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Daily Press readers recently indicated three questions they would most like to ask the candidates for Eddy County Commission in the final days of their campaigns.

Below are those questions and the candidates’ responses.

Royce Pearson

Royce Pearson

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Royce Pearson
Incumbent, District 2
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Q: What are the top three issues you feel are in need of addressing within the county commission, and how would you go about addressing them?

A: The top issue would be getting our hands around the road issues and providing substantial fixes to these county roads.

The next two priorities would be detention center-related. We need to provide better staffing and deal with mental health issues among the inmates, better insulating ourselves from lawsuits.

Q: With Eddy County’s economy still in flux due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, what actions beyond recent budget cuts do you feel the commission needs to take in order to ensure the county’s financial viability should the slump continue? Additionally, once the industry has rebounded, what changes do you feel the commission should make, if any, to ensure the county is better prepared for any future downturns?

A: I am optimistic about oil rebounding relatively soon. If the downturn continues, establishing priorities and personnel downsizing could be needed as an absolute last resort. We have some room in our budget to make more cuts before reductions in force would be necessary.

As oil rebounds and revenues improve, we should make sure expenditures are necessary and sufficient funds are available. Even in the downturn, we have sufficient reserves with a balanced budget for Fiscal Year 16-17. We as a county have no debt.

Q: In light of recent concerns expressed by the public both before and after the determination of a violation of the Open Meetings Act by a prior commission, how would you ideally go about quelling any misgivings the public may have about the forthrightness of commission actions?

A: Regarding issues with the AG and OMA, we as a commission have always been forthright and transparent. Our legal counsel is working with the Attorney General’s office to get everything squared away.

We will have some procedural housekeeping to do at Tuesday’s meeting. It has to do with being specific about closed session items. It is my understanding that other county commissions and town councils will have the same issues to get resolved.

Jon Henry

Jon Henry

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Jon Henry
Candidate, District 2
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Q: What are the top three issues you feel are in need of addressing within the county commission, and how would you go about addressing them?

A: Many county roads are in such bad condition this must become a top priority for the commission. There must be a maintenance program in place to keep our roadways from deteriorating to this serious condition.

Another issue we have discovered is simple communication. This election has taken me door to door in District 2 to meet as many voters as possible. It was eye opening for me to discover so many residents are lacking information on county business. I have heard from elected commissioners that there is very little public involvement during meetings. This is something that must change. I would look at meeting times and the way information is being given to the public.

The third issue that I will make a priority should I be elected is conservative spending. We need to be taking a hard look at necessary spending and determine if northern Eddy County is being well represented in it, receiving an appropriate amount of capital outlay funds to improve our county facilities and infrastructure.

Q: With Eddy County’s economy still in flux due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, what actions beyond recent budget cuts do you feel the commission needs to take in order to ensure the county’s financial viability should the slump continue? Additionally, once the industry has rebounded, what changes do you feel the commission should make, if any, to ensure the county is better prepared for any future downturns?

A: Every dollar must be accounted for. We cannot allow the county to become what we are seeing at a national level of typical government waste. The commission needs to have the same operations mindset as a small business owner.

Whether times are good or in a downward spiral, a small business is watching every dollar spent. My business has a maintenance program to ensure we get the maximum output and lifespan for our equipment. These are simple things that, in the long run, save us money.

It is a lot of oversight but well worth it when times get tough. Determining each budget request and agreeing on the necessity of it is essential for financial viability.

Q: In light of recent concerns expressed by the public both before and after the determination of a violation of the Open Meetings Act by a prior commission, how would you ideally go about quelling any misgivings the public may have about the forthrightness of commission actions?

A: It is the commission’s responsibility to earn the trust back from Eddy County citizens. No matter how this issue is spun, the board still has 26 documented violations handed down in a ruling by the Attorney General of the State of New Mexico.

It will take time, and in my opinion, new commissioners to ease the doubt in the minds of the citizens that proper procedures are being taken seriously and that there are no back-room deals and discussions being made. Being extremely specific on closed meeting items is simple common sense. Flowing and open communication between county business conducted and the citizens the board represents is essential.

If elected, I will rely on every avenue available for transparent information flow. Social media, radio, newspaper and a town hall meeting conducted every quarter to ensure concerns and voices are being heard. I will also rely upon the support offered to the board on legal issues through the county attorney. This is how you show the public you are on their side, with their best interest at the forefront of every meeting.

Larry Wood

Larry Wood

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Larry Wood
Candidate, District 3
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Q: What are the top three issues you feel are in need of addressing within the county commission, and how would you go about addressing them?

A: Repairing roads, making sure we are in compliance with state law on the Open Meetings Act, and utilizing tax dollars wisely.

Q: With Eddy County’s economy still in flux due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, what actions beyond recent budget cuts do you feel the commission needs to take in order to ensure the county’s financial viability should the slump continue? Additionally, once the industry has rebounded, what changes do you feel the commission should make, if any, to ensure the county is better prepared for any future downturns?

A: Eddy County does not owe any debts that I’m aware of. I would look for any waste in spending.

Q: In light of recent concerns expressed by the public both before and after the determination of a violation of the Open Meetings Act by a prior commission, how would you ideally go about quelling any misgivings the public may have about the forthrightness of commission actions?

A: We have a county attorney who we would utilize for advice on this issue.

Guy Lutman

Guy Lutman

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Guy Lutman
Candidate, District 3
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Q: What are the top three issues you feel are in need of addressing within the county commission, and how would you go about addressing them?

A: 1) Taking care of our roads with a viable maintenance program and insuring there is accountability from those departments responsible.

2) Balancing our budget and working closely with our financial department to ensure fiscal responsibility.

3) Protecting our livelihoods, way of life, and property rights by curtailing ordinances that put a burden on our rural lifestyles and continue to fight the federal government’s attempt to shut down the oil and gas industry through the Endangered Species Act.

Q: With Eddy County’s economy still in flux due to the downturn in the oil and gas industry, what actions beyond recent budget cuts do you feel the commission needs to take in order to ensure the county’s financial viability should the slump continue? Additionally, once the industry has rebounded, what changes do you feel the commission should make, if any, to ensure the county is better prepared for any future downturns?

A: What the taxpayers should understand is that the county has operated in the past on budgets much smaller than the current one. Past budgets were funded primarily through property taxes and PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) received from the federal government. The recent windfall from the oil and gas industry has presented the county with a surplus of revenue, and thus created a false sense of financial security.

Oil and gas is a great industry; however, the previous commission should have been more fiscally responsible and understood that it can be unpredictable and volatile over time. These windfall revenues should never have been relied upon to fund long-term commitments.

Large cuts in personnel may need to be a topic of discussion; Intrepid Potash and Devon Energy have both had to lay off staff to save money. Eddy County government shouldn’t be an exception to the rule if cuts are needed to save taxpayers money.

Future windfall revenues should be invested wisely, i.e. infrastructure projects such as road improvements and in our public safety services, to name a few. These essential services are the responsibility of the county to provide for its citizens regardless of the current economic situation and should not increase our budget in the event of future economic downturns.

Q: In light of recent concerns expressed by the public both before and after the determination of a violation of the Open Meetings Act by a prior commission, how would you ideally go about quelling any misgivings the public may have about the forthrightness of commission actions?

A: These blatant violations are of a serious nature, and I would like to thank the citizen who brought this to the attention of the Attorney General.

The public deserves an open and transparent government, one that will be accountable for its actions and takes responsibility for its mistakes, and not pretend that violations of this sacred trust between the citizens and their government is “not a problem.”

Obviously, any actions taken by the commission in violation of the OMA are null and void; serious corrective measures will need to be taken, also resignations and a public inquiry would certainly not be out of order.

We must restore the faith and trust of the people of Eddy County.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Responses from District 3 incumbent Glenn Collier were not received as of press time Saturday.)