Decision Time for Prowers County Commissioner Voters

The Prowers Journal hosted a Prowers County Candidates forum for the local Commissioner’s race on Monday, October 15. Four candidates are vying for two positions available for District One and District Three.

The District One race is between incumbent Henry Schnabel and challenger Don Seufer. District Three is an open race between Jillane Hixson and Wendy Buxton-Andrade. All four candidates attended the forum and when asked by The Prowers Journal, all four agreed to supply written answers to some of the questions asked of them that evening. It’s hoped that their responses to matters on a local level will help voters decide how to cast their votes before the November 6 election deadline.

The candidates replied to six questions. Their replies have been formatted so the reader can view the individual answers to each question before moving on to the next in sequence.

Jillane Hixson and Wendy Buxton-Andrade


Henry Schnabel and challenger, Donald Seufer

Question 1

Are there any areas of the 2013 County Budget that you would change?  Why?

Henry Schnabel – One change I would like to see is to have a human resources and payroll departments that serve the whole county. That would allow us to have more in depth knowledge of labor laws, insurance, employee handbook, and other issues that affect employees. Combining these areas into their respective departments would also avoid duplication and result in savings in the budget.

Donald Seufer – The 2013 budget is being set by the present Board of Commissioners at this time and will be in place by January 1, 2013.  Since I would be a new commissioner I would not try to make changes until I could talk to all department heads.  There has already been some combining in some departments or across departments and vacated positions for various reasons that have not been filled.   As a commissioner I would appreciate the views of every elected and appointed department head to see if there   could be any changes in operations that would create savings within the next year.

Jillane Hixson – The 2013 budget will already be established by the present Board of Commissioners.   In my experience, with any new position I’ve ever held,  it typically takes a full year to fully absorb the dynamics and complexities of all that is entailed.    Other than unforeseen, emergency circumstances,  or otherwise compelling issue(s);  I do not foresee making major changes, until 2014.

Wendy Buxton-Andrade – I have had the privilege of sitting through budget meetings from last year and this year and I have a very good understanding of the budget process from the point of the view of the public.  To my knowledge, the entire budget has not been finalized.  Without a complete copy, and time for a comprehensive study, it would be “suspect” on my part to speculate, or second-guess, as to what the current commissioners, and other elected officials, have agreed.

Question 2

Do you believe ag-related equipment purchases should be exempt for county taxes?  What kind of a financial impact would you expect less tax revenue to make on the county General Revenue Fund?

Henry Schnabel – I am in favor of lower taxes wherever that can be accomplished. I don’t believe that you can lower taxes unless you also have a conversation about where you are going to cut expenses and therefore services.  This past legislative session HB 12-1037 sponsored by Becker and Tochtrop to eliminate county taxes on agriculture chemicals, fertilizer and semen will cost the county revenue. I have asked for a figure for ag taxes received, but the County Clerk does not have that breakdown.

Donald Seufer –  Yes, as I stated at the Prowers Journal Forum, Prowers County could help its equipment dealers as we are a border state to Kansas and a Prowers County farmer will not pay taxes on equipment purchased in Kansas.    Expanded sales would increase the workforce to assemble the new equipment upon arrival, service and perform warranties, sell parts and perform repairs later on as well as lubricants and parts for routine upkeep.  When new equipment is sold there is often equipment traded in.  This would help these dealerships expand their used equipment inventory.   Farm equipment is really important as it dictates the production and progress of agricultural business.   More sells would bring in more city taxes as well as create more jobs which in turn creates a domino effect for other businesses which would recoup far more than what would be lost in the 1% county sales tax.

Jillane Hixson – Commissioners must fully evaluate the consequences of modifying county taxes.  On one hand it may increase county revenue, but on the other hand, it may result in adverse impacts.    Imposing  taxes on Ag implement purchases, would inevitably  compel consumers to purchase agriculture equipment from Kansas, or other counties,  exempt from such taxes, … resulting in an adverse affect on “local” dealers.

Wendy Buxton-Andrade – I do not believe that ag-related equipment purchases should be “exempt” from all county taxes, but I do feel that we need to reduce the “added” fees that we assess the ag industry which inhibit their ability to grow as a business.  Agriculture is a business and we have to remember that each business needs to be profitable to continue and thrive.  We need to work with farmers and ranchers to make sure they have the resources they need to keep their businesses growing in an ever-changing marketplace.  If the commissioners can work with the state’s agricultural committee to stay on top of issues facing agriculture, I believe we will be successful in helping our farmers and ranchers to continue to work the land, make their living from the land, and retain a legacy for future generations.

Question 3

Should PCDI be given additional funding from the county and city to use as incentive funds to attract businesses to Prowers County?  Board members are expressing concern over the coverage of the 2012 budget as it is. 

Henry Schnabel – PCDI receives $50,000.00 from each the city and the county. We also have some incentives to offer businesses in the form of tax relief and rebate based on investment, employee numbers and rate of wages paid. A marketing fund would be helpful, but that would take a vote to add a sales tax for that issue. At this point I am not in favor of pursuing that tax.

Donald Seufer – Counties and cities in the state are all competing to attract business to add jobs.  If you don’t compete you are guaranteed to loose. PCDI provides assistance to new and existing businesses with retention, relocation, and expansion needs.  Someone should be on hand to promote the whole county. I believe we should concentrate on retention and helping existing businesses with a need to expand.   As far as an incentive fund package this would have to be approved by the county, city and the PCDI Board.  This would only be considered on a very concrete enterprise that would be a great fit for our county.

Jillane Hixson – PCDI, currently funded by the County ($50K), and City of Lamar ($50K);   is also the benefactor of the Big R facility on Washington Street.    If/when the facility is sold, PCDI will receive the net proceeds.    It is reasonable to consider suspending or reducing PCDI county/city funding;  upon PCDI receiving proceeds of the Big R facility.    Until that occurs, as long as PCDI continues to demonstrate accountability;  it is my opinion that PCDI is an asset, and vital tool for  economic development, and should continue to receive county/city funding.

Wendy Buxton-Andrade – PCDI is a great concept.  I feel that PCDI should be on the front line representing Prowers County for future and current businesses.  As a County Commissioner I will work with PCDI to bring the current as well as new businesses to the table to capitalize on incentives that the county can offer. Marketing our county will be a priority of mine; I will work with PCDI first hand to make sure we are promoting our county inside and outside the area. The county already has tax incentives that they offer to businesses to expand and/or build a business in the county, I will continue to support as well as promote those incentives.  PCDI is currently being encouraged to work with the towns and businesses to get the extra funds they need to function and if the businesses see the value that PCDI has to them, the businesses and towns will help support them.  With “grass roots” marketing we will not only reduce expenses but promote PCDI’s benefits local businesses.  PCDI’s demographic is business in Prowers County, regardless of the size.  Realizing the benefits of PCDI will ensure continued support by the communities and our businesses.

Question 4

How do you feel about the appearance of the three main highway entrances to Lamar?  Do you think it hinders business development in the area?  Each contains dozens of used or rusting vehicles that greet travelers into the city.  What can you do as a commissioner to improve the appearance of each site?

Henry Schnabel – It probably would depend what kind of business would consider coming to Lamar. A manufacturing business might not be concerned while some other business more concerned with esthetics would be. It is noteworthy that Wal-Mart was not deterred from their current location.  I am looking into the situation with the cooperation of Colorado Department of Transportation as the county does not have zoning regulations that cover the situation.

Donald Seufer – We know that all businesses are not attractive, but they provide jobs and are productive.  The commissioners should follow the Land Use Board Policy and procedures consisting of rules and regulations that have been set.  As commissioner I will work with the Land Use Board and Prowers Co. Public Health and Environment.  I believe that a business that puts their inventory in a favorable alignment and not scattered helps the appearance of the property.

Jillane Hixson – Indeed, it’s unfortunate that along every highway entrance into Lamar, is a salvage yard.  However, these entities are certainly protected by private property rights, thus Commissioners would have limited authority to make demands.   However,  I would certainly be comfortable to approach the private property owners, to explore various opportunities to improve highway appearances.

Wendy Buxton-Andrade – Although I respect each of those business owners and their entrepreneurial spirit, the first impression travelers receive when approaching Lamar is not as aesthetically pleasing as it could be.   I am not in favor of imposing more regulations on small business.  However, I do feel we need to work with each of those businesses to either clean up their properties or put attractive fencing around it so you do not see the rusting vehicles from the highway.  We need to have our first impression be a positive one.

Question 5

The majority of the candidates are all in favor of maintaining water in the area, increasing economic development, preserving agriculture, better health, job growth…etc.  Given so many common concerns, what abilities do you offer that would make me cast my vote for you and not your opponent?

Henry Schnabel – I am working on, or with, the Arkansas Valley Roundtable, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservation District, Arkansas Valley conduit, Southeast Colorado Water District and NRCS on water issues. I work with Prowers County Economic Development Inc., Southeast Business Retention and Attraction, Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development and Southern Colorado Economic Development District and Business Lending Center, on development and job issues. I also work with legislators and County Commissioners Inc. with legislation that affects the county.    I work with all the health providers in the county to bring them into a partnership to work more closely together to provide the best health care with the least amount of duplication of services. Working with these organizations plus contacts with other county commissioners, legislators, educators and others as well and the four years experience I have developing the budget and dealing with the diverse issues that come before the commissioners will give me a head start over a new commissioner who has to learn these many and diverse issues. I serve as a full time commissioner and am committed to research all issues and make the decisions that are of the in the best interest of all the citizens of Prowers County.

Donald Seufer – Prowers County Economic Security is absolutely linked to water security, both urban and rural.  There will always be greater pressure on the available water especially with return flows and their useful timing.  As a commissioner that is an owner of Amity and LAWMA shares I have a vested interest to relate the best possible wishes of District 67 and the Fort Lyon Canal.  As an elected representative of two water entities that represents many water user interests.  Over the last two decades I realize the value of legal and engineering advice after attending water board meetings and regional judgment meetings.   This summer has put a tremendous pressure on citizens in Prowers County as the direct flow and water tables have depleted in the alluvial and Ogallala aquifers.  Prowers County sent $122,067 last year to the Lower Arkansas Water Conservation District to help preserve water in the valley and close to that every year since 2002.   The Ark Valley Conduit might also become a reality after many years of Lamar and Wiley paying also into this fund which amounted to around $54,000 per year.   Both of these projects were voted on by Prowers county citizens many years ago.  A commissioner’s job should follow the money and make sure that it benefits our county.   There should be one commissioner that is personally affected by paying assessments to facilitate delivery of the water to the county.

Jillane Hixson – My diverse background in Agriculture (5th generation), Business (IBM-28 yrs) and Politics (8 yrs) provides me with unique experiences, skills, and leadership abilities  to  understand and address the issues that are critical to Prowers County.   Rhetoric is always abundant, but I have specific plans, as follows:

1) Address the Utility Rates that are adversely affecting every citizen and business in Prowers County, and prohibiting new business growth.    Fully audit and explore every possible aspect to reduce or retire the $168 million bond, that is driving excessive utility rates.

2)  Engage “Sturman Industries” (of CO Spgs) who was contracted by the Department of Defense to convert the Air Force Academy to 100% renewable fuels.    Eddie Sturman’s 2010 visit to Lamar, identified Prowers County as an ideal location for NH3 production (anhydrous  ammonia),  produced by wind and water (2% consumptive rate).   This “clean” fuel does  not require “transmission lines”,  but could be  transported via abandoned  gas lines, rail, and highway;   as well as consumed locally.   — Should such a venture prove viable, … this would add economic growth and jobs; as well as provide affordable “clean energy” fuel.

3)  Provide leadership to develop and implement professional marketing plans to promote Prowers County as a “retirement haven”,  .. i.e. “video/infomercials” for urban markets (Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles) … to entice retirees to seek a comfortable and affordable lifestyle, in rural south-east Colorado… highlighting our assets (hunting, fishing, golfing, social activities, historical interests, health facilities, and relatively mild climate & low cost of living).     Expand upon existing assets such as the golf course (9 to 18 holes) … pursue “golf tournaments” circuits;  … attracting visitors and commerce for local businesses (hotels, restaurants, shopping).

Wendy Buxton-Andrade – First of all I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and have been working with business development for the last 25 years.  This makes me an outstanding candidate for understanding the issues that directly affect our county.  I am a solution-oriented, creative person and a promoter.  I am a very good listener.  I have spent a year researching and talking to my neighbors in Prowers County.  In addition to meeting with my neighbors in the county, I have attended city and town council meetings, commissioner meetings, board meeting of the county health care industries, PCDI and civic groups.  I have worked tirelessly to become acquainted, become informed and become prepared to be the best county commissioner I can be.  I encourage and welcome communication which is the key to solving problems and creating innovative ideas.  Prowers County needs a person of action with a level head.  I have fostered connections with legislators and opened up the channels of communication to promote Prowers County and work for its best interests not only locally, but statewide and beyond.  I seek only to serve; my only agenda is what is best for Prowers County.

Question 6

Do you feel the county has done enough to represent the concerns of the Hispanic citizens who live here?  What would you propose to do to reach a significant portion of this Prowers County population?  Excluding annual gatherings such as Cinco de Mayo or county fairs, have you campaigned to any Hispanic groups in the county?

Henry Schnabel – At one time in our history we used to talk about different ethnic communities. I can remember hearing about Russian, German, Italian and other groups that had come to this country to find a new life. I believe that the reason for those “communities” was the language that they had in common. As we children of those immigrants learned the language, we became integrated and dispersed in the general society. I believe that this has happened to all of our separation issues. As I campaign for office in every community and visit with anyone in public or in their home, it is with great interest that I listen to their issues whatever they might be. If I were to make a list of my friends it would include all surnames. We are all Americans. We are all in this together.

Donald Seufer – I have worked with and provided employment to more than one generation of Hispanic residents.   All children in our county are being provided a strong education within our many school districts.   We also offer an affordable excellent higher education at Lamar Community College for both new high school graduates and adults.   This is the best way to improve employment opportunities to all.  I have witnessed children of employees of my family that have really succeeded socially and financially through education and a fair chance.  The entire workforce in Prowers County plays a major role in promoting economic development.  There is great potential in Prowers Co. to build with the Hispanic Business community through Voces Unidas.  This is a very active part of our community that I look forward working with.

Jillane Hixson – Long before I considered running for office, I have been a supporter of Voces Unidas, and other hispanic functions.   Hispanics are a vital part of our community.     My view is:  “we are all in this together” … thus, economic growth for any industry in Prowers County, will benefit ALL, regardless of ethnicity.

Wendy Buxton-Andrade – I am very proud of my husband’s and children’s Hispanic heritage and promoting Prowers County’s deep roots with that heritage.  I am the only candidate who had my signage and my information translated into Spanish so all the citizens in Prowers County could read and understand my background and vision for our future.  Each individual in our county deserves to be heard and have a voice in our government.   I am very proud of my family and want to give them a voice.  We are all individually unique, regardless of race, sex, creed, etc., and we have a great thread of neighborliness throughout our county.  I intend to be a voice for “all the people”.

Editor’s Note:
Early voting is currently available until November 2 at the Lamar Resource and Senior Center on East Olive Street between 8:30am and 4:30pm.  Polls will remain open until 7pm on November 6.  The Prowers Journal intends to provide our readers with complete results of local races as soon as possible, once all the results have been tabulated.



Filed Under: AgricultureBusinessCommissionerscommunityCountyEconomyEnergyFeaturedGranadaHollyLamarPoliticsPublic SafetyThe Journal AlertTransportationUtilitiesWiley


About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.