Retired teacher, laborer vie for votes in Billings ParkResidents living between North 19th and Belknap streets in Billings Park and Butler, Oakes and west side of Banks avenues have a choice for Douglas County Board when the polls open Tuesday.
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
Residents living between North 19th and Belknap streets in Billings Park and Butler, Oakes and west side of Banks avenues have a choice for Douglas County Board when the polls open Tuesday.
A retired business teacher who spent 17 years working with the Superior Area Medical Emergency Fund is challenging a first-term contender who was appointed about 1 1?2 years ago.
Jeff Isackson, a laborer in Local 1091 who works for Lakehead Constructors, said he appreciates the challenge because it means someone cares about the community.
“I wish there were 28 people running against 28 members,” he said. “That would tell me more people actually love to stand up and take ownership in our county.”
Ed Gallagher, who also applied for the 4th District seat when Isackson was appointed, said he’s been looking forward to a chance to run. His primary goal is to work toward a leaner, more efficient board, even if it means eliminating his own position.
“My No. 1 commitment is to reduce the size of the county board,” Gallagher said. “I feel the board is too large; we have 10 city councilors in the city limits of the city of Superior, yet 18 supervisors. Why do we have eight more?”
The county board has approved a plan that would cut the board to 16 or 17 members in 2011, after the next U.S. Census, and has started to trim committees to make that a reality, but several board members object to the change because of the potential impact on rural districts. The decision came after voters narrowly defeated a referendum that would have trimmed the board to seven members.
Gallagher would also like to address the county board’s pay structure, which provides members with $250 per month plus $25 for attending appointed committee meetings, $35 for the chair of the committee.
“You shouldn’t have to pay them to go,” Gallagher said. “They should want to go. That should be the expectation.”
The board isn’t the only issue he believes the county needs to address in the next two years.
“Of course, you always want to try to reduce the mill rate,” Gallagher said. “That’s something you always try to do. I like to work more with the city, the school district and the state as far as joint efforts on things if there is any way to save money.” Once he has an opportunity to dig into expenses, he said he’s sure he would come up with ideas on how to accomplish that.
“I believe high tax is one of the biggest things that the county is seeing, especially in the rural area,” Isackson agreed. “The county tax bill is getting higher and higher, which is making them more and more disappointed in local government. The biggest problem that I see in this area is the state mandates so many services ... and they keep pulling more and more of their aids back from the county, which leaves more of the responsibility on the local taxpayer. I think by getting more of our tax dollars back from the state into our local area would be a priority.”
However, Isackson said jobs are an important priority for him too.
“We’ve had a lot of expansion with local businesses, which is a great thing,” he said. “But I think we need to do better in getting businesses to relocate here or start up here. Being so close to Lake Superior, we could use that as a selling point to get businesses to come up here, especially with all the southern states more or less drying up.”
Gallagher said one of his objectives will be to make county board more accessible, particularly in the city where few people even know who serves the area where they live.
“We need to be more accountable to the people who elect us into the position; I would like to do that. I don’t want to steal Obama’s wording, but I think it’s time for change up on the board,” Gallagher said.
“I believe my role is not to voice my opinion, but to voice the opinion of the people I represent. … I believe a lot can be solved by communication,” Isackson said. He posted his phone number and e-mail on the county’s Web site to encourage it. “I’d like to keep in contact with my constituents and get their opinions voiced more in the county …”
Isackson said he would like to see more people get involved, even if it’s just in their neighborhood. “It will help us to be a better community,” he said.
Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or snelson@