Jim Thurman, Matt Watkins and Cari Stovall Lee will battle for the Republican nomination for the Otoe County District 1 Commissioner seat in the primary election on Tuesday, May 15. The winner will advance to the general election to battle against the lone Democrat in the race, Robert Earll. The general election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 6.
In order to achieve tax relief, it’s necessary to increase the tax base.
That’s a priority for Jim Thurman, one of three candidates on the May 15 primary ballot for the District 1 seat for Otoe County Commission.
The top vote getter out of those Republicans will advance to the general election in November to face Robert Earll, Democrat from Nebraska City.
Thurman said he feels that he has the experience necessary to help lead a charge in favor of economic development in Otoe County.
Jim’s family has established and grown a business, Thurman’s Bike and Sport, for 37 years.
The business has had three locations, the first being on Central Avenue, when it was called Nike and Bike. It is currently at its second South 11th Street location.
In addition to his work with the family business, Thurman served as treasurer with the River City Economic Development for nine years and held all positions possible during an eight year stint with the local chamber of commerce.
Thurman, who ran for the Otoe County Board in a previous election, losing to Ron Hauptman, hasn’t held a publicly elected office but his many years with non-elected community boards have equipped the long-time businessman for this opportunity.
“I definitely feel that I have more experience than the other people running for Commissioner 1,” he said.
Through his experience in economic development, Thurman said he worked with state representatives and the governor and took on big projects.
Enticing businesses to the area, Thurman said, needs to be a focus.
In the past, Thurman said board members have listened. They haven’t acted.
“I think we need to be a lot more aggressive in terms of getting some commitment and getting new jobs,” he said.
Outside of economic development, Thurman said he feels attention to the budget is key to the county’s success.
As a businessman, Thurman said he examines his budget every year and looks to cut expenses before any thought of increasing prices.
He feels the county should be able to do the same thing with its budget.
The current building for Thurman’s Bike and Sport points to Thurman’s innovation and his focus on using less energy and preserving resources.
The building utilizes geothermal for heating and cooling and was constructed using recycled lumber.
“I like to be conservative and re-use the things that we can re-use,” he said.
County road maintenance was another issue that Thurman talked about in his candidate interview.
Thurman said that, by their very nature, roads would always be an issue for the county.
“I actually run on many of the county roads in my district after work. During the year I see the damage done by the weather and, when culverts gets plugged, the road beds erode,” he said. “For good roads, I believe it’s a combination of having money set aside for repairs and good communication between the commissioner and land owners.”
Here’s a little bit more about the candidate.
Thurman is married to Carol Thurman, who is employed as a school psychologist with Nebraska City Public Schools.
The couple has two teenage daughters at Nebraska City High School, a senior, Aubrey, and a freshman, Aspen.
Outside of the political arena, Thurman has had a vested interest in youth sports.
He started the youth track program and provided the equipment for the tackle football program.
The youth track program was both a track and a mentoring program and the Community Foundation awarded Thurman the philanthropist of the year in 2011 for that program.
Thurman is also noteworthy for being named for the Outstanding Young Nebraskan award in 1996 due to his work with River City Economic Development and the local chamber. He was also a leading force in building the Steamboat Trace trail.
Propper maintenance of county roads and fiscal responsibility in carrying out that directive would be among the top priorities of Matt Watkins should he win his bid for a District 1 seat on the Otoe County Board of Commissioners.
Watkins, who has first hand knowledge of county road issues after having served as a county employee in the roads department from 2007 to 2013, will be among three Republicans on the primary ticket on May 15.
The top vote getter of those three candidates will advance to the primary in November to face Democratic candidate Robert Earll of Nebraska City.
Watkins said he feels that roads, particularly as it relates to safety, is a key issue right now.
“The county roads are getting pretty rough,” said Watkins. “I don’t feel like (the county is) maintaining the roads properly.”
While addressing roads, Watkins said the county board can save money. He was a member of the last county bridge crew, which was laid off.
He says that terminating the bridge crew never made sense to him. While Watkins would not necessarily be in favor of re-establishing the bridge crew, he feels that it’s safe to say that the county could do more of the work and thus save money. He would still be in favor of contracting out larger projects.
Smaller jobs can and should be achieved by the county employees, he said.
“The county has the equipment and the man power to do that kind of stuff. I don’t know why we’re not doing it.”
Outside of roads, Watkins noted budget stewardship as another key issue in this election.
“I am not for part time elected officials getting pay raises,” he said, adding the he feels the county commissioners’ salaries are too high.
Watkins was clear in saying that he feels full time elected officials, the sheriff, clerk, assessor and others should be in line for pay raises.
In talking about his platform, Watkins also said that the county should keep a focus on agriculture.
“Most of Otoe County is farm ground,” Watkins said. “We have to make sure the farmers have access to their fields. And we need to make sure they can get to and from the elevators at harvest time.”
Here’s a little bit more about the candidate himself.
Originally from Sheldon, Iowa, Watkins moved to Nebraska City at the age of five and identifies as a native. He is a graduate of Nebraska City High School and is a Marine Corps Veteran.
He is married to Victoria Watkins and the couple have five children who attend Lourdes Central Catholic.
The kids are Brittni, age 18; Cristian, 16; Connor, 14; Joss, 11; and Braedon, 10.
At current, Watkins is preparing himself for a new career. Shoulder surgeries forced Watkins away from a job like the one he had with the county.
A full time student at Southeast Community College, Watkins is pursuing a degree in information technology.
Although the information technology field is one that has nationwide demand, Watkins said he has no plans to leave the Nebraska City area to pursue a job lead.
He says he wouldn’t want to take his kids out of their familiar school setting and notes that he’s invested in helping with the youth soccer program, something he feels it would be hard for him to give up.
“I am going to be here for quite a few years,” he said. “That plan hasn’t changed.”
Cari Stovall Lee
A desire to serve the community was the driving force for Cari Stovall Lee to enter the race for the District 1 seat of the Otoe County Commissioners in the 2018 election cycle.
Stovall Lee is one of three Republican candidates on the May 15 primary ballot.
The top vote getter from the primary will advance to the general election in November and take on Democratic candidate Robert Earll of Nebraska City.
Stovall Lee, a Nebraska City native and graduate of Nebraska City High School, has been active in the business community for many years and said she was seeking a way to get even more involved with the community.
“I was ready for a new challenge and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity,” she said. “I want to be a part of the community and I know this can help me get going.
“I am head first, feet first—however you want to look at it.”
The challenge of county government is one that Stovall Lee plans to meet with the information she has collected over the years of living in Nebraska City.
“I have always worked in Nebraska City so I have experience in customer service and working with the public,” she said. “I like to listen to people’s concerns and help them to get issues resolved.”
Being on the county board will give Stovall Lee a chance to address concerns directly, but she said she doesn’t see herself as being a lone advocate. She sees herself joining a team in county government.
“I want to be part of a team that makes a difference,” she said.
Dedication and commitment are two qualities that Stovall Lee hopes to bring to the board to enhance the county government team.
In terms of platforms, Stovall Lee said she doesn’t necessarily have a priority list of agenda items. She just knows there’s work to be done in all areas of county government.
Two areas that came immediately to mind for Stovall Lee were economic development and roads.
Making progress means creating more employment opportunities for residents.
“I know our community needs more businesses in order to help create more jobs,” she said.
Looking at the county roads, Stovall Lee said she knows that Otoe County spends a lot of money in this area in an effort to keep the roads in the best condition possible.
Despite that effort, some items go unaddressed.
“I know some get overlooked,” she said.
Going forward, Stovall Lee said she looks forward to helping the county seek better resolutions for road problems and to seek the necessary supplies and equipment for that pursuit.
Here’s a little bit more about the candidate.
Stovall Lee is a graduate of the Lincoln School of Commerce and was a manager of Bass and Van Heusen for 17 years.
Among her current work pursuits, Stovall Lee serves as a paraeducator at Nebraska City Public Schools and is the caretaker for Bob Walters.
Stovall Lee and her husband of 23 years, Kyle, have two sons, both of whom are graduates of Nebraska City High School. One of her sons resides in Nebraska City with the other residing in Lincoln.
Kyle has been employed at American Meter for the last 26 years.