WAHOO – Ten seats on the 19-member board for the Lower Platte North Natural Resources District are up for election this year.
Nine directors from sub-districts and one member at large will be elected Nov. 6. Even though the majority of directors are tied to the sub-district in which they live, voters district-wide can cast a vote for all directors.
Non-contested sub-district seats and the candidates are 2, Bill Seager of Fremont (two year term); 2, Frank Pollard of Fremont; 3, David Saalfeld of North Bend; 4, no candidate; 5, Mark Seier of Newman Grove; 6, Joseph Birkel of David City; 8, Alexander Kavan of Wahoo (two year term); At Large, Gene Ruzicka of North Bend. All of these candidates are incumbents.
Candidates involved in contested races are Sub-district 1, Lon Olson (incumbent) of Fremont and Leon Bracker of Fremont; Sub-district 7, Nancy Meyer of Cedar Bluffs and Bruce Williams of Morse Bluff; Sub-district 8, Roger Harders of Wahoo and Jerry Johnson of Wahoo; and Sub-district 9, Donald Veskerna (incumbent) of Ashland and Helen Raikes of Ashland.
Candidates in the contested races were recently asked to complete a written questionnaire. Here are their responses.
What do you believe are the top two priorities of the NRD?
Olson: I believe the top two priorities of our NRD are first, to oversee and promote water conservation and proper management practices. And secondly, to coordinate flood damage protection through alliances with local, state and federal agencies to protect lives and property.
Bracker: 1. Flood control on Wahoo Creek; 2. Continued work on Shell Creek.
Williams: Protecting water quality and preserving natural resources.
Meyer: Soil health and water quality/quantity.
Johnson: One of the greatest resources that we have in Nebraska is ground water. Water sustainability is a statewide priority. Surface water/flood control is equally a priority and both are the responsibility of the Nebraska Natural Resource Districts. These two priorities are not only for the benefit of the property owners but for municipalities and all of its citizens.
Harders: Flood reduction and protecting water sources.
Raikes: Ensuring water quality across various depths and types of water is a high priority for me. Water quality issues require a long-term focus. I especially have concerns about effects of water quality on children, youth and people with health issues.
But also, because of my roots in agriculture, a second priority for me is managing water flow equitably and optimally throughout the NRD. Quality and quantity – both matter.
Veskerna: 1. Water quality and management for future generations. 2. It is our duty to protect the land and material resources with good plans toward the future.
Why do you want to serve on the NRD board of directors?
Olson: I have served on the NRD board since 2011. I appreciate the confidence and support I have received from the voters in our district these past seven years. I have enjoyed working together with my fellow directors to serve the public to help protect our natural resources for the benefit of all.
Bracker: Share with others the benefits I have personally experienced through implementation of conservation programs.
Williams: My ancestors made their living from the natural resources for many generations. Not only do I have a current vested interest in the quality of our natural resources as a farmer, I also want to make sure that our natural resources are preserved for my children and future generations to come. The decisions the board makes today will have long-term ramifications for those generations.
Meyer: Don Kavan, who is retiring after serving on the board since the formation of NRDs in Nebraska, asked me to run for his position on the board because he said he wanted to make sure someone who really cared about conservation would fill his seat. Since environmental conservation and community service have been my lifelong passions, I agreed that it would be an excellent fit.
Johnson: I feel my experience on the legislature’s Natural Resource Committee can help the board in connecting with future legislation, plus the legislative committee also dealt with the rules and regulations of Nebraska Game and Parks. I also feel that if I am elected the next mayor of Wahoo that it will be beneficial for the citizens of Wahoo to have voice and vote on the NRD board.
Harders: I was approached by two of the NRD board members to run for the board. Their interest in me was because I was a cost accountant and auditor. I have a strong budgeting, farming and construction background and I would like to use these skills to help advise the NRD management. In addition, I have “real world” experience with many of the programs that the NRD offers: namely establishing wind breaks, building dams and filter strips, terracing, and installing irrigation systems.
Raikes: I made a commitment to my late husband that I would conduct citizen service on behalf of issues that we both cared about. My professional work is focused on early childhood health and development and I have lived with farmers throughout my life, so I understand issues of the agriculture community too. The NRD’s in Nebraska offer a brilliant structure for protecting and managing our natural resources offering a citizen-controlled structure for the work. Finally, I think the NRDs, as is true in all sectors, can be enhanced by having directors,
Veskerna: I want to make sure we look at all concerns and how they will impact this very important job of managing our part of the world for my children and grandchildren.
What is your background/experience with natural resources?
Bracker: The implementation of “no till” and “reduced till” programs in my farm/ranch operations, including installation of terraces and grassed waterways, filter strips as needed and conservation reserve programs which include native flowers resulting in amazing use by bees and butterflies.
Williams: I grew up on a crop and livestock farm. My family made a living utilizing and preserving natural resources for our crops and livestock. After college, I was a territory manager for an agricultural company and lived in Kansas, Eastern Colorado, Central Nebraska and Western Nebraska, prior to moving back to Eastern Nebraska. Living and working in those areas gave me a much better understanding of how fortunate we are to have the water, water quality and other natural resources that we have. It also gave me an understanding of how legislation impacting resources in one area would have a ripple effect and impact other surrounding areas as well. As a farmer in the NRD area, I participate in and support NRD projects. We need to protect and preserve our natural resources for future generations.
Meyer: As the “Recycling Lady,” I have taught over the years many classes to first and fourth graders at Wahoo Elementary on topics such as natural resources, pollution control, conservation practices and recycling, always focusing on how every individual can do a little that can mean a lot. I have also held community-wide Recycled Art Contests.
With funding obtained from the Community Chest, I was able to provide six recycling bins to the City of Wahoo. These blue bins are deployed at various locations, such as at ball fields, parks and Lake Wanahoo. Many people in the area may still have a copy of the Recycling Resources list I used to provide for Saunders County residents showing the closest locations to recycle anything. I worked closely with Region V, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality and area businesses to create and maintain that list for many years.
I have provided all of these services free of charge to the community and at my own initiative.
Johnson: Growing up on a farm where soil conservation and proper land use were high priorities, plus my 42 years in cooperative management emphasizing “Best Management Practices” fits in very well with the goals and responsibilities
of the Natural Resource District. Also, my Natural Resource Committee work has given me a better perspective of the overall statewide natural resource system.
Harders: Conservation practices applied to my farms: Planted over 2,000 trees for windbreaks and wildlife cover on farms that I own; Designed and was the general contractor for construction of four dams without government cost share on my farms; Designed and was the general contractor for construction of terracing, waterways and buffer strips to protect the water quality and runoff on my farms; and I utilize no-till and minimal-till practices on my farms.
Permits issued by NRD and Department of Natural Resources: Surface Irrigation Permit holder; Ground Water Irrigation certified for application of nitrogen fertilizer; Pesticide Applicator Licenses; Chemigation Applicator Certification.
Education and experience: Master Electrical Contractor License; Real Estate Broker License; B.A. degree in Business Administration and Accounting; U.S. Air Force and Nebraska Air National Guard.
Raikes: At UNL, I have been involved with research on water quality and child development and have learned about effects of the environment on children’s development. I am a Fellow of the University of Nebraska Water for Food Institute and have participated in their activities. I’ve been involved with farming my entire life; I also enjoy recreation and ride bike trails. In addition, I have experience with complex technical details through my science and I will be able to learn about the technical aspects of NRD projects as well as the personal, educational and political. Before coming to UNL, I worked at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and feel I can maneuver through federal and state policies and procedures that bring both opportunities and constraints.
Veskerna: I have been on the NRD board for 12 years and lived near the Platte River all my life. I have been farming for 50 years and am always concerned about soil conservation and water issues. I have been a cattle feeder and been on school and church boards.
This NRD covers a large area and you will be elected by votes from the entire district, not just your sub-district. How would you help ensure the needs of the entire district are being met?
Olson: The Lower Platte North NRD is governed by a 19-member Board of Directors. Our district is divided into a total of nine sub-districts. Each sub-district is served by two directors and one director who is elected at large. Each director serves on one or more of the district’s four committees: Water, Projects, Education-Operations-Rural Water and Executive. I believe this gives each sub-district and tax payer in our district a voice with which to be heard.
Bracker: Enhance public relations with all district representatives through direct communication with those individuals.
Williams: The NRD is set up with representatives from each district, which helps represent each area. I would help ensure the needs of the entire district are being met by listening to the representatives and constituents in those areas when they express their concerns and issues. I would take the time to get a better understanding of, and to learn about, the issues in those areas. This would allow me to be more informed.
Meyer: Since the NRD covers 1,000,000 plus acres, I will make sure I listen carefully to other directors and learn about the geography and needs of their sub-districts. I also expect to be traveling throughout the district to gain a personal understanding of local issues.
Johnson: I was appointed to my two priority committees (Natural Resource and Agriculture Committee) my first year in the state legislature and remained on those all four years. During my 42 years in management of farmer cooperatives, I understood the need to listen to my customers, look at the big picture and the same approach was used in serving District 23 (Butler, Colfax and Saunders counties) which covers a large part of the NRD. The Natural Resource Committee work provided me a great understanding of the NRD system. I worked with the Lower Platte North NRD helping to provide Environmental Trust Funds for the Shell Creek Project, plus consulted with local staff in their needs.
Harders: It is important to prioritize the flood control and water preservation needs of the district and to allocate the funds accordingly. Being fiscally responsible is the best way to serve the entire district.
Raikes: I like to listen carefully to concerns of citizens and to think about reasonable approaches to problem solving that maximize outcomes. Currently, I am very much enjoying meeting people from all over the district. I have participated in parades in Saunders County, Fremont and Schuyler and have been visiting groups around the district (such as in Mead, Weston, Fremont and David City). My late husband’s family has lived in this area for over 100 years, but I have lived here for about a decade, so I am truly enjoying meeting people in the district and hearing their concerns. I will focus on the entire district and seek to maximize outcomes for all with an intention to be thoughtful about tradeoffs.
Veskerna: It is our duty to protect the land and natural resources by making good plans for the future. We all fit together like a puzzle – one area decision affects the next and so on.
Are there any programs or needs that you feel the NRD should be addressing, but currently is not? If so, what are they?
Olson: I believe the Lower Platte NRD management, staff and board are serving our district in commendable and honorable way.
Bracker: Develop a program to address flood control in conjunction with recreation. Address loss of pollinator habitat by including native flower seeding with grass for pheasant and quail. Also include a program for flower seeding along our highways.
Williams: The current NRD board and staff do a great job addressing current needs and administrating programs. The challenge is to foresee what we need to do in the future to address new concerns and needs. I feel I can make a positive impact on future needs and issues.
Johnson: As I’ve attended the past five board meetings, plus a special workshop in Lincoln, I feel the board is addressing the flooding issues on Wahoo creek which needed to be a priority. These projects will serve the landowner/operators very well. Since the NRD will be taking over the management of Lake Wanahoo that will allow more flexibility in programing and they are well on the way to provide more opportunities for education, not only for our youth but also opportunities for activities on site with the new educational building for public use.
Harders: The NRD should work towards converting flood irrigation systems in its district to drip irrigation systems. Flood irrigation is very inefficient. Drip irrigation is much more efficient, uses less water, and allows nutrients to be added at a controlled rate.
Also, there is a need for the board to have a “finance committee” that oversees the budget and finance activities of the district.
Raikes: I have attended a number of NRD meetings and have been impressed with the focus and amount of business being handled, with projects in place addressing both short- and long-term needs.
When I talk to citizens throughout the district, I hear strong feelings about specific issues and it will be important to keep listening to citizens about their concerns. In my area, flooding continues to be a problem, requiring new problem solving and communication with stakeholders. There are people in the district who have to buy their drinking water so there are persistent problems requiring our best and most pro-active efforts. And, I like programs that engage our youth, such as high school classes and FFA programs that aide in testing well water, and that could be expanded.
Veskerna: We are always looking for new ways and ideas that we can use in our area to keep up to date.