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Letter to the Editor: "Departing Supervisors Deserve our Thanks"

Posted: Wed, Dec 23, 2020 1:05 PM
(Fron left): Outgoing Winneshiek County Supervisors Dean Thompson, John Logsdon and Mark Kuhn

(The following Letter to the Editor has been submitted by Winneshiek County Supervisors Floyd Ashbacher and John Beard.  Because of its newsworthiness, we have waived our usual limit of 300 words for a Letter to the Editor):                 

"Before the pandemic, we, the returning Supervisors, would have given a thank you party to our retiring colleagues. In these COVID-19 times, we will say thank you in the form of a public letter. It has been a pleasure to work with them as fellow executives, overseeing and directing the business of the county.

Along with the group responsibilities of administration and budget, each supervisor has a list of individual responsibilities including Board and Committee assignments. Each supervisor can be proud of individual initiatives but on many issues the final decisions  are improved by the insight, constructive criticism and support of the board as a whole. 

Here are some of the projects, in no order of importance, completed and ongoing that we are proud of:

--Ordinance to regulate frac sand mining in a responsible manner

--Establishment of a Roadside Vegetation Management program designed to make our roadsides better habitat for beneficial native plants and animals, safer for traffic and easier and less expensive to maintain. 

--Resolution urging the state legislature to modify the Master Matrix so that counties have some meaningful say in the siting of CAFOs, which was adopted by 23 other counties.                                   

--Infrastructure (roads and bridges): For far too long, the State Legislature refused to raise the taxes needed to maintain road and bridge infrastructure in the counties. With 1,042 miles of roadway and 324 bridges (which have an average age of 45 years), there is a lot of catching up to do. We have given County Engineer Lee Bjerke and his department more resources so they can have more projects planned, designed and "shovel ready" in advance, giving us the flexibility to maximize work in progress.

--Watershed: To protect our roads, bridges, people and property from flooding, we established the Upper Iowa River WMA and the Turkey River WMA . These WMAs( Water Management Authorities) work to reduce flooding in these watersheds by planning and installing a range of practices on the land and the road system to better absorb or catch rainfall.                                                                      

--Sewer and Water: Frankville now has safe, dependable water because of the county's help in constructing the Frankville Water District. Burr Oak faced a different water problem but its new water treatment plant should soon be fully operational.  Festina is receiving county help with its water treatment plant.      

--Buildings: Beyond its important role as the seat of county government, our courthouse is a longstanding, visual and figurative landmark and a source of local identity and pride. The investment in sealing the building envelope and allowing for safe and easy access to inspect both the interior and exterior of the upper building is wise. So, too, is the development of a  "Master Stabilization and Rehabilitation Plan" that will guide future maintenance and restoration. Another good idea was moving the BOS meeting space to the Annex, creating much needed operational space for the GIS and IT departments in the courthouse. The Annex also provides an easily-accessed, more secure meeting place.                                                                                     
We could go on, but our retiring colleagues might think it too boastful and they tend to be modest about their accomplishments. We have benefited from their life experience, knowledge and character. Here are some of their individual accomplishments:

--Chair John Logsdon has seen 18 different supervisors come and go.  We will miss his institutional knowledge, his humor and his unabashed honesty. Winneshiek County Recycling would not likely exist today without his efforts to save it when it was struggling. John can also be very proud of his fiscal responsibility and his leadership work on many boards.             
--Vice Chair Dean Thompson has set a very high bar for both present and future supervisors. His career experience as an executive professional enabled him to do research for the county on his own and/or how to find the right people to do it for us. An example of this skill in collaboration was when he and former supervisor Dennis Karlsbroten enlisted the help of the University of Iowa in crafting frac sand mining regulation. Dean's most recognized work may be the courthouse, but the imprint of his work is spread throughout county government. We will miss his energy, careful competence and humor.  
--Mark Kuhn brought a farmer's can-do perspective and work ethic to the Board by sitting on more boards and commissions than any of us. We relied on his knowledge of agriculture and his remarkable familiarity with the people and terrain of the county. Mark was very generous with his time and even with his equipment, like bringing a tractor to help with a Pioneer Cemetery Commission project or drilling in prairie seed on county land. One of the things Mark is especially proud of is the important revision of the Employee Handbook and the equally important reforms to the employee compensation process. We will miss his ability and experience, his generosity and humor.

It is not a mistake that we recognize each of these men for their sense of humor. The ability to laugh at ourselves demonstrates a maturity; that we don't take ourselves too seriously. It breaks tension, builds trust, boosts morale and creates an upbeat atmosphere where creative thinking and productivity are increased. We thank them all for the respect they've shown us and by demonstrating by example what it can mean to be a public servant.       

Thank you John, Dean and Mark."