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Local Elections 2004

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Candidates from Bonner County, Idaho and Sanders County, Montana


With only a few days left to go, candidates are making last-minute efforts to reach voters with their message. If you have not yet had the opportunity to visit with the candidates, endeavor to do so—the names marked on ballots this November will have an impact on our communities for years to come.

This election season The River Journal sent out candidate questionnaires to folks running for office in Sanders County, Mont., and Bonner County, Ida. Over 24 candidates are running in contested elections. Not all of those chose to respond to the questionnaire. This issue features candidates in local races. Our information on candidates in the state races ran in our last issue.

The questionnaire asked candidates to answer the following questions: the qualifications the candidate has for holding the office; personal strengths they will bring to the position; ways they differ from their opponent; and to name two issues they feel will be of importance to whomever holds the position they’re running for. Their answers follow.    -Trish Gannon

Sanders County, Montana

Nancy O. Beech (D)

County Commissioner, District 2

My name is Nancy Beech, and I am running for Sanders County Commissioner, District 2, as a Democrat.

I have extensive experience in many areas of local, county, regional and statewide government. Locally I have been elected several times to boththe  Paradise and Plains school boards. My countywide experience includes: Sanders County Refuse Board, Chairman; Sanders County Park Board; Sanders County Planning Boards; Sanders County Economic Development Corporation, Chairman; 4-H Leader; Grange Member. In the region, my experience includes:  Northwest Resource Conservation and Development Board Member and Carbon Offset Coalition, Regional and Multi State Organizations funded through DNRC.  Statewide I have been a Member and President of the Montana Nursery and Landscape Association, along with participating with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency to resolve problems within Sanders and neighboring counties.

I am energetic, and have demonstrated active participation in county government. My knowledge of the issues will be an asset, along with my ability to provide experienced, decisive leadership.

I am accessible to the people I represent. I have a long term perspective of the future with respect to the present responsibilities of the commissioners.

I believe it is important for commissioners to plan for and identify future county needs. I think it is important we have a strong sense of stability to maintain a well-functioning county government.

Justin Gail Patton, (R)

County Commissioner, District 2

I am on the ballot as Justin Gail Patton, but I’m called Gail by everyone. I am seeking re-election as a Sanders County Commissioner for a six year term on the Republican ticket.

I have six years of county commissioner experience. The county commissioner's job is a steep learning curve and takes a couple of years to learn about the many rules, laws and regulations we must follow. I have a Master's Degree in Agriculture Economics, served in the US Army; plus I have experience dealing with taxes, budgets, personnel, county roads, garbage boards, senior citizens’ issues, and economic development. I've served on many local area and state boards.

I get along well with people and with the other commissioners. I am well-informed and educated, and have wide experience dealing with the public, employees and crews. I have good health and energy, am calm and willing to listen before making decisions.

I have gained six years of road building and maintenance experience. Each of the three commissioners is responsible for a road district and crew. My home is close to the Hot Springs county road shop and a majority of the district roads. My opponent lives at the edge of the road district. Much of my commissioner district lies within the Flathead Indian Reservation and I am attuned to the dual jurisdictional problems of Tribal and county government.

The rapid increase in population and land development adds new demands and puts a strain on Sanders County government resources. The level of Sanders County's personal income is low and we need more high-paying jobs by developing our human and many natural resources.

In other Sanders County ballot issues, voters will choose a County Clerk of the District Court, with Dianne F. Rummel (R), the only candidate. Joseph Brown (R), is running unopposed for County Coroner.

Voters will answer the questions put in three constitutional amendments, one constitutional initiative, and three further initiatives. (See story on front page). They will vote on an increase in the Public Safety Levy to employ and equip two additional drug task force deputies, will vote on an increase in the road maintenance levy of ten mills, and will vote a 2.5 mill levy to fund a noxious weed management program.

Voters are also asked to support a bond election for the Elementary School District #2 in Thompson Falls in the amount of $440,000, to be used to repair and replace the roof on the elementary school. A bond election for High School District #2 in Thompson Falls, in the amount of $1.15 million, is also on the ballot. The high school bond will pay “the costs of designing, constructing, furnishing and equipping an addition and improvements to the existing high school facility, including a vocational education building, remodeling the shop area into a wrestling practice room, and paying costs associated with the bonds.”

Bonner County, Idaho

Dale Van Stone, (D)

County Commissioner, District 3

My name is Dale Van Stone and I am running for the position of Bonner County Commissioner for District 3. I have served six years as a county commissioner, from 1995 to 2001. I have been a member of Planning and Zoning for 14 years, a Bonner Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor for 18 years, a member of the board of the Panhandle Health District for seven years and have served on the board of the Co-Op Gas and Supply for 28 years, 20 of them as Secretary/Treasurer.

I have a life-long commitment to public service and, except for four years serving in the US Air Force, have spent my entire life living and working in Bonner County. As a former commissioner and through serving on numerous boards and organizations, I have an insight into Bonner County and the needs and concerns of our residents. Issues from planning and zoning to roads and health care are major concerns, and I feel I have always tried to listen, and to be a conscientious and courteous public servant.

I do not know a lot about my opponent as he hasn’t lived here very long, so it is difficult to note differences between us. I can only state my years of dedication and public service to Bonner County and its residents should speak for itself.

There are many issues facing our county besides the obvious ones of roads and traffic. I feel growth and increasing property taxes should be at the top of the list. The next, and most important, is being fiscally responsible. No one wants to pay taxes; therefore, the money taken in needs to be used as conservatively as possible.

Karl Dye (R)

County Commissioner, District 3

My name is Karl Dye, and I am running as a Republican for the position of Bonner County Commissioner representing District 3.

In my marketing career with Litehouse and Caterpillar Incorporated, I have traveled the world asking customers what they liked and didn’t like in existing company products and what they would like to see in our next generation of the product. These customers represented a broad range of experience levels, education, backgrounds and product knowledge and my job was to collect all of their product input, create a comprehensive plan and presentation to communicate it to the people in the organization responsible for producing it, and following through on the implementation. I feel that my job, if elected county commissioner, is very similar in that our commissioners need to understand varying information from our diverse county population, develop a good plan that will meet the needs of a majority of that population, implement it in the form of ordinance changes or the lobbying of our state or federal legislative bodies and following it up with good analysis after the implementation.

My personal strengths include leadership, integrity and the ability to make informed decisions.

In order to become Bonner County Commissioner, I am willing to give up my sales and marketing management job with Litehouse Incorporated and take a substantial pay cut. I feel that the best public servants are ones who are willing to make sacrifices in order to serve the citizens of Bonner County. my opponents would benefit financially and otherwise if elected commissioner.

As Bonner County has grown in population, we have lost good-paying jobs, primarily in the timber industry. Today, with our residents representing a broad range of backgrounds and coming from many diverse areas, we all share a common question: How can we create good job opportunities for our children and grandchildren that will allow them to live in Bonner County and enjoy the same standard of living as our generation? The answer comes from helping Bonner County-based companies grow and attracting firms that are willing to relocate to give their employees a better way of life in being located in Bonner County.

As Bonner County commissioner, I would like to work to attract these companies with good-paying jobs to our county. We need to work to amend Idaho state laws that limit tax incentives that counties can provide to prospective employers and help our local economic development groups. When most Bonner County residents think about the commissioners and their responsibilities, the first thing that comes to mind is the county road network. We are currently working from an Engineer's Plan that details a prioritized list of our county roads that need to paved, graded or maintained. Based on current budget levels and tax revenues, it will take over 50 years to complete this plan.  If elected County Commissioner, I would like to combine the efforts, resources and dollars of our federal, state and county government with that of our local citizens to accelerate the existing plan without raising the taxation rate of the general public. A full-time grant-writer would provide the state and federal funds to do so.

Kirk DeHaan (Ind) 

County Commissioner, District 3

My name is Kirk DeHaan, Independent, running for County Commissioner, District 3

The first qualification is that I am a citizen of this county. Secondly, I have the desire to take on the responsibilities that the job encompasses. Lastly, my job experience, integrity and common sense make me suitable to the position.

My job experience includes 20 years in the computer industry, the last ten as an engineer.

I will bring party independence to the office. My agenda will be to serve the needs of the citizens with minimal government interference. What I will not bring is the desire to make holding this office a career.

I do not feel I have the mindset of a politician. My decisions will not be motivated by desires to enhance political opportunities for myself.

The main issue I have is rising property taxes, along with assessment practices that penalize persons for the supposed value of their neighbor’s home. I fear the Equalization Board may just "equalize" some people out of their homes. This would be a criminal act.

Steven L. Bauer, running as an Independent, is also seeking the position of Bonner County Commissioner for District 3. He failed to provide us with information on his campaign.

Judie Conlan (D)

County Assessor

My name is Judie Conlan. I am the incumbent Bonner County Assessor, and my affiliation is with the Democratic party. 

I attended the University of Idaho as a Business Major with Real Estate Appraisal emphasis. I have 16 years experience as a residential appraiser with Bonner County, followed by four years as appraisal supervisor. I was appointed Assessor in 2003.

I am fiscally conservative, I have strong budgetary skills, and I understand the appraisal process and requirements of the office. I recognize and appreciate the level of professionalism among my staff and I believe they are my greatest asset. 

I believe that public service is the number one priority of my office. 

Rapid growth is the single biggest challenge facing our county at this time. In order to keep the tax obligation in our community distributed fairly among all property owners, I have developed a plan for dealing with this issue. I assist my staff in any way I can in adding new construction to the tax rolls, and I support their efforts in re-evaluating existing properties to market value in an on-going, never-ending cycle. These two functions help ensure fair and equitable values for all properties in Bonner County.

Increasing property taxes are a concern for most people. I am working with the Idaho Association of Assessors to find solutions to this issue and propose solutions to the Legislature during their next session. 

Steven Carter (R)

County Assessor

My name is Steven Carter, and I’m running as a Republican for the position of Bonner County Assessor.

My candidacy is principally about choice. Choice that goes further than the current status quo, choice that focuses more on elements of professionalism, leadership, experience and a desire to serve the public in a sincere manner.

My knowledge entails over 30 years of appraisal experience, education, and management in the ad valorem assessment field. The broad diversity of appraisal background ranges from residential, agricultural, commercial, as well as industrial complexes. I’m well versed in computer programs pertaining to property assessment and will strive to ensure a high level of               uniformity (equitability) in the valuation of property.

There are many concerns and problems that face our community daily. We are continually observing these issues that pertain to our everyday lives, whether it directly affects us personally or our community as a whole. The list seems daunting when we read about the issues of the bypass, downtown development, drugs, or lost jobs; etc. There is, however, one issue that affects all of our lives and that is the issue of taxes;more specifically, property taxes.

The basis of these taxes levied against property starts with the assessment process. If this process is not addressed competently or equitably the results can be onerous to the taxpayer.

I will endeavor to ensure that the valuations process will be fair and equitable and that assessment levels will reflect uniformity and conversely fairer property taxes. 

I strongly feel that my years of experience, education in the ad valorem assessment field along with my managerial skills are strong attributes that are needed for this position.

Tony Lamanna (D) 

Bonner County Sheriff

My name is Tony Lamanna. I am running for the office of Sheriff of Bonner County. I am running as a Democrat.

I have many years of law enforcement experience. I am presently the School Resource Officer for the West Bonner County School District. In the past I have been a timber manager  in Priest River, Idaho. I have experience handling budgets in excess of ten million dollars. I have and currently own a successful business.

The "personal strength" I bring to this position is my sense of community based law enforcement. I have a very good understanding that crimes are solved only with the help of a "like-minded" community and an agency that is supervised by a person who believes in professionalism and integrity above all and lives his life that way.

The conduct of our officers directly represents the conduct and professionalism reflected by its leadership. A complete history of myself and training can be seen on my website at www.atlamanna. supersat2.net

I believe that I differ from my opponents because of my strength of spirit, belief in the true nobility of man, the very strong drive within myself to be able to strive to make a safer and better world for the citizens of our communities. When I pass on, I truly want to be known not only as a good law enforcement officer and family man, but just, "A good man." I do know how to restore morale to our officers, thereby creating a good working relationship with the communities.

The most important issue for the office I am seeking is to reclaim the affirmative morale and professionalism of the sheriff's office. Presently, I believe the Bonner County Sheriff's Office is in a shambles. Morale is low and the deputies are looking for other jobs. This is directly related to the absence of a caring and knowledgeable Sheriff.

We need to re-establish community-based policing and give a strong voice to the people of our county. It has been proven that for every $1 spent on crime prevention results in at least a $7 savings to the public.

Let's get busy and work together to bring the best we can to "our Bonner County!"

Elaine Savage (R)

Bonner County Sheriff

Elaine Savage, Republican Candidate for the position of Bonner County Sheriff.

I am currently employed as the Undersheriff of Bonner County. I have 23 years of active, full time, paid law enforcement. The past six years have been spent in the administration of two law enforcement agencies: Police Chief of Priest River, Captain, and Undersheriff of the Bonner County Sheriff's Office.

My greatest personal strength is my ability to work with and relate to people. I may not have a solution or an answer that everyone will agree with, but I will be honest. I make decisions that are not popular or seem the most politically beneficial to me, but they will be the right decisions, made in the best interest of the people I serve.

I differ from my opponents because I have actual, hands-on experience. The 1,600-plus hours of training I have accumulated have actually been applied to my day-to-day work. I also understand that being the Sheriff is not a patrol deputy's job. The Sheriff must be able to manage the many different functions that the 120 employees perform, while directing a 4 million dollar budget.

The most important issue is the growing population of Bonner County that is placing an increasing demand on law enforcement services. The Adult Jail, which has a 124-bed capacity, is full. In order to answer the public's request to address the drug, drunk driving, and domestic violence issues, the Sheriff must be able to provide the best service within the limits of the budget.

James “Bean” Johnston (Ind)

Bonner County Sheriff

My Name is James "Bean" Johnston, and I am running as an independent for the office of Bonner County Sheriff. I have no party affiliation. I don't believe the office of sheriff should be party affiliated. People can contact me by checking out my website,  www.electbean.com or calling me at home at 208-265-3599, or e-mailing me at [email protected] .

I have been in two branches of the military (the Air Force and Army National Guard), been to college twice, and have two degrees. I worked as a cop for seven years, and have been working with troubled youth (at risk juveniles) for the last 14 years. I think the strongest qualification I hold, that makes me perfect for this office, is that I have been a member of the public for the last 14 years. I know exactly how the public feels toward the police. We have a serious community relations problem going on in this county, and it is my opinion that someone who has been immersed in law enforcement for the last 25 years has NO idea how the public feels about the police. I do, and am prepared to do something about it. It is very important to me to clean up the image of local law enforcement with you.

My personal strengths are that I don't have any trouble admitting my weaknesses or admitting that I don't know everything. When I get put in a position of leadership, the first thing I do is ask questions. I don't have all the answers; I need to learn all the answers, by asking the right people the right questions. Only then can I be the best leader possible. That is how I plan to run the Sheriff’s department—as the team captain, not a dictator. Everyone will have a voice, and I will want to hear it. Then I can make decisions that positively effect the most people.

My opponents have more law enforcement experience than me, which I feel makes them less apt to recognize the community relations problem we face. And, with all their years of experience, they haven't been able to clean things up so far. It is my opinion that we need someone like me—a member of the public, with prior law enforcement experience, who has vision, and a plan for getting things done. I would also like to state that I was a paratrooper in the military, so there isn't anything I can't do, or learn, if I put my mind to it. I also had the good sense to team up (asking him to be my undersheriff if elected) with Cal Wylie, who came in third in the Republican primary. With Cal’s character, common sense, and administrative background we will be a powerful force for positive change in Bonner County.

One of the problems we face in the county is "abuse" of some kind. Drug abuse, spouse abuse, and child abuse.  These are problems that our society faces nationwide. 

But, the problem that I think overshadows all those is "community relations". As a cop, You can't make much of a dent in the "abuse" issues, if the community is not on your side. We need to first repair the relationship between the community and the police, and then we can work together to decrease the abuse.

Remember, a vote for me is a vote for accountable law enforcement. Sincerely James "Bean" Johnston

Brian Orr (D), Joe Young, (R), and Nelson Campbell, running on the Constitution ticket, are candidates for  the position of Bonner County Commissioner, representing District 2. They failed to provide us any information on their campaigns.



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Author info

Landon Otis

Tagged as:

Nancy Beech, Justin Gail Patton, Dale Van Stone, Karl Dye, Kirk DeHaan, Steven L. Bauer, Judie Conlan, Steven Carter, Tony Lamanna, Elaine Savage, Brian Orr, Joe Young, James "Bean" Johnson

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