Q & A with Lincoln County Commissioner Dist. 1 incumbent Joe Hewgley

Published: Apr. 14, 2020 at 10:03 AM CDT
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Read our Q & A below with Lincoln County Commissioner District 1 incumbent Joe Hewgley. We did not edit the candidate's responses.
What is your priority project? What is driving you to represent District 1 in the 2020 election?

My top priority is seeing the North River Bridge at Sutherland finally get started, with completion of construction schedule for 2021/2022. I have well over a hundred hours into this project, which include several trips to Lincoln to meet with various State of Nebraska officials, including past governors and a number of representatives with the Nebraska Department of Transportation (NDOT) formerly known and Nebraska Department of Roads (NDOR). Funding has been set aside for this project and is currently slated for work to begin in 2021.

My driving force to represent District #1 is my desire to give back to and serve my community that has been so good to myself and my family over the years.

How will you address road repair priorities? What is on your one/6 year road list?

I try to always work in conjunction with our roads superintendent to make sure we coordinate our work with the neighboring districts to make as efficient use of man power and equipment as possible.

We try to look at all roads, hard surfaced and gravel, with a couple of things in mind. Our first priority is usage. We try to get those roads with the highest daily traffic counts to the top of the list. On our gravel roads we want to make sure our major farm and market roads are a priority. We try to get those roads first before working on or repairing shorter roads of a mile or two, only serving a few families, or farm access.

My top priority for the one and six year road plan in District #1 was the over lay of West Platte Valley Road. This project was completed in the fall of 2019. I would also like to see us continue our road elevation program we began last fall. I feel this is especially important here in the valley with our high water table. For the county as a whole, I’d like to see us finish the North River bridge at Sutherland and for construction to start on South River Road from Buffalo Bill west and finally be able to open this road up to through traffic again.

What is the County’s role in Economic Development?

I feel the county has a vital role to play when it comes to Economic Development, not just in North Platte, but county wide. We need to do everything we can to encourage business and industry to either expand in or relocate to Lincoln County. Things such as the passage of a resolution several years ago designating Lincoln County as a “livestock friendly” county cost us nothing monetarily, but it lets prospective ag and livestock producers know that Lincoln County has an established set of policies and procedures in place for their industry. This pro-active approach is appealing to future ag businesses looking to establish in our community.

As a past and present member of the North Platte Development Corporation, we have been successful in helping recruit such businesses as Menards and Walmart Distribution Center #7018, which currently employs over 550 hourly workers alone here in Lincoln County.

Thoughts on jail expansion and what that should look like? How do you see growth as a revenue generator?

I think the Board recognizes that the jail expansion, unfortunately, was something that needed to be addressed. According to Sheriff Kramer, the short term bond used to pay for the expansion could be retired in less than five years, using the revenues collected from the state and surrounding counties paying for the use of this facility.

How are you going to control property taxes?

Lincoln County receives less than 15% of taxes, while the City of North Platte and North Platte Public Schools receive over 75% of property taxes collected. While the county’s “control” over taxes is minimal, what we can do, as a county, is limit our spending. We need to have our income and expenses balanced just as the average person does in their everyday life. This most likely will include a reduction in spending in several areas of the counties overall budget.

What is your budget priority in terms of controlling expenses?

I have, and continue to believe, that our spending priorities should be focused on certain essential services, including law enforcement and public safety, continuing to maintain county roads and bridges, and to fund other county offices mandated by the state statute. During my time in office, we have been able to combine and share a number of city and county functions. I believe that by sharing resources, including personnel, both the city and county can continue to work more efficiently and cost effectively, and pass these savings on to the tax payer. The combed and efficient use of buildings and personnel, has resulted in savings of many thousands of dollars to the citizens of North Platte and Lincoln County.

Services currently shared between the City of North Platte and Lincoln County include:

Shared services of the City Engineer and County Surveyor

Combined Administrator for City/County Planning Office.

Combined North Platte and Lincoln County Law Enforcement Dispatch.

Shared services and housing of Emergency Management Director.

What is going to be the County’s biggest challenge over the next four years?

Our biggest challenge will be to maintain our current county services while continuing to see our rural valuations decrease. Decreasing ag land values will certainly have a major impact on the counties overall economic health.

Why should voters choose you as Commissioner? What separates you from other candidates?

The biggest asset I feel I bring is my experience and overall understanding of the operations of this county.

As an elected official, I look at both sides of each and every issue presented, based upon the information available at the time, and proceed with what I feel would be in the best overall interest of the county. In all of my years in office I have never told someone I would agree to any one specific project that they might personally benefit from, but to represent what, in my opinion, is in the best interest of all citizens of Lincoln County.

I take the time to truly represent and talk with individuals within my district to hear their questions and concerns. I then bring their concerns to the Board as a whole for any further action.

Do you support the actions taken by local government officials to combat the spread of COVID-19? What, if any, changes would you propose?

I absolutely do agree with local government officials, including those in city and county government, as well as those representing our public and parochial schools. We are experiencing a pandemic, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Spanish Flu Pandemic that infected one third of the world population with fifty million deaths world wide and six hundred seventy five thousand in the United States. Desperate times require decisive and timely action. We will get through this, and hopefully will be able to take away lessons learned along with some important knowledge that will allow us all to be better prepared in the future.

How will you support the economy now and after social distancing requirements end?

I will get out and support every local business I possibly can. We have great local clothing stores, shoe stores, hardware and farm supply merchandise, along with some great restaurants. SHOP LOCAL! It is only by shopping local that we get to enjoy watching our kids and grandkids play baseball, softball, basketball, soccer and many other activities sponsored by our local banks, automobile dealers, beverage distributors and civic organizations. A big thank you to each and every one of those merchants that make North Platte and Lincoln County a great place to live and raise a family. As a life long resident, it certainly has been good to myself and my family.

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