When a governing body is made up of just three seats, the change of just one of the members can shift the dynamic of the group. Sometimes, a governing body needs a shift in its dynamics. Such is the case with the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors.
Like all elected officials, Dubuque County supervisors have faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. They have been attentive to public health issues and worked earnestly to keep constituents safe. All that speaks well of Democrat Dave
Baker in his bid for re-election.
However, Board of Supervisors meetings have grown increasingly contentious. This election presents an opportunity to recalibrate the board by changing the players at the table. Dubuque County voters should seize that opportunity by electing Republican Harley Pothoff.
Retired after nearly 30 years in county law enforcement, Pothoff is well versed on a variety of issues facing the county. As a sheriff’s department captain, he worked closely with Sheriff Joe Kennedy on budgeting for the department and finding efficiencies. Pothoff took on the role of writing grant applications for federal highway safety dollars and brought millions into the county through that effort. He understands the importance of being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and would bring that diligence to the role of supervisor.
What stood out most to the TH Editorial Board about Pothoff was his vocal concern about the dysfunction that exists among the current supervisors.
Since Ann McDonough joined the board, her comments and questions are often ignored, with Supervisors Baker and Jay Wickham proceeding to votes without addressing her concerns, and sometimes without even a comment.
Unfortunately, much of the tension at supervisors meetings lies between the two Democrats who are not on the ballot this fall. But Baker is the chairman of the board — and in many cases, the swing vote — and he could do more to change the tone and tenor of the meetings and to make sure that all voices are heard.
That isn’t happening.
Voters elected McDonough to the board and she won this Editorial Board’s endorsement because she brought a solid background as a lawyer and business owner who wanted the county to think more strategically and be judicious with spending.
But McDonough’s skills are often rendered ineffective by the dynamic of Baker and Wickham falling in lockstep on decisions.
Last year, for example, Baker and Wickham handed administration of the county’s general assistance program, which helps indigent residents, to Resources Unite along with a $30,000 contract. A TH Freedom of Information Act request garnering 250 emails showed Wickham and Baker fully intended to give the contract to Resources Unite before they ever took it before the public, let alone any attempt to solicit bids. Yet they never established clear expectations of the service the agency would provide. The emails show Baker set up a meeting to outline his expectations to Resources Unite after the vote approving the change.
Asked by the Editorial Board about that decision, Baker’s recollection of events puts a far more favorable spin on the process. Baker said he stands by the decision as a positive change, but noted supervisors would likely consider accepting other bids on the contract next year.
It’s interesting to note that the dysfunction on the board comes when all three elected supervisors are of the same party. In years past, we have advocated for some candidates who would bring differing political perspectives to the board. Ironically, in this case we believe adding a Republican would bring more cohesion to a board made up of Democrats.
For his part, Pothoff doesn’t see the county supervisor role as a political one at all. He served for years as a law enforcement captain under a Democratic sheriff, so clearly Pothoff works well with others, regardless of party.
Pothoff’s desire for greater transparency, civility among supervisors and increased scrutiny of spending would greatly benefit the citizens of Dubuque County. He earns the TH Editorial Board endorsement for the role of county supervisor.