A race for supervisor

A three-way Republican primary race is shaping up for the Buena Vista County Board of Supervisors seat being vacated this year by Supervisor Ken Hach, R-Alta. The winner of the contest among Steve Quirk, Phil Driver and Tom Huseman probably will determine who succeeds Hach, since no Democrat has jumped in or is likely to. The early betting has to go with Huseman, who recently retired after 30 years as Alta City Clerk, a position appointed by the city council.

Huseman obviously understands local politics to stay in the job that long. He was the chief budget architect under the direction of the council. He is a graduate of Alta High School and Buena Vista College, where he made his name as a star basketball player. He knows most of the people in the courthouse, locals in the statehouse and what plays in Nokomis Township.

That’s a tough resumé to beat.

Just after we published our Wednesday edition we received a press release from the Iowa Rural Water Association naming Huseman the Iowa City Clerk of the Year.

This might be the only contested office on the local ballot. There appears to be no other contested supervisor seat, one candidate for sheriff to replace Gary Launderville, and nobody challenging any other incumbent county official.

Huseman said he was encouraged by people in Storm Lake to run. We have lamented how the city-county relationship is not as good as it should be. He understands the special challenges that cities face, and has been able as the chief operating officer of Alta to get things operating smoothly with the county.

The other candidates will have to better him in organization and on the issues to mount a winning campaign. That will be a tall task given Huseman’s history and button-down demeanor.


Time for downsizing

The Iowa Lakes Corridor of Opportunity, the multi-county economic development agency that includes Buena Vista County, is searching for a new executive director. CEO Kathy Evert recently announced her resignation. This is an opportune time to take stock in what the corridor operation does, and how it might do it better.

State authorities essentially ordered that economic development efforts must be organized regionally. BV County had a forced marriage with Clay, Dickinson and Emmet counties. Local government funds were diverted from Storm Lake United (the local retail and industrial development organization) to the Iowa Lakes outfit. Of course, the center of it all is Spencer. It often strikes us that Storm Lake is a forgotten stepchild. That’s what happens with regional government.

Most new jobs in Storm Lake are created by local enterprises trying to grow or by major institutions (education, health care and food processing) growing organically. State efforts have little to do with adding a dozen jobs on the line at Tyson or recruiting more students to Buena Vista University. Storm Lake United does most of the work necessary to keep local employers happy. We really don’t need another layer of government to keep the turkey fillets rolling or the local carpenter hammering.

But we have it. So we should make the best of it.

The Corridor has conducted all sorts of entrepreneurship training, student business exploration, seminars on this and that, almost none of it in Buena Vista County. We’re not sure what the aggregate result is. As founders of our own business, we believe that entrepreneurship is something you carry in your gut. It is not something you pick up over lunch. Our money would be far better spent helping people learn English and civics.

What should the Corridor do?

Simply take contacts from prospective employers and forward those contacts to the town chamber of commerce or mayor. Gary Lalone at Storm Lake United knows a lot more about what works in Storm Lake than someone in Spencer does. We would suppose that Spencer Municipal Utilities would be far more helpful to an industrial client than someone with a dossier of talking points.

The Corridor could save a lot of money by downsizing and devolving control to the member county seats. It should be a clearinghouse for local contacts. It does not need to be a professional networking service.

Most of all, the board should consider whether the Corridor is serving Estherville and Storm Lake as well as it is Spencer and Spirit Lake. Of course it is not. We could be blamed for indifference, but when Storm Lake is mainly an afterthought it is hard to open up the wallet for something 38 miles away.

If we cannot dissolve the Corridor, at least we could cut it down to size.

Regional government is inefficient and largely unaccountable. Regional economic development is superfluous.