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Platform as County Commissioner 

My first job as County Commissioner will be to listen and represent the citizens of District 2 in Lancaster County.

 

Our county faces ongoing struggles with the budget and I want to be a strong voice from District 2 on how to address many of the issues facing Lancaster County.

Why are you running for this office? I wanted to give back to the community that my wife and I are raising our family.  I believe the County Board could use strong leadership and communication assets from a person who has a business mindset and a servant heart.

Why do you consider yourself the best person to address the needs of people? I have a passion for people and focusing on details. I have always found joy in serving a community and growing relationships. Coupling the human element with a business mindset that leans towards efficiency and efficacy from all parts of government, I will put my efforts toward finding solutions. I can guarantee that. I am confident that my passion for people and serving my community will far outweigh my opponent. I am driven to find solutions and helping others.

 

Important issues to you as a candidate.  As I've listened to voters going door-to-door, property taxes/affordable housing (and taxes in general), the infrastructure of bridges and roads, and public safety through support of local law enforcement are most important.  These are addressed by a level of leadership that refrains from overspending and having a long term, proactive vision for the county growth. 

 

Current critical issues facing voters in Lancaster County. Today's world has changed dramatically in the last several months. What was most pressing before may have given way to current challenges of personal finances and job security. However, moving forward what issues remain are the ongoing struggles with the county budget and I want to be a strong voice from District 2 on how to address many of the issues facing Lancaster County. Repairing or replacing rural roads and bridges are a top priority for my district as well as giving a defining voice to farmers and agriculture.  Lancaster County needs leadership that can be dedicated to vast demographics from Lincoln residents to rural/small towns. 

 

Lancaster County infrastructure issues including many bridges and roads. What needs to be done? The County Engineer needs to be given the resources, personnel, and support to do their job.  Infrastructure needs to become a budget focus.  The current budget for roads/bridges and maintenance of Lancaster County's 880 sq.mi. is $25millionSarpy County's budget for its' 248 sq.mi. is $35million.  We clearly do not place a priority on infrastructure.  All growth for the county and city for businesses and affordable housing will be dependent up efficient infrastructure development.

 

Should the county create a county sales tax or county wheel tax to supplement property funding for infrastructure? The short answer is 'No'.  To be completely clear and in an effort to inform voters, the current wheel tax on all Lincoln vehicles goes entirely to Lincoln streets (see Lincoln Municipal Code 3.20.220) except for 1% admin to the county for processing payment.  It will take a business-like mentality to the budgeting process that will find the right balance to fund infrastructure.

 

High property taxes as well as higher valuations for property owners in Lancaster County. The Lancaster County budget was at an average of $140million during the 5-year span of 2010-2015, yet now has grown to $200million proposed for 2021.  This $60million increase in 5 years is concerning when an average had been maintained previously.  My #1 priority is to lower property taxes, but I want to insure there is funding for all the services that the County provides.  Government, at any level, should be a non-profit entity, budgeting and finding ways to come in under budget are one of my strengths.

 

Affordable housing for all Lancaster County residents. The current COVID-19 pandemic is making affordable housing a bigger issue for many residents. Even before our current challenge, affordable housing was a concern for many Lancaster residents. We are challenged by being a very diverse county, from a state university and students, to a huge medical field, the home of our state government, to lower income residents.  And, outside of Lincoln, we have many small towns, farmers, livestock growers and acreage owners. This expanse of demographics can make it more challenging to find the right balance to care for everyone. It will take focused creativity and attention to the individual concerns of citizens to find the best solution for all.

 

Why is your vision the one voters should choose? Especially in the current times, leadership at any level needs to be one that can have a clear vision and focus and have the desire and ability to effectively communicate it to all. I have always said it's my job to be able to find the way to communicate the same thing in 40 different ways, to 40 different people.

 

How has your experience prepared you for this job? I have been running/managing and even starting my own business for 20+ years which gives me experience in financial projections and budgeting. My Bachelor of Arts degree gives me the foundation of the human element and communicating with people. I thrive in creating lasting relationships and serving those around me.  Further, I belong to three non-profit boards and I have experience working with others to meet goals and communicating solutions effectively.

Is there any other message, statement or concern you’d like to address? County government provides many critical services that people depend upon. Setting priorities, finding efficiencies, and keeping taxes low should be the focus of every county board member. I want to find solutions to lower property taxes.   I want to find the right balance for funding Lancaster County and proactively growing the community through affordable housing, public safety, and a focus on infrastructure.

© Eric Underwood for County Commissioner, 9151 NW 112th Rd. Malcolm, NE 68402