There are two spots open on the Burleigh County Commission, and four candidates running.
Incumbents Brian Bitner and Jerry Woodcox say they bring experience to the job.
“I’m real familiar with the workings of county government,” Bitner said.
“Experience in government at this time is very, very critical,” Woodcox said.
Newcomers Becky Matthews and Brian Geloff say they bring fresh insight.
“I bring a needed demographic and perspective,” Matthews said.
“It’s amazing how many people want something different in the county,” Geloff said.
The five non-partisan commissioners serve four-year terms. Among their many responsibilities, they can adopt zoning ordinances, levy taxes, approve the county budget and set policy for the departments it oversees. Bitner has been on the commission for three terms. He says managing the finances is top priority.
“Maintaining fiscal responsibility in Burleigh County is probably the biggest thing. Everybody knows I’m very conservative and take a close look at anything that involves money,” Bitner said.
Woodcox has 20 years experience on the commission and currently serves as Chair. He says his biggest focus is coming out of the COVID-19 crisis and lowering taxes, something he said he’s done in his most recent term.
“We eliminated travel, we eliminated new vehicles, new computers, new printers. We cut back on road projects. We postponed a lot of things,” Woodcox said. “In other words, we tried to save taxes, and we did this year. Your county portion of your taxes will be reduced this year. Next year we’re going to do exactly the same thing I think.”
Newcomer Matthews is a stay-at-home mom involved in numerous community groups. She’s served on Bismarck’s Early Childhood Education Program Policy Council and was appointed by the governor to the State Council on Developmental Disabilities advisory board. She says her background in social services would be an asset to the commission.
“Day one I have a lot of work with the social services. My biggest concern is that the Human Service Zone board should not just be elected officials. I would really encourage that there are some shareholders and consumers on that board,” Matthews said.
Geloff owns an auto repair business. He says when the refugee resettlement issue came up last December, the commission could’ve provided more information to the public. That issue made him want to run.
Like Matthews, he says he’d like to see a change in the makeup of the Human Service Zone board, which currently has the commissioners plus two lawmakers. Geloff also said his business background gives him an edge in understanding the struggles the pandemic has presented to businesses.
“The zone board meeting was put together I don’t think it was assembled correctly. There should’ve been more peers,” Geloff said.
The commission meets on the first and third Monday every month, and for 2020, oversees a budget of about $26 million.