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Supervisor candidates talk growth goals, tax rates at forum | News, Sports, Jobs

TR PHOTOS BY SUSANNA MEYER — Left to right, Times-Republican Managing Editor Robert Maharry, Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hall, Laurel Mayor Evan Folk, Marshall County Treasurer Jarret Heil, Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA CEO Carol Hibbs and incumbent and current Marshall County Board of Supervisors chair Dave Thompson. At the public forum, the Republican Supervisors candidates had the opportunity to answer questions about pressing issues in the community asked by moderators Hall and Maharry.

With two seats up for grabs on the Marshall County Board of Supervisors this November and the Republican primary just a few weeks away, the four GOP candidates gave prospective voters a chance to learn more about them during a public forum held on the MCC campus Thursday night .

The event, sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce and the Times-Republican, brought an audience to Dejardin Hall and was also live streamed on KDAO. Chamber President John Hall and the Times-Republican Managing Editor Robert Maharry served as moderators.

Hall and Maharry asked the candidates—incumbent Dave Thompson and newcomers Evan Folk, Jarret Heil and Carol Hibbs—a mixture of questions, some prepared and others texted in from the audience. They had the chance to discuss topics like how to support economic and population growth, the Marshall County unemployment rate and the courthouse project, among others.

After brief opening statements from each candidate, Maharry started by asking the candidates what they believed the board’s role should be in facilitating population growth within Marshall County.

Heil, the current county treasurer, felt Marshall County would have to find a niche, which he believed to be engineering.

Marshall County Treasurer Jarret Heil is running for the Marshall County Board of Supervisors, and at Thursday night’s open forum, he discussed how he felt the tax hikes in the past several years were unprecedented.

“We’ve seen so much great engineering that has happened here,” Heil said. “These guys come from Iowa State, come over here, start this business and grow it, and engineering is that key. So we need to focus on getting high tech, high engineering jobs here.”

He strongly believed teamwork between multiple entities — the county, cities, the Chamber and others — would be necessary to make it possible.

Hibbs, the CEO of the Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA, agreed that growth is important, and she felt working with the large employers and small businesses already in the community would be the right approach.

Thompson, the current board chairman, said growth was a multifaceted issue that required a good education system, an efficient medical facility, and available jobs, but bringing back retail businesses was his top priority.

“Think about it as not just growing our population. We struggle in Marshalltown, Iowa with our economic leakage with shopping,” Thompson said. “It’s very important that we revive our retail hub that we were at one time and bring these things back.”

Laurel Mayor Evan Folk is running for one of the open seats on the Marshall County Board of Supervisors and he spoke about how he thought population growth could be accomplished at the public forum Thursday night at Dejardin Hall.

Folk, the mayor of Laurel, said his main priority was ensuring that once people move to Marshall County, they stay, and he believed providing recreational opportunities would help to achieve that goal.

When asked about how they would combat the high unemployment rate in Marshall County, the candidates generally agreed about the need to connect individuals to opportunities.

They were also asked individualized questions on topics that may concern voters. Folk — who worked for Marshall County for 19 years but recently left the job to pursue opportunities with Warren County — was asked if voters could have confidence that he would be fully dedicated to the county where he resides.

“The reason I went is because of the dramatic increase in wages, not because I didn’t like Marshall County. It was just, by scale, I could do better financially by going to Warren County,” Folk said. “My intention is to not work full time for Warren County, but to spend the majority of my time here.”

Heil was asked about staff departures in the treasurer’s office. During the budgeting process, Heil asked for raises for seven positions in his office, but they were denied. During that time, it was suggested staff left for reasons other than pay.

Incumbent and current Marshall County Board of Supervisors chair Dave Thompson is running for his fourth term on the Board of Supervisors.

Hall asked how voters could be confident Heil wouldn’t create an environment that would cause staff members to leave.

“I think it’s maybe manufactured as more of a problem than what it is. When you’re looking at the universal clerk position, it’s the entry level position for our office. Like I tell all my staff, the treasurer’s office isn’t the end all be all. We don’t own you. The county doesn’t own you. We want you to go improve your lives the best way you can, and I’ll help you do that,” Heil said.

Heil still feels pay for treasurer staff is not where it should be, and he hoped it could be corrected in the near future.

Hibbs was asked about her time on the hospital board when it filed for bankruptcy and how voters could trust her to effectively manage county finances. In response, she said the newly passed Affordable Care Act required the hospital to make updates it was not financially equipped to handle.

“It became a serious burden for our hospital, and we had some implementation problems with that change that led us to a pretty serious financial situation. What we were able to do though was, through the bankruptcy process, was to salvage healthcare in our community,” she said.

Marshalltown YMCA/YWCA CEO Carol Hibbs is running for the Supervisors board, and she will be retiring as CEO at the Y at the end of 2022 regardless of the outcome of the election.

Thompson was asked about conflicts between himself and other elected officials throughout his years as a supervisor — specifically, a dispute with former Sheriff Steve Hoffman that ended with Hoffman’s resignation in 2021 — and how voters should assess his collaborative abilities.

“I think the real people who need to be asked this question would be Sheriff Phillips, who is sitting here, Jordan Gaffney, who is the new appointee for county attorney, and ask those individuals face to face, what it’s like to work with Dave Thompson. I think you’ll get a good answer from all of them,” Thompson said.

The candidates were also asked about why property taxes have increased over the last several years and what they would do to keep those taxes low for residents.

Hibbs said she believed the tax hikes in the last several years were partly due to certain projects, specifically infrastructure projects, being funded out of the general fund when they could be funded through other sources.

She said she didn’t think there was any one-shot solution but that incentivizing growth in the county is the right path to lowering tax rates.

Thompson believed the property taxes were a result of the rising costs throughout the county and state as well as the funding of multiple projects like the 911 radio tower upgrades.

“Property taxes have gone up. There’s no question about it. The cost of providing a government to you is not going to get any cheaper. We’re going to be faced with staggering inflation. There’s no question about it. We’re in a declining economy,” Thompson said. “I don’t see where we could have cut any expenses or had anything less than we currently have in our budget. I think the supervisors have done a very good job; we have been prudent with your tax dollars.”

Folk said the increases ensured that the county wouldn’t have to borrow money unless they absolutely had to, and with rising costs, he believed they made sense.

“Of course they’re going to go up. Everything costs more. It costs a lot more today, so it’s unfair to say the taxes are too high,” Folk said.

Heil offered a contrasting view and pushed back against Thompson and Folk’s sentiments.

“I disagree 100 percent. That’s the main reason I’m running. I love being your county treasurer. I don’t want to leave this job, but when I’ve sat back in my seat the last 10 years and seen the decisions that have been made that have led to this point — I mean currently, we’re looking at our ending fund balances have declined dramatically,” Heil said.

Both Hibbs and Heil argued that if the supervisors had utilized Tax Increment Financing (TIF) on a previous wind farm project, it would have kept taxes down. Thompson said TIF was a helpful economic development tool, but he felt it pitted one taxing entity against another.

“As far as TIFing or not TIFing the wind farms when we did it, there were many reasons we didn’t,” Thompson said. “We wanted all the townships to also get additional valuations. Our township fire departments are extremely important. They’re part of that economic development and public safety.”

Thompson said by not using TIF for the wind farm projects, it allowed taxable valuation to go to struggling fire departments.

During closing statements, the candidates took a moment to thank the audience and make their final arguments about why each of them was the most qualified.

Hibbs pointed to her dedication to communication with the community and her ability to collaborate.

“We have the chance to talk with our elected leaders, so what you hope for in your elected leader is that they’re open to that communication and that they listen respectfully and understand your viewpoints,” She said. “I think that’s a strength of mine. I’ve worked over the years on a lot of different boards and of course at the Y. I think what I bring to the table is really the ability to bring people together.”

Thompson said his 12 years of experience as a county supervisor and the lessons he’s learned as the owner of Thompson True Value made him the most qualified candidate.

“I believe that my record in office stands for itself and has shown solid management and fiscal responsibility, and in return I’ve been blessed to work with exceedingly good people,” Thompson said. “It’s been a privilege and an honor to serve you these last 12 years, and I’d like to continue that.”

Folk felt his forward thinking would make him a desirable candidate and he said he would plan ahead and not borrow money for projects unless “absolutely necessary.”

Heil said his background and his ambition to address the county’s finances made him the best fit for the job.

“We talked about the financial things I think need to be changed, and we are going into turbulent times. And I think I’m the guy that can take that on,” Heil said.

Two supervisor seats are open, with Thompson running for re-election and Supervisor Bill Patten stepping down after eight years in office. The Republican primary is June 7, and early voting is now open.

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Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or

smeyer@timesrepublican.com.

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