Eight vie for four seats on the Lower Elkhorn NRD
Norfolk and area candidates are asking for voter support Nov. 6 in their respective races for seats on the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District board of directors.
Eight candidates, including four now serving on the board, are competing for four seats in the various NRD subdistricts and at large.
In Subdistrict 2, incumbent Jill Barr of Norfolk is being challenged for her seat by Scott Clausen, also of Norfolk.
Barr said she is again running for a seat on the NRD so she can make a difference.
“I bring a different approach and mindset to the board. I am open to ideas in both agricultural areas and ideas to improve the town of Norfolk,” Barr said.
Barr said she is a candidate worth supporting because she works hard, supports what she believes and is willing to speak up for changes.
Her top three issues include taking care of “our most precious resource” water through planning and clarification. Barr said she also is concerned about keeping nitrates out of the water by working with producers to develop proper fertilization methods and expansion of parks and recreation for Norfolk.
Clausen said he was encouraged to run for office by current members of the Lower Elkhorn NRD board who want someone on the board with a background in business and agriculture who also knows a lot of farmers and agribusinessmen.
Clausen said that he wants to bring a “common-sense” approach to all of the district’s natural resources, but he also has concerns about government overreach.
“We are getting to a point in history where this is a major concern for all,” Clausen said.
Clausen was the leading vote-getter in the primary election in May.
RUNNING FOR seats in the NRD’s Subdistrict 4 are incumbent Bob Noonan of Humphrey and challenger Kendra Buss of rural Norfolk.
Noonan said he is running for office because he feels he can represent his district well with his farming experience and his agricultural education.
“I feel people can support my candidacy because of my experience on the farm, in agricultural education and my time on the Lower Elkhorn NRD board,” Noonan said.
He said his crop acres are almost all irrigated, and he understands the decisions farmers must make to be profitable in the long run.
“I am also very concerned about conversation of resources, as these resources are what provides a farmer’s livelihood,” Noonan said.
The top three issues in his race are farmers’ continued access to irrigation water and continuing to expand acres in a way that does not hurt irrigators; working with areas where groundwater contains levels of nitrates that are above EPA limits and assisting in educating farmers in production practices that can remediate nitrate concentrations; and continuing to support the conservation practices and encourage the participation in the programs that the NRD provides to farmers.
“The NRD board continues to work on all of these issues and is in the process of dealing with these concerns. In the future, should I be elected, I would appreciate and welcome more input from producers and non-farmers alike as we move forward on all of these proposals,” Noonan said.
Buss said she is a candidate worth supporting because she feels diversity is instrumental for a board to be as effective as possible and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent effectively and wisely.
“I can draw on my background and experience to represent taxpayers with a balanced perspective as it relates to agriculture, business management, recreation and conservation,” Buss said.
“I take the time to research all sides of an issue, gather opinions from others and work with board and staff to make the best possible decision for utilizing tax dollars and limiting regulation,” Buss said.
The three most important issues in her race include diligence in planning how to best utilize the tax dollars to meet the responsibilities to protect natural resources and working within a budget and within the ability of personnel to make programs successful.
“The conservation and tree programs administered by the LENRD aid in the preservation of soils and water supply,” Buss said.
She said water quantity and quality is another important issue.
“Flooding, droughts and nitrates are all concerns (with) great impact to agriculture, businesses and individuals and can have devastating effects on our environment,” Buss said.
THE TWO SUBDISTRICT 6 candidates are both from Wisner — Dennis Schultz and Tom Feller.
Schultz, incumbent and NRD board chairman, said he is running to retain his seat to educate the public and to do his part in the protection of natural resources.
“My experience of serving on the board during large floods, extreme drought conditions and dealing with water quality issues makes me an effective and knowledgeable candidate,” Schultz said.
Additionally, his experience in making difficult decisions has helped him to gain “a wealth of information that will enhance my service on the board and for the public well-being,” Schultz said.
The top three issues include water quality: to research and, with the use of technology, utilize pilot projects for answers to water quality concerns; water quantity: to continue exploring where our water is and in what quantity to make informed decisions about how to effectively use it for a diversity of needs; and economic development: through irrigated acres, industry and recreation.
Feller said he is running for a seat on the NRD because he is interested in continuing the oversight for the care of current infrastructures, the water quality in the district and the fiscal responsibility to taxpayers “in consideration that the federal government, that is under tax-base budget cuts, and how this will affect our local Lower Elkhorn NRD.”
“My lifelong commitment and experience in agriculture and practicing sustainable management for future generations” is what makes Feller a candidate worth supporting, he said.
Feller’s top issues in his race include fiscal responsibility — using available tax dollars to manage the district’s resources effectively and negotiate productive partnerships with communities.
Regarding the issue of water quality, Feller said it is our most important resource and requires “managing and developing using science-based analytics for quality-of-life decisions and implementing them to benefit our communities.”
Educational opportunities are another important issue, as they communicate to constituents the obligation the NRD has to the environment, Feller said.
A SEAT on the NRD board at-large is also being sought by an incumbent, Joel Hansen of Wayne, and a challenger, Greg Owens, also of Wayne.
Hansen said he is again running for office because of his passion for natural resources.
“I want to help ensure future generations can utilize our precious soil and water to keep Northeast Nebraska strong and prosperous. We must never take God’s gift to us for granted,” Hansen said.
He is a candidate worth supporting because his only agenda is the agenda of the NRD and its mission to improve the quality of life through the protection of natural resources, Hansen said.
“I am mindful of responsible spending of our tax dollars and limited government, while performing the purposes and activities given to the NRDs by the state legislature. I will continue to fight for local control through the NRD system, rather than have the state take back those responsibilities to Lincoln and Omaha,” he said.
Hansen’s top three issues in his race begin with water quality.
“We have very high levels of nitrates in many of the wells in the western half of our NRD. ... The medical concerns and the cost to treat the water are staggering. Rural users and our small communities need help now,” Hansen said.
The growth of Northeast Nebraska is another issue, and Hansen said he would support programs and activities to provide clean water, protect existing water users and continue to develop natural resources for people to enjoy and utilize.
Leadership rounds out Hansen’s top three issues, especially in light of the turnover the past four years as older directors and staff retired, Hansen said.
“I can help bridge the information gap for newer directors,” he said.
Owens said his top three issues are taxes, water and conservation.
Regarding taxes, Owens said, “They are on everyone’s mind these days, and we need to control spending to keep this in check.”
As for water, everyone has a right to water, he said, “and keeping that right fair and having our priorities in place” is another top issue.
Conservation includes “taking care of the great soils we have,” Owens said.
Owens also said that it’s important to remember that just because an individual has served on the NRD board for several years doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is “acting in the best interest of the people.”
“We need to listen to the local taxpayer and act on their best interests,” he said.