Jefferson County Supervisor Candidate: Becky SchmitzServed in state Senate for four years
Becky Schmitz would like to use her experience from serving in the Iowa Senate from 2007-2011, a career of working in public schools through the local Area Education Agency and being a part of a small family business, at the county government level.
She is the lone challenger and only Democrat in the three-way race for two seats on the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors.
According to her campaign website, Schmitz said she’s motivated to run for supervisor in part because, “I believe that this is an important time to have someone on the board of supervisors who understands mental health services and can help facilitate services in the county that will improve these in quality and breadth.”
Schmitz is a licensed independent social worker with more than 30 years experience and now works as a mental health therapist in Mount Pleasant.
Prior to serving in the Senate, she was a school social worker for 27 years. When Schmitz was in the state Senate, she was the only licensed mental health professional, and she met regularly with providers and recipients of mental health services to lay the groundwork for the current mental health reform effort, which would regionalize services across the state.
The two incumbents running for supervisor have expressed concerns about the new state mandated mental health design.
“The issue that came before the Legislature was mental health services varied county to county,” Schmitz said at Tuesday’s forum. “The amount or level of service should not depend on residency.
“Last month, I met with Dave Heaton and he’s optimistic about regional mental health services. An example of discrepancies in services — in Henry County the Central Point of Contact can provide medications to those accessing the mental health system. In our county, the CPC has no funds to provide medications. It only happens if the pharmaceutical companies help out.”
Heaton is a Republican state representative representing Henry County and north Lee County.
Schmitz’s other strong issue is economic development.
“I served on the economic growth committee and through the years and professional affiliations I have developed leadership skills and conflict management skills,” she said at Tuesday’s candidate forum.
Schmitz served four years on the economic growth committee as a state senator. She also was vice chairwoman of the human resource committee and chairwoman of the education committee.
She said at Tuesday’s candidate forum she worked in the Legislature to bring economic development to the area.
“Tax Increment Financing and tax abatements can be good tools to attract businesses, but the benefits have to weighed for the local community,” she said. “An important source of economic development is quality education, which Fairfield schools and Indian Hills Community College are partnering to provide.”
She noted surrounding counties have been more aggressive than Jefferson County to attract new business and industry.
Her website, www.beckyschmitz.com, says: “She has a strong interest in stimulating economic development in the county. She worked closely with the Iowa Department of Economic Development and with the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce and helped local businesses access services to support their growth and development.
“Her intimate knowledge and understanding of how the legislature operates will bring optimum representation of Jefferson County to the State Legislature. Schmitz said that she wants to bring her strong work ethic to focus on issues important to county residents.
“‘Solving problems means listening and reaching out to everyone involved. That is what I have done as a social worker, state senator, and as a parent, and that is the positive approach I will apply to the job of county supervisor.’”
At Tuesday’s supervisor candidate forum, each was asked what in their view had the board of supervisors been least effective in accomplishing.
“I credit the board for its open meetings,” Schmitz said, about the practice of allowing audience members to participate throughout a meeting.
“I compliment the board in how it has handled the Salina Road issue,” she added.
Schmitz said as a state senator, she held listening posts in various locations throughout the district she represented. In this campaign, in knocking on doors throughout the county, she said she found many people do not understand the role of county supervisors.
“If I am elected to the board of supervisors, I want to go out into the county and hold listening posts or informal meetings for residents,” she said. “It might be helpful to have newsletters or ways to update citizens about county government.”
Her website statement reinforces this philosophy: “I believe that listening is one of the best ways to learn. I am interested in listening to everyone with a concern or an idea about how we move Jefferson County forward. People are welcome to call me at my home, cell phone 919-5575 or email me at email@example.com.”
“Another role of a county supervisor is to be a strong advocate for the county in the state Legislature,” Schmitz said.
Candidates Tuesday were asked what the most important issue facing Jefferson County is today.
“Economic development,” Schmitz said. “Obviously infrastructure needs, education and public/private partnerships go along with that. If we attract more business, that gives us a bigger tax base. We need to strike a balance between quality of life issues, agricultural land use and economic development.”
But Schmitz agrees with the incumbent candidates that zoning isn’t needed for the county.
“We have ordinances to govern questions of land use and hold open discussions about these issues,” she said. “I agree our agricultural land is important.”
Schmitz said Tuesday it’s better for local officials figure out what’s best for the community.
“I bring a unique set of skills to this office, assets that will enhance serving on the board of supervisors,” she said. “I have training in mediation and have used it successfully. I allow different viewpoints and believe when we do that, we end up with better results than having just one group’s view.
“I feel we can impact the state Legislature, I have contacts with members of the Legislature. And it doesn’t always mean driving to Des Moines — phone calls and emails also work.
“I have experience helping my husband run a small business, so I know some of the needs of small businesses. I can bring a new perspective and diversity to the board, and diversity brings strength.”