Voters change commissioners

By Angie Baldelomar

Former city leader wins primary ballot

First-time candidate Karen Larson apparently beat incumbent Sid Metcalf for the 2nd District county commissioner’s seat in the Republican primary election Tuesday.

The unofficial results gave her a 14-vote advantage over Mr. Metcalf, 156 votes to 142.

Since no Democrat filed for the office, Mrs. Larson, a former Oberlin city administrator, stands to be without opposition in the general election this fall if her margin holds up. The race could be affected by provisional ballots which might be counted during the canvas of the votes by county commissioners Monday.

Mr. Metcalf was looking for a second term as a commissioner after upsetting long-time incumbent Ralph Unger four years ago.

“I feel very humble and honored to have secured the majority of votes,” Mrs. Larson said. “Thank you all who voted for me.”

Long-time sheriff hangs on to his job

Long-time Sheriff Ken Badsky secured another term in the office by defeating former Deputy Bret Marietta in the Republican primary election on Tuesday.

The final results gave Mr. Badsky 490 votes to 403 for Mr. Marietta.

Mr. Badsky won in Dresden and Oberlin, carrying both city precincts, while Mr. Marietta won in Jennings and Norcatur and got the lead in the advance vote.

He noted that he never carries either Jennings or Norcatur.

The Oberlin Herald was unable to reach either Mr. Badsky or Mr. Marietta for comment on the results.

Mr. Badsky, who has been sheriff for 32 years now, will serve his ninth term in the position. He said that only two of the sheriff’s elected in 1984 beside him are still in office, and both are retiring when their terms expire in January.

“This will probably be my last election,” he said.

Deputy to move up into clerk’s position

Decatur County Deputy Clerk Nora Urban defeated newcomer Brandi Diederich for the county clerk’s position in Republican primary voting on Tuesday.

The final results were 584 votes for Mrs. Urban, who has worked at the clerk’s office for more than a decade, and 296 for Ms. Diederich, a Decatur Community High School graduate who hoped to move back home to take the job.

Mrs. Urban will serve her first term as a county clerk, replacing Colleen Geihsler, who is stepping down at the end of her term.

“Eleven years,” the winner said, nearly done with a long night of vote counting. “I hope I’ve learned something by now.”

“I enjoy what I do. I am happy to continue serving Decatur County. As I said at the (candidate) forum, there’s always room for improvement, but a lot of what we do is dictated by the state.”

The story was published on the front page of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on August 3, 2016.


Lots of positions will be on the line during primary

By Angie Baldelomar

The primary elections on Tuesday will decide races for national, state, county and township positions. Here is a rundown of the candidates on the primary ballots for both parties.

For the U.S. Senate, the Republican race features Sen. Jerry Moran of Manhattan and relative unknown, D.J. Smith, of Osawatomie. The Democratic race will face Monique Singh of Kansas City and Patrick Wiesner of Lawrence.

For the U.S. House of Representatives, the Republican race is between the current member, Tim Huelskamp of Fowler and Dr. Roger Marshall of Great Bend. No one filed on the Democrat side.

In the 40th District for state Senate, running unopposed in the Democratic side is Alex Herman of Hays, and on the Republican side is state Rep. Rick Billinger, of Goodland.

For the 120th district in the state House of Representatives, Republican voters will choose between former Rep. John Faber of Brewster, and Adam Smith, a Wallace County commissioner of Weskan. Running unopposed on the Democratic ballot is Bonita Peterson of Ludell.

Judge Preston Pratt of Norton is running unopposed for district judge in the 17th Judicial District in the Republican primary. Likewise, Judge Jay Tate of Oberlin is unopposed for district magistrate judge for Decatur County.

On the county level, running for commissioner for District 2 in the Republican primary are the incumbent, Sid Metcalf, and Karen Larson, a former Oberlin city administrator. Brad Marcuson is running unopposed in the Republican primary for District 3 commissioner. He expects to face an independent candidate in the General Election, Economic Development Director Shayla Williby.

For county clerk, Nora Urban, now the deputy county clerk, and Brandi Diederich, an office manager and Decatur Community High graduate, are running in the Republican primary.

Running unopposed for re-election in the Republican primary are Register of Deeds Kari Ketterl, County Treasurer Jean Hale and County Attorney Steve Hirsch.

For sheriff, the veteran incumbent, Ken Badsky, faces Bret Marietta, a former deputy, in the Republican primary.

For township offices, candidates filing as Republicans include:

  • Steve Brown for Bassettville township trustee, unopposed. No one is running for township treasurer on the Republican side.
  • Jacob Weyeneth for Beaver Township treasurer.
  • David Juenemann for Cook Township trustee; Crescentia Rall for township treasurer.
  • Merlin Anderson for Custer trustee.
  • Linda Schroer for Dresden treasurer.
  • Jim Wesch for Finley trustee.
  • Curt Mizell for Garfield treasurer.
  • Denton S. Haag for Grant trustee.
  • Joe Metcalf for Harlan trustee; Galen Lafferty for treasurer.
  • Dennis Ritter and Eric Fleckenstein for Jennings trustee, and DuWayne Metz and Craig Ritter for treasurer.
  • Gerry Tally for Liberty treasurer.
  • David Stapp for Lincoln trustee; Robbie Henningson for treasurer.
  • Millard Kyte for Logan trustee; Evan Unger for treasurer.
  • Tyler Witt for Olive trustee; Denise Abbey for treasurer.
  • Sandy Rush for Roosevelt trustee; Terry Rush treasurer.
  • Paul Shields for Sappa trustee; Rodney Bryan for treasurer. • Larry Roe for Sherman treasurer.
  • Paul Tally for Summit treasurer.

The township candidates filing as Democrat include:

  • Terry Lippelmann for Bassettville township treasurer. No one is running for township trustee in the Democratic race.
  • Gene Morford is for Oberlin township treasurer.
  • John Gallantine is for Garfield trustee.

Allison, Altory, Center, Lyon, Pleasant Valley and Prairie Dog townships have no candidates running for township positions. Many positions could be filled by write-in candidates.

The only townships with candidates for party committee members are:

  • Custer, with Kelly Jeanne Wasson running as a Republican for precinct committeewoman.
  • Finley, with James Wesch and Pamela Wesch, both Republicans, running for committeeman and committeewoman.
  • Garfield, with Robert Strevey running as a Democrat for precinct committeeman.
  • Lincoln, with James Plotts and Carolyn Plotts, both Republicans, running for committeeman and committeewoman.
  • Logan, with Ralph Unger and Norma Unger, both Republicans, running for committeeman and committeewoman.
  • Olive, with Denise Abbey running as a Republican for committeewoman.

For Oberlin City Precinct 1, Othelia Vacura is running as a Democrat for precinct committeewoman. Stephen and Marilyn Horn, Republicans, are running for precinct committeeman and precinct committeewoman.

For Oberlin City Precinct 2, Henry Kent Euhus is running as a Republican for precinct committeeman.

The ballot will also have a question about whether to raise the mill levy for the county hospital. The question will be:

“Shall the Board of Commissioners of Decatur County, Kansas be authorized to levy up to 13 mills for the purpose of operating, maintaining, equipping and improving the county hospital?”

The polls will open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.

The story was published on the front page of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 27, 2016.

Former legislator decides to run for House in 120th District

By Angie Baldelomar

When John Faber was defeated in the 2010 Republican primary for his seat representing the old 121st District in the Kansas House, he thought his days at the Statehouse were over. However, the 2016 elections find him running for the House of Representative once again, this time in the new 120th District.

He said his phone started ringing as soon as Rep. Rick Billinger of Goodland, the current 120th District representative, pulled out of the House race, leaving the seat vacant. Around 10 p.m. that day, Mr. Faber said, he was finally talked into running for the House this year.

“That was not the way I had my summer planned,” he added.

Mr. Faber served as a representative for 14 years. He was elected in 1996, started the term in 1997, and his last term finished in 2011 after he lost the Republican primary against Ward Cassidy of St. Francis.

This year, he is running in the Aug. 2 Republican primary against Adam Smith, a county commissioner from Wallace County.

Born and raised in southwest Rawlins County, Mr. Faber said he attended Fort Hays State University before he ended up in the army. He served a year in Vietnam as a helicopter crew chief before returning home. After that, he married Renee, his wife of 43 years now, and together they had three sons. He has worked on the family farm ever since.

In the last years, he said, the idea of increasing property taxes on farmers and ranchers appeared, but the Legislature did not take it seriously.

“If they ever do,” he said, “I’ll fight it with tooth and nails.”

However, education is the primary issue behind his decision to for representative this year, he said. Over the years, the Legislature has divided school money differently. The issue is more prominent in rural Kansas, he said, where several schools could be closing.

“The important thing is to get a fair shake,” he said., “and bring the rural representatives in, sit them together and let them speak as one voice.”

Mr. Faber said he has the experience to be on the Education Committee if elected.

“I’ll have a voice on it, and I expect to be on the committee,” he said. “I spent 12 years on the committee, so I’m in a good position to get those seats again.”

Mr. Faber said he is chairman of the Rawlins County Republican Committee and was a member of the House Education and Agriculture committees for 12 years during his period in the House.

He said the property tax lid approved by the Legislature this year is not as much of a problem in rural Kansas as it is in the urban areas. He has supported, throughout his time in the House, the “pro-life” vote and supports the National Riffle Association, but his main issues are agriculture and education.

“I think I’m the best choice for the job,” he said. “I have a well-rounded knowledge on what goes on.”

This story was published on page 5A of The Oberlin Herald’s print edition on July 20, 2016.

*The story was also published on page 4B of both the St. Francis Herald and the Bird City Times on July 28, 2016, under the headline: “Former representative running for seat again.”

Election volunteers needed

By Angie Baldelomar

As the Aug. 2 primary elections approach, so does the need for volunteers to work in the polls and to help count ballots once the polls are closed that day.

Decatur County Clerk Colleen Geihsler said she needs 55 volunteers who can be present from 6 a.m. election day until 7 p.m. when polls close. People can also volunteer as counters, and that job can start any time after 5 p.m. and finish around 9 p.m., if it is a smaller election, or as late as 2 a.m. if it is a bigger vote, she said. Workers are paid $7.50 per hour.

This year, the primary election falls the same day as the start of the Decatur County Fair, which could be an issue said Ms. Geihsler.

“The fair starting that day takes care of a lot of mothers,” she said. “People are saying they can’t help this election because they have kids who are doing 4-H for the fair.”

Another issue, she said, is that some older volunteers do not want to work anymore, and the younger group works at the fair.

“They’re getting to a point where they don’t want to do it anymore,” she said. “It’s too much.”

Ms. Geihsler said bigger counties have machines that count the ballots, but here in Decatur County, they are counted by hand.

“We really need people who want to work for the election,” she said.

The county will have polling places in Norcatur, Jennings, Dresden and at The Gateway in Oberlin, she said.

“We have a couple of volunteers from each city so far,” she said, “but of course, we need all the volunteers we can get.”

Ms. Geihsler said she will hold a class to go over everything volunteers have to do on Friday, July 29, at the court room of the courthouse. She said she wants to have volunteers signed up before that day. Volunteers can sign up by calling the clerk’s office at (785) 475-8101.

This story was published on page 3A of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 20, 2016.

Hospital big test for candidates

By Angie Baldelomar

Sid Metcalf and Karen Larson, the two Republican candidates running for county commissioner for District 2, answered questions at the candidate forum organized by the Decatur Professional Women last Wednesday.

They discussed their views on the hospital, the recycling program, the Twins Creek Extension District and challenges the county commission could face in the next two years.

About the hospital, both agreed that the important thing is to keep it. Mr. Metcalf said the commissioners approved a vote on raising the countywide property-tax levy to give the hospital a little more money to work with. He said the hospital employs over 100 people that the county cannot afford to lose because it can cause a domino effect. Mrs. Larson, for her part, said that the hospital was essential for the community, but that she had questions about the tax levy.

Recycling was another topic discussed during the forum. Mr. Metcalf said commissioners are looking for an alternative, believing that with constant fee increases, the current regional recycling program is too expensive. He said the regional program needs to be reconfigured. Mrs. Larson said she wants to keep the program because, with it, people feel like they are doing something about excess trash. She said she would like to see something continue.

Regarding Twins Creek Extension District services in Decatur County, Mr. Metcalf said that the commissioners didn’t like that they did not have control over tax money, which is one reason why the county wants to pull out. He said he is not sure whether the K-State Extension Service will release the county. The state will keep an agent here as it was before, he said. Mrs. Larson said she thinks Extension is a big part of the community, and she thinks the program will continue. She said disagreements need to be handled before they get to the place they did with this situation.

Mr. Metcalf said he sees the biggest challenge in the next couple of years as saving the hospital. The other big challenge is to maintain the county infrastructure, he said. He praised the road department for the job it does with the budget given.

Mrs. Larson agreed with him that the hospital is the big priority. She also mentioned the infrastructure and some debts that need to be paid. She said the important thing is to make decisions that will keep things going along, she said.

Mr. Metcalf said that four years ago, people asked him to run for commissioner. The city and the county are important for him, he said, which is why he decided to run.

“It takes four years, at least, to know what you’re doing,” he said. “I like it, and I’d like to work for you some more.”

Mrs. Larson said she had been thinking of running for commissioner since before she became Oberlin city administrator. She learned a lot during that time, she said.

“I know procedures and how to get things done,” she said. “I know too much not to keep sharing it with the community and the county. Things are changing, and we need to change with it.”

This story was published on page 3A of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 20, 2016.

Candidates agree on budget

By Angie Baldelomar

Bret Marietta, a former deputy, and long-time sheriff Ken Badsky face each other in the Aug. 2 Republican primary. Both attended a candidate forum last Wednesday organized by the Decatur Professional Women, where they answered questions posed by Mayor Ladd Wendelin.

1. Challenges to overcome in the sheriff’s office.

Mr. Marietta said that the biggest challenge is to try to provide high-quality service with a restricted budget. He said it would be nice to have another officer, but the budget won’t allow it. Mr. Badsky agreed with him, saying that the budget is always a challenge.

2. Ways to improve services throughout the county

Mr. Marietta said that one of the main things to improve is visibility and that a way to do it would be through increased man hours, either dedicating more time on call or adding staff. However, he said doing this would require a lot more budget.

Mr. Badsky agreed on being more visible, but said he knows it can be hard to do because of the budget. Another person would be great, he added.

3. Most important skill for a sheriff

Mr. Marietta said a sheriff should be fair and impartial and show a compassion for the community and a desire to serve the community.

Mr. Badsky said that being fair and using common sense are important for a sheriff. Experience also helps, he said.

4. Changes to the sheriff department

Mr. Marietta said he would not call it changes, because Mr. Badsky has created a great foundation. He would like to improve visibility in Norcatur and Jennings, expand hours for office services and improve response time on calls.

5. County and city law enforcement departments’ cooperation.

Mr. Badsky said the Oberlin police and the sheriff’s office cooperate pretty well now. The police do things for the sheriff, and the sheriff does things for them as well. He said he tries to get along with everyone.

6. Reasons to vote for them.

Mr. Marietta said that he has a passion for law enforcement and a desire to serve the community, and that this job would be a great fit for him.

“I would be fair and impartial, and try to have a proactive approach to criminal activity,” he said.

Mr. Badsky said that he has served the community as sheriff for almost 32 years and wants to keep on with his service.

“I want to continue to do what I’m doing,” he said.

This story was published on page 3A of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 20, 2016.

Teamwork key for clerk’s job

By Angie Baldelomar

Nora Urban and Brandi Diederich, both running as Republicans for county clerk, answered questions from Mayor Ladd Wendelin at a candidate forum last Wednesday, sponsored by the Decatur Professional Women.

More than 100 people showed up for the forum, held at the Sunflower Cinema.

The first question was whether it was more important to have outside, real-world experience, or practical work experience. Mrs. Urban, longtime deputy county clerk, said it was important to have both. She said that real-world experience would teach a candidate to be open-minded, but it’s also important to have some kind of knowledge before starting the job. Ms. Diederich agreed that it’s important to have both, but she said that a fresh perspective would be good for the office.

Asked about ways to advocate for a more visible presence in the community, Mrs. Urban said that is one of her goals, but said that sometimes it’s difficult because the job keeps the clerk busy.

Ms. Diederich said she wants the clerk’s office to have a bigger face in the community and suggested that a way to do that would be to work with the high school to teach students how to register to vote and how county government works.

The next question was about how to balance the clerk’s duties with family responsibilities. Mrs. Urban said that is managing her time wisely. She said workers in the office face the same issues as other working women, but they find a way to make it work. People do it everyday, she said. Ms. Diederich said that, even though she is not married and has no children yet, she still likes to keep herself busy. She said the clerk’s job would take her full dedication if she is elected.

The two agreed that teamwork and cooperation are important in the clerk’s office. Mrs. Urban said teamwork is the key for the office’s success. She said managing elections depends a lot on teamwork and cooperation from volunteers and the community. It takes a team to do all the clerk’s office work, she said. Ms. Diederich said teamwork is vital, but it was important to have an assertive leader at the top. That is the only way to get things accomplished, she said.

Mrs. Urban said that she has the experience in the office to do that. She has worked in the clerk’s office for 11 years.

“I love what I do there,” she said. “I want to help find better ways to serve the community.”

Ms. Diederich promised dedication to the job if she is elected. She said she has experience as an office manager to take on the job and plans to shadow area county clerks to learn more about it.

“I would bring new ideas to the office,” she said.

This story was published on page 3A of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 20, 2016.

Three incumbents run unopposed

By Angie Baldelomar

Decatur County’s register of deeds, treasurer and county attorney are running for re- election unopposed for the Republican primary election Aug 2.

Kari Ketterl, the register of deeds, is running for her third term. She is married to Vernon Ketterl and they have three grown sons, Spencer, 38 Jason, 37; and Todd, 34, who also live here and have families of their own.

Mrs. Ketterl said she worked on the farm with her husband and children until she decided to run for the register’s job in 2008. She said her passion for history was one of the driving forces that got her interested in the job, which involves recording deeds, mortgages and other transactions for property in the county

“I am honored to serve and I truly care for the community and the people,” she said.

Mrs. Ketterl said one of the challenges of her job is striving to keep the office running efficiently and keeping up with the current regulations.

County Treasurer Jean Hale said she has worked in the treasurer’s office for more than 15 years now and at the courthouse around 30. She is married to Byron Hale, and they have an 11-year-old daughter, Cheyanna.

“I enjoy the day-to-day challenges of working with the numbers,” she said, “and at the end of the day, everything balances.”

Besides enjoying the bookkeeping part of her job, she said, she gets to meet new people.

The challenge, Mrs. Hale said, is keeping up with ever-changing state laws. She graduated from the Decatur Community High School and then went to a vocational school in Goodland, earning a credential in the secretarial program.

County Attorney Steve Hirsch is serving his seventh term. He and his wife Anita have two grown children, Joseph and Jenny, both teachers. Mr. Hirsch attended Kansas State University and the Washburn University School of Law. He said he grew up in the northcentral part of Kansas.

One of the most satisfying – and most challenging – things of his job as an attorney is working with juvenile cases. Some kids need some direction in their lives, he said, because they sometimes don’t have a parent in their lives or they do have one who isn’t playing a significant role.

“Being able to get these kids to where they grow up, that’s the most important thing I do,” he said, “whether it’d be with my family or with somebody else’s kids.”

Mr. Hirsch has prosecuted all types of cases, from traffic tickets to murders, in his almost 28 years as county attorney.

Mr. Hirsch said he has had some of the people he helped as teens come back and thank him for helping put them on the right path.

“That’s been pretty gratifying,” he said.

Mr. Hirsch is also the Sheridan County attorney and assistant county attorney in Logan County.

All three candidates are running unopposed in their races for the primary, and then they will run unopposed in the general election on Nov. 6.

This story was published on the front page of The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 20, 2016.

Oberlin native runs for sheriff

By Angie Baldelomar

Bret Marietta, born and raised in Oberlin, is one of two candidates running for sheriff in the Republican primary in August.

He says his passion for law enforcement and his desire to serve the community led him to decide to run for the position, he said.

“I think this position is the best fit for me,” he said.

In 2010, Mr. Marietta joined the Oberlin Police Department, and went to the state Law Enforcement Academy. In 2013, he worked as a sheriff’s deputy for a year until 2014. That same year, he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice from Kansas State University.

He understands what the job of a county sheriff is, he said.

“The main job is to run an efficient office,” he said, “to provide a fair and impartial service to the county.”

Mr. Marietta said that his former boss, Ken Badsky, the current sheriff, who is running for re-election, has built a great foundation, one of the things he would like to do is increase visibility.

“I would like to see an officer on duty later in the evening to patrol areas,” he said.

Another thing in his plans is to cut the response time to public calls and complaints, Mr. Marietta said, and to expand hours for service for things like vehicle identification number inspections and fingerprinting.

Even though he knows he understands that the budget might not allow having another deputy, he said he would like to see a four-man agency, including himself.

“The work is a lot for three people,” he said. “Another one would help lessen the load and the time on call for each.

This story was published on page 3A (County Primary) on The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 13, 2016.

Sheriff going for ninth term

By Angie Baldelomar

This is Ken Badsky’s 32nd year as Decatur County sheriff, and now at 56, he says he has no plans to retire. He is running for re-election in the Aug. 2 elections.

Mr. Badsky, a Republican who was born and raised in Oberlin, said he got a criminal justice degree at Garden City Community College. He worked for the Oberlin Police Department for three years before becoming sheriff.

One of the biggest challenges he has faced in his time as a sheriff, he said, involves budget adjustment, serious crimes and manpower needs. Another big challenge is the ability to adapt to the constant changes in the law and the change to multimedia and digital media.

“It’s easier to get scammed now,” he said. “It’s easier for cyber crimes to occur.”

Regarding the number of officers the county has, Mr. Badsky said he knows the department would benefit from having more officers, but the budget won’t allow it.

“It’d be nice to have more people,” he said, “but without the budget, we can’t.”

One of the big issues, he said, is the communication from the public to law enforcement. Many times, he said, people do not report what happens.

“People think we know what’s going on, so they don’t tell us about it,” he said, “but we really don’t know.”

For Mr. Badsky, the main job of a county sheriff is set by state law, which includes supervising the jail and providing security for the courts.

“Following the Constitution is very important to me,” he said.

He added that, for him, being available to the public is essential. He said he has no problem in giving out his phone number and encouraging people to call him.

“I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I love this job and I want to continue doing it.”

This story was published on page 3A (County Primary) on The Oberlin Herald‘s print edition on July 13, 2016.