Five commission candidates to square off
Published: Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Four Republicans and one Democrat comprise the field for this year’s race for three seats on the Custer County Commission, as three incumbents and two newcomers square off in an election that won’t be officially decided until the November general election.
Phil Lampert, one of the Republican incumbents, has been on the commission over five years after being appointed in 2009 to fill the vacancy left by former commissioner Joe McFarland. Lampert sought and won reelection in 2010 and is now completing his first full term. He is the current commission chairman.
Lampert, 68, has lived in Custer County most of his life and is a third generation Custer County resident. His grandparents were two of the first white settlers to homestead in western Custer County and he has lived or been in business throughout the county.
Lampert said he is seeking reelection because he wants to continue to serve the citizens of Custer County.
“I believe that my life-long connection and love affair with Custer County, an intimate knowledge of most of Custer County, my common sense approach to managing county government and my willingness to work hard for all the residents of Custer County make me a good candidate for the position of Custer County Commissioner,” Lampert said.
Among the issues Lampert wants to continue to address if elected are preserving our way of life in Custer County, careful planning of Custer County’s future growth and development, managing county government without creating additional burdens to county residents and maintenance of the county road system.
“I don’t have any agendas or axes to grind; only a willingness to serve and give back,” Lampert said. “I am always willing to listen and willing to learn. My mother used to tell me I have two ears and one mouth and that I should use them in that same proportion. I always try to do just that.”
Fellow Republican incumbent Jim Lintz, who ranches near Hermosa, has served four years on the county commission and is also a former state legislator. He was born and raised in Custer County.
Lintz said he enjoys being a county commissioner and sees it as a way to give something back to the community.
“When I was in the state Senate, it got to be a little too much time and money involved to do it,” he said. “The county commission allows me to stay home and not spend as much time on the road.”
Lintz’s father, Jack, was a county commissioner for 18 years and imparted wisdom he gained serving in the commission to Jim.
“He always felt that if he could treat each person in the county equally, he would do his job,” Lintz said. “That’s what I try to do.”
Lintz said he respects and appreciates all of the other commission members who are currently serving, and feels comfortable with the decisions they have been making together. He said he feels the knowledge he has acquired while being in politics over the years is beneficial to the county.
“I have the time and ambition to do it and I enjoy it,” he said.
Bies, 47, the third Republican incumbent, ranches near Fairburn. He has served eight years on the county commission and has been both the chairman and vice-chair. He and his family have lived in Custer County for 20 years.
Bies said he seeks a third term because he enjoys being a commissioner and dealing with people and feels his experience with the commission is a benefit to the county.
“I feel it takes at least one four-year term to find out how everything works within the county,” he said. “Your second term you really start making some hard decisions from the experience you gained your first term. It takes that long to find out how things work.”
Bies said he is proud of the projects the county has completed in his time as commissioner, from the new courthouse that was frequently discussed but never pursued and the new Cheyenne River Bridge to the improvements in the county road system.
“I think the county is in pretty good shape,” he said. “Development issues are always going to come up. We’re working on redoing some of the ordinances to help with that.”
Like the other incumbent candidates, Bies touts his experience as one of the main reasons he feels county residents should reelect him to the commission for another four years.
“I always think we need to have one or two commissioners who have some years of experience,” he said. “It’s a big learning curve to really see how things operate.”
Wally Steele, 66, is the fourth Republican candidate for commissioner. He has been a Custer County resident since 2006, is retired, and said he is running for commission because he would like to see lower taxes and some other things changed within the county.
“I’ve attended quite a few of the county commission meetings, and it’s very non-personal,” he said. “Nobody greets you or lets you know anything. I want to let people know they could approach the county commission.”
As a commissioner, Steele said he would be conservative in his decisions, listen carefully, listen to his consituents and make sure laws are being followed.
“I’m not a politician. I’m just concerned about and interested in our community,” he said. “I’m fair and honest. I was a minister for 30 years and then worked for the State of South Dakota before I retired, so I’m experienced. I’m a good listener and I’m really concerned about our county. I’d like to see some changes made and I’m available.”
Steve Price, 56, is the lone Democratic candidate for the commission. Because of that, he will not face an election until November in the general election. Price is the general manager of Rocky Knolls Golf Course and he and his wife have lived in Custer for two and a half years.
“I was always interested in county government and that kind of thing,” he said. “I thought I’d go ahead and run.”
Price said he is greatly concerned about the proposed Powertech uranium mine in Fall River County and how that could affect Custer County and its water.
“There has been a lot of simple answers given and a lot of common sense answers given,” he said regarding the proposed mine. “But what happens if something goes wrong? What’s the worst-case scenario? Nobody has a problem with it if everything goes right, but what if something goes horribly wrong?”
Price said he has no issue with the job the current commission is doing and has no hidden agendas. Rather, he said, if the voters think it is right for them, he would gladly “take his turn” in serving the county through a commissioner’s seat.
“I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I just thought it would be interesting to run,” he said. “We love Custer and Custer County. I want people to know I’m willing to take my turn and if they want me in there I will do the best I can. (I will give) common sense solutions to common sense problems.”
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