resources to address this very vocal concern.

4. If you are elected and look ahead to the end of your term, what one significant change would you initiate?

I would like to create a Public Works Director position for Sanders County. That role would increase efficiency within the budget, bring continuity to projects and consolidate supervision of a few departments. We have begun to share workers and equipment which was not done in years past. The model involving a Public Works Director would capitalize on prioritization of projects and working together to achieve set goals by the county. Numerous employees will be retiring in the next couple of years so planning for consolidation is a realistic option that would save money and build stability.

NAME: Paul C. Fielder

EDUCATION: Associate in Applied Science in Agriculture

Bachelor of Science in Fishery Biology

Master of Science in Wildlife Biology

FAMILY: My wife is Senator Jennifer Fielder. My son served in the U.S. Marines on the Presidential Guard Unit and my daughter is a teacher. Both kids are happily married and have given us five beautiful grandkids. I am the oldest of five children in my family and mom and dad are still doing well at 88 and 89 years young.

OCCUPATION: Retired Wildlife Biologist

1. What one part of county government would receive more attention if you were elected?

Better roads would be the easy answer to this question. But, as a county commissioner, I would use the influence, jurisdiction, and authority of that position to work toward improving the health, safety, and welfare of all of the people of Sanders County. People, especially the people in the far ends of the county, have told me that they want adequate law enforcement, good emergency medical response, cell phone coverage, public transportation, safe road conditions, and a reduction in the air pollution smoke that we breathe.

Some of those issues can be addressed by administering how the county budget is allocated and spent so as to give higher priority to issues that affect the health, safety and welfare of the people in our county. Others of those issues can be influenced by a commissioner that works really hard with agency, legislator, and business contacts to bring better services, such as cell phone coverage and public transportation, to Sanders County and reduce the duration of time that poisonous smoke from wildfires and prescribed burns hangs in our air.

I don't believe in the statement that "there is nothing we can do about that." I will use the influence, jurisdiction, and authority of an aggressive county commissioner to improve the health, safety and welfare issues in our county.

2. What is the biggest challenge when it comes to budgeting?

Any budget, whether it is the county budget or your own personal home budget, has a certain amount of money coming in to it and a certain amount of money going out of it. You can't spend more money than comes into your budget. I do not like taxes. But taxes are needed to fund the necessities of our nation, our state, and our county. I emphasize the word necessities.

Taxes are the major income source to the county budget. Other income sources include PILT funds, SRS funds, and grants. But all these other income sources in some way come from "we the people." Maybe it comes from state taxes or federal taxes, but it is not free money. It's public money. Whatever goes into the pot of money that the county budget is based upon becomes a public pot of money and should be spent to give the public the most benefit at the least cost.

I will nit-pick the county budget to weed out the lowest priority expenses and maximize the high priority issues that most benefit the health, safety, and welfare of the people in this county. Many of the lower priority items seem like a drop in the bucket, but the bucket is full of drops. I am very frugal with my own spending habits and will be very frugal with spending the county budget's money. Where possible, I will stretch the limits of the requirements of special funding sources to get the most "bang for the buck" that directly benefits the people of our county.

3. What specifically would you do to promote economic growth in Sanders County?

I will use the influence, jurisdiction, and authority of the county commissioner position to increase the forest products industry in our county and get the mine in the western part of the county open and running. Sanders County is rich in natural resources, but we have the 2nd highest unemployment rate in Montana. There used to be many timber mills in the county and now we are down to one mill. The Kootenai National Forest produces timber faster than any other forest in Montana. We have a world class silver deposit in the west end of the county that has been trying to get a permit to operate for over 30 years.

If we can increase timber and mining jobs, those jobs will have a ripple effect that will create other jobs: such as home building, places to eat, stores, local services, and teachers for the increased school enrollment. The current administration in Washington, D.C. and in the U.S. Congress is very open and moving aggressively in utilizing our country's natural resources.

With my 31-year career in the natural resources field and the political and agency contacts that I have, I think that as a county commissioner I can improve the Sanders County natural resource-based economy. I will work real hard to do that in a 6-year term as your county commissioner.

4. If elected, at the end of your term, what one significant change would you initiate?

At the end of a six-year term, the ONE SIGNIFICANT CHANGE that I hope to bring about would be cleaner air for the people of our county to breathe. The amount of smoke in our air the last several years is unacceptable. I'm talking about both the smoke density (in parts per million of particulate matter) and the duration of time that the smoke hangs in the air. The smoke is dangerous to our health. When people with respiratory problems, elderly people, or parents with young children are advised to stay indoors or just leave the area until the smoke clears – that is unacceptable.

Paul Fielder

County commissioners should be the ones that very strongly influence the effectiveness of initial attack on wildfires and the timing and conditions and duration of "prescribed burning." There is a need to reduce the fuel loads in our surrounding forests. Open roads that would allow aggressive firewood and timber harvest from our forests seems like a logical first management option to reduce fuel loads in our forests. Open roads in our forest would also allow quicker and more effective wildfire suppression. Poisoning the air that we breathe should be a last management option.

As a county commissioner, I will be aggressive in protecting the air that we breathe rather than just going along with what agencies want to do. I've already been doing that as a citizen and I can do a better job as a county commissioner.


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