Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 31, 2014

Jefferson County Supervisor Candidate: Steve Burgmeier

12 years of experience as supervisor
By DIANE VANCE, Ledger staff writer | Oct 26, 2012
Photo by: DIANE VANCE/Ledger photo STEVE BURGMEIER

Jefferson County supervisor incumbent Steve Burgmeier has 12 years of experience on the board.

He’s one of three people running for two seats in the Nov. 6 election.

“I enjoy what I do,” he said. “I like interacting with people.

“I’m running again because I want to make sure people in Jefferson County are represented.”

Burgmeier said he has a conservative philosophy about government.

“The county levy rate per $1,000 was $9.29 in the 2002 budget and now the levy is $9.52,” he said. “The county pays for what it needs with cash, except for the capital improvements to the courthouse. We’re using a 28-cents debt levy for repairs on the courthouse.”

Since first being elected to the board of supervisors in 2000, Burgmeier has been a proponent of open government, he said.

“At our supervisors meetings we allow audience members to speak about an agenda item as it comes up instead of waiting for the public comments time,” he said. “The public comments time is near the bottom of the agenda. The board could have already voted and acted on an issue and a citizen can’t ask questions or share a concern until the end of the meeting? What good does that do? I want this governmental body to be as accessible as possible.

“The public has a right to hear our deliberations in open meeting, they have the right to hear about the issues and how we reach a decision,” he said.

“Not knowing how the other two supervisors feel about an issue can be a bit uncomfortable, but it’s more important to keep government open and accessible. I believe our meetings have fostered good relationships between supervisors and the public.”

He pointed out that all three supervisors have cell phones and make themselves available to the public anytime. Burgmeier’s cell phone number is 319- 932-1616.

In addition to weekly 9 a.m. Monday meetings, the supervisors hold office hours “as best we can,” Tuesday mornings and Fridays, Burgmeier said.

He said with a three-member board, he’s cautious about appearing together with the other two supervisors because two of them constitute a majority or quorum.

“Even when we’re separately working, if two of us are in the office together at the same time, it can give the perception of operating outside the public’s knowledge,” he said.

Burgmeier, a Republican, said it is not party affiliation but the person serving in a position and whether they make themselves available to the public that counts.

“I want to be a resource for people in Jefferson County,” he said. “If I don’t know an answer, I will find it. I know more answers now than I did 12 years ago. I’ll give a straight answer, even if it’s not what someone wants to hear. And I will explain the answer so someone understands it.

“I’ve told people through the years, if I’m sitting on the fence on an issue, kick one of my legs out from under me. I want to be accountable and accessible.”

Each of the supervisors serve on many committees, and each also has a job outside of overseeing the county government. Burgmeier farms in Lockridge, raising beef cattle and is one of five partners in a hog production facility.

In conjunction with his serving on the board of supervisors he is chairman of the following:

• Jefferson County Ambulance Agency.

• Jefferson/Keokuk County Early Childhood Iowa Area.

• Jefferson, Keokuk, Washington, Van Buren (counties) Decategorization Board.

• Jefferson County Enterprise Zone Commission.

• Pathfinders Resource Conservation and Development (encompasses six counties).

• Region 15 Workforce Development Chief Elected Official (encompasses 10 counties).

He also represents Jefferson County on the board of Rural Utility Service System and is its secretary-treasurer, and is vice chairman of ISAC District 5 Supervisors Association.

“I’m chairman of most of the committees I serve,” said Burgmeier. “My peers appreciate my leadership. One thing I bring to the table is my ability to listen to all sides and helping everyone to reach a consensus. I can ask the right questions for other board members to speak up.”

In the past 12 years, Burgmeier said renovations at the courthouse are a visual example of taking care of things.

“I proposed a change in sales tax and now 20 percent of the county’s share goes to culvert and bridge repairs and replacements,” he said. “This is above and beyond what is normally budgeted.

“Roads are our biggest issue. Supervisors are the elected officials with control over the roads budget and mental health budget. All the other county departments have control of their own budgets, though we approve those budgets.”

The county is using Gilsonite to top asphalt roads to extend the life of those roads, he said.

Another accomplishment Burgmeier counts is when the state took $380,000 away from the decategorization board, the counties sued.

“If the state had asked, we probably would have given it,” he said. “But we weren’t given a choice. We sued Department of Human Services and they settled with us.”

Burgmeier is skeptical about the new mental health care regionalization handed down by the state.

“The new mental health design is flawed,” he said. “The state is mandating we sign a 28E agreement with another county, and if we don’t join another county, the state will assign one.

“I looked up the definition of a 28E agreement, and those agreements are voluntary. How can we be forced to sign a voluntary agreement?

“It’s adding another layer of bureaucracy and doesn’t save any money.”

He elaborated at Tuesday’s supervisor candidates forum that the new mental health design with counties joined in agreement, means another county can use Jefferson County taxpayers’ money in its county if it doesn’t have enough to fund its mental health needs.

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