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Seeking office: Local candidates share views on issues in forum

Jamestown area voters heard directly from the local slate of candidates on Saturday in preparation for the 2012 North Dakota primary election.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun

Jamestown area voters heard directly from the local slate of candidates on Saturday in preparation for the 2012 North Dakota primary election.

Incumbents and challengers for the Jamestown City Council, Jamestown Public School Board and Republican nomination for the District 12 North Dakota Senate seat answered questions on a variety of topics during a two-hour forum at the Bison 6 Cinema in Jamestown.

Questions were submitted by local residents and the forum was moderated by Pam Phillips, chair of the Local and Regional Issues Committee with the Jamestown Chamber of Commerce. Each candidate took to the podium for about eight or nine minutes to answer questions and state their case on why prospective voters should elect them on the June 12 ballot.

City Council

The race that has arguably drawn the most attention is for the Jamestown City Council in which six candidates are vying for three openings.

Charlie Kourajian is the only council member seeking re-election, with Pat Nygaard and Ken Schulz not seeking further terms.

Kourajian, a former mayor of Jamestown and member of the council for all but two years since 1974, said his work on the council to address current issues has been sufficient.

“I think we’ve done a good job addressing the issues on our strategic plan that are most important for right now,” he said.

Kourajian also addressed Jamestown tourism and spoke about his vision for the city’s future.

“Between the City Council and the JSDC (Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp.), we’ve established a good relationship with the organizations that work with tourism and I have every confidence in the board members at the BCTF (Buffalo City Tourism Foundation),” he said. “We (Jamestown) are never going to be a metropolis, but we need to be the best mid-sized city we can be.”

The list of five challengers includes Steve Brubakken, Dan Buchanan, Jacqueline Dotzenrod, Jodie Mjoen and Samuel Upton — each bringing different experiences and skillsets to the table.

Brubakken, a 37-year resident of Jamestown, has worked for the state of North Dakota for 30 years and is a Jamestown College graduate.

“I’d like to see us (Jamestown) expand. What I’d like to see are options for people to shop here and stay here,” he said.

As for possibly implementing a curbside recycling program, Brubakken said, “The issue is that it doesn’t provide enough revenue for the company doing the recycling and it’s something you have to see how much citizens are willing to pay for it.”

Buchanan, a Jamestown native who came back to the city after college to practice law, said the city needs to focus on the things it does well first.

“I have a vision of this as a town that becomes a center of the region,” he said. “We need to continue to work at things we do well, such as tourism and economic development.”

Dotzenrod is currently a 911-EMS dispatcher for Stutsman County who has lived in Jamestown for about 10 months.

“I have lived all across the state in my life but since I left my parents’ farm, Jamestown has been the first place I’ve been able to call home,” she said.

Dotzenrod said the key to Jamestown’s future will be a continued focus on the health care system and helping small businesses to thrive.

Mjoen, former mayor of Maxbass, N.D., brought his family to Jamestown about seven years ago and is the supplier quality representative at Goodrich Corp.

Addressing the current state of the city’s water and sewer system, Mjoen said, “Funds are tight. I dealt with a similar situation as mayor in Maxbass and I think it’s going to be important to determine which areas are in need of immediate work most and focusing on those first.”

Upton is a 26-year-old who is currently employed at Infinity Building Services and McDonald’s, both in Jamestown.

He said he has been in the city almost all of his life and he thinks Jamestown can become much bigger than it is now.

“I’ve seen my peers and colleagues leave this town over the years. They always say ‘What is there to do in this town?’ but they never openly express those concerns and instead just get up and leave,” Upton said. “I believe this town can have more business and more people here in the future.”

School Board

The Jamestown Public School Board will have four contested seats in the upcoming election, one of which is the rural seat currently held by Gary Peterson, who is not seeking another turn.

Vying for that spot are Terry Anderson and Melissa Gleason.

Anderson has 45 years of experience in education with children of all ages.

“I believe I can help lead the quest for excellence in education here in Jamestown,” he said.

Gleason, who currently has children in the public school system, said that will prove to be a benefit if she is elected.

“Having been a member of the PTO (Parent Teacher Organization), I feel like I know what’s happening in the schools and think that’s important for someone serving on the board,” she said.

The other three available seats have drawn interest from a total of four candidates including two incumbents and two challengers. Current board member Rosemary McDougall is not seeking re-election.

Diane Hanson has been serving on the board the past nine months after being appointed to the position when former member Scott Walch left to take a job near Williston, N.D.

“One thing about North Dakota is that everyone really loves and respects education,” Hanson said. “I believe I have enough experience to make me valuable but also having just been appointed about a year ago, I think I bring a fresh take and a unique perspective.”

Gail Martin is also seeking re-election.

“Our greatest challenge right now is being able to give a quality education to students at all levels,” she said.

As an incumbent, Martin urged voters that her experience would be beneficial.

“I think it’s important that we keep some continuity on the School Board,” she said.

Challenger Roger Haut graduated from Jamestown High School 30 years ago and said he wants future JHS graduates to be proud of their school.

“I want people to know that I care about this school. Let’s make this a school people want to come to and be proud to say they graduated from Jamestown High School,” he said.

Each candidate was asked about implications of Measure 2, an initiated state constitutional measure that would abolish property taxes in North Dakota. They all expressed concerns about where local funding would come from if the measure was to pass.

Challenger Dina Laskowski was not present at the forum.

District 12 N.D. Senate

Two candidates have emerged for the Republican nomination for the District 12 Senate seat: Dwaine Heinrich and Bernie Satrom.

Heinrich is the owner of Heinrich and Company, an insurance-claim adjustment company in Jamestown.

Satrom is the president of Maranatha Custom Churches in Jamestown.

Both candidates were asked to address Measure 2 and describe what they consider the greatest challenge currently in North Dakota.

Regarding Measure 2, Heinrich said it’s all about Legislature working with local government.

“We do have a property tax issue in our state. Property taxes are too high but we need the state Legislature to work with cities on this issue,” he said.

Satrom said Measure 2 is flawed but likes the idea of local control.

“Measure 2 has some problems, that’s for sure. I love the idea of local control but what it comes down to is that people are not happy with the current state of taxes and equity,” he said.

Both Heinrich and Satrom agreed the greatest challenge in the state is managing the oil boom.

“There is revenue to manage the boom taking place in the western part of the state but the issue with that is time and being able to manage it quickly,” Heinrich said.

Satrom said North Dakotans need to be aware that with any boom, there comes a bust as well.

“Right now in North Dakota we have a $1 billion surplus, but we need to make smart investments because that money isn’t always going to be there,” he said.

The top vote-getter in the June primary election will advance to November’s general election as the Republican candidate for the seat. On the Democratic side, John Grabinger, president of Grabinger’s Marine Inc. in Jamestown, is running for the Senate seat uncontested.

Absentee ballots were delivered beginning Thursday. Applications for absentee voting are available at the county website, http://www.co.stutsman.nd.us, or by calling the Stutsman County Auditor’s office at 252-9035.

Early voting is available at the Stutsman County Courthouse from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday beginning May 29. Voting is also available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on June 2 and June 9.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on June 12. The county will utilize a voting center at the Jamestown Civic Center where any eligible voter living in Stutsman County may cast a ballot. In addition, voters of Precinct 1 can vote in Pingree, Precinct 2 in Kensal and Precinct 5 in Medina.

Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at bwillhide@jamestownsun.com

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