County roads drive primary voters’ views in board race

May 13, 2018 GMT

COLUMBUS – Roads have been front and center in the minds of most voters in the last few months as candidates have crisscrossed the county while running in contested races for open seats on the Platte County Board Supervisors.

Candidates are vying for four-year terms on the board from Districts 1, 5 and 7 in the May 15 primary election.

In District 1, Fred Liss and Todd Stuthman will square off on the Republican ticket with the winner moving on to November. John Harms and Barb Siedlik, who appear on the Libertarian and Democratic tickets, will advance straight to the November general election ballot.

“In a nutshell, voters are concerned about the falloff in county services (roads) in the last 10 years,” said Fred Liss, who is one of four candidates seeking the District 1 seat.

Liss, 64, of Columbus, said he has been campaigning hard for the last five or six weeks, knocking on the front doors of more than 600 households while gauging voter concerns.

“I understand the dynamics of the operations and personnel that are needed to maintain the roads,” said the retired Liss, who spent 32 years with the county’s highway department, the last 15 as highway superintendent.

Todd Stuthman, 54, of Columbus, is following in his father Arnie’s footsteps in running for a seat on the county board. He previously spent 15 years as a member of the Bismark Township board.

“I’ve been thinking about this for the last few years,” said the area farmer, adding he has an interest in county government and working to keep the roads in good shape for farmers and safe for members of the public.

Stuthman said he wants to budget wisely.

“It’s tough. People don’t want to do with less, but nobody wants to pay more,” said Stuthman. “You do what you can with what you have.”

Incumbent Bob Lloyd, 65, of Monroe, is running for a sixth four-year term in District 5 against challengers Randy Fisher of Monroe and Ralph Hefti of Columbus. All three are Republicans.

The winner takes all in Tuesday’s primary election.

Lloyd pointed to the paving projects the county board has gotten done in the past few years, citing work done on Mason and Monestary roads, the Lindsay Blacktop and Monroe South completed just last year.

“We’ll be putting down four to five inches of asphalt on East 29th Avenue as a temporary fix until (federal) money comes through for a viaduct in the next 18 months,” Lloyd said.

When completed, a paving project will stretch from U.S. Highway 30 to East Eighth Street.

“We’re working as hard as we can,” said Lloyd, the owner Monroe Tavern.

Newcomer Randy Fisher, 40, has a different take on the county’s road conditions.

“The county’s infrastructure needs to be updated,” said Fisher, who spent about 15 years as a licensed bridge inspector for the county. He also built roads and worked as a surveyor for the county.

Fisher, who works at the Columbus Sales Pavilion while also farming and ranching, is also the co-owner of Horn T Zoo in Monroe.

The Monroe man said he brings a diverse background of experience to the board.

“I think I bring some good ideas to other board members, make some change,” he said.

Ralph Hefti of Columbus has heard the roads concerns and he’s ready to take them to the board and see what can be accomplished.

Roads and bridges have been on people’s minds during campaign visits, said Hefti, a 69-year-old retired finance and accounting employee at Nebraska Public Power District.

“It’s been a hot topic out there everywhere,” said Hefti, a newcomer to running for public office.

With more than 1,200 miles of county roads, board members need to take a long look at the situation and see what can be done, said the married father of three grown children.

Republican Hollie Olk of Columbus is running for her third full term in District 7 after being appointed in 2009 to fill out the unexpired term of a supervisor who passed away.

Olk, 57, vice president of real estate lending at Pinnacle Bank in Columbus, is facing her first contested race. She approached the campaign as an opportunity to walk door-to-door and listen to voters’ concerns.

“It’s been a good opportunity to talk to people and keep in touch with what’s going on,” said Olk, who has enjoyed telling voters about the county board’s role in getting the ball on finishing the four-lane section of Highway 30 from Schuyler to Fremont and stepping up bridge replacement projects.

The county board voted to contribute tax dollars to a regional study of the economic impact of an expanded Highway 30, which revealed that surrounding communities would see growth in activity.

“I was glad to have the opportunity to cast that vote,’’ said Olk, adding the study focused on finishing Highway 30 was one of the board biggest achievements. “Spending that money was a great move and will be very positive for Columbus.”

Kim Kwapnioski, executive director of the Columbus Public Schools Foundation, is also running on the Republic ticket for the District 7 seat.

“I decided to run for the supervisor position because I am passionate about making Platte County a great place to live, learn, work and visit,” said Kwapnioski, a Columbus native while describing her reason for joining the political fray.

In my current position, I have built partnerships with local businesses and industries to secure funding to grow the Science Technology Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) programs.

Giving has climbed by 70 percent, Kwapnioski said.

The foundation director’s work experience also includes five years in the tourism industry as well as the health care industry, where she took a Community Health Care Clinic from four employees to 29 and turned a $100,000 budget into a $2.5 million spending blueprint with supporting revenues in three years.

She is a member of the Commodore of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kwapnioski said her priorities are to strengthen Platte County by collaborating and looking for ways to save money.

“It is important to keep property taxes low, create a seamless 911 system, as well as provide transportation opportunities for Platte County,” she said “I want to bring fresh ideas, positive solutions and plan for the future.”