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State of the County
State of the County Address
Rick Sanders
Chair - Story County Board of Supervisors

If you asked me to use one word to describe 2016, I would say “transformative” both in terms of our triumphs but also in terms of our sorrows.

When 2016 started, the Board included Wayne Clinton, Paul Toot, and myself. It was our sixth year together and we thought we had a good handle on the challenges we faced, including:

  • maintaining a balanced, responsible budget with ever increasing needs and costs;
  • developing Story County’s first comprehensive, long-range plan;
  • investing in the water quality and public areas;
  • continuing to fully assist our smallest communities;
  • increasing our support ASSET;
  • maintaining and enhancing our transportation system;
  • supporting public safety and our justice system;
  • and much more.

What really unfolded in 2016 was, transformative.

Early in 2016, and for the fourth year in a row, Story County adopted a balanced budget, putting us in as strong a fiscal position as Story County has ever enjoyed. In fact, on a per-captia basis, Story County is the lowest taxing and spending county in all of Iowa. We accomplished that while increasing funding for Secondary Roads and ASSET; planning for future needs; completing necessary maintenance projects and continuing to invest in our communities.

We moved into spring with great optimism for all the possibilities that the year ahead held… that all changed when our friend and partner Supervisor Paul D. Toot passed away suddenly on May 6. Paul served the citizens of Story County for over 35 years, first as a Deputy Sheriff, and then as a twice elected member of the Board of Supervisors. Our staff’s response and their continued exemplary service through the long, sad days that followed Paul’s tragic passing cemented my firm belief that Story County is an incredible place to live and work.  As Auditor Lucy Martin stated, as she, Treasurer Renee Twedt, and Recorder Stacie Herridge considered filling Paul’s vacancy, “no one can ever fill Paul’s shoes”, but, as provided by Iowa Code, the three of them appointed Marty Chitty to fill his seat.

We mourned…but we kept working.  In fact, in June at Marty’s first meeting as a Supervisor, we adopted the Cornerstone to Capstone Comprehensive Plan (which we call the C2C Plan), which charts a path for the next 20 years. In fact, the County and our staff were recognized by the American Planning Association for the development of the C2C.

Additionally, the Board of Supervisors adopted our first Continuity of Operations/Continuity of Government (COOP/COG) in September, which safeguards essential functions in the event of a disaster, putting Story County ahead of most others in this regard, and now, at the request of the Iowa Association of Counties, our staff is helping develop a toolkit for other Iowa counties to develop their own COOP/COG.

Summer turned to fall and Story County leadership transformed again in September when longtime County Attorney Stephen Holmes retired, and we appointed then First Assistant County Attorney Jessica Reynolds to fill that role.  Jess is doing, and will do, a great job for the people of Story County.

Finally, in December, we celebrated Wayne Clinton’s retirement from Story County.  Wayne had served 16 years as a Board member, and prior to that, over 40 years as a teacher and coach here in Ames.  Wayne built a legacy of leadership, public service, and unending dedication both locally as well as his tireless representation of Story County all over the State and Country.

And, now as we move into 2017, Lauris Olson joins the Board of Supervisors. During her swearing-in ceremony, I considered the leadership changes in the County since 2010.  At that time, the collective years of service of all eight of our elected officials totaled over 122 years. As of January 3rd, we now have 42 combined years of service among the eight of us, and Sherriff Paul Fitzgerald accounts for 24 of those.  

I am happy to report that our first three weeks as a new Board have gone really well.  Marty and Lauris are both tremendously hard workers.  Both are dedicated to public service. The three of us are absolutely committed to working together to set a positive direction, solve problems and maintain services but make no mistake, with new leadership comes a new voice and new priorities. This Board continues to develop that voice and those priorities

Without question, 2017 offers challenges. We are almost through the budget work sessions and the it is taking shape nicely, but it continues to be extremely challenging to balance needs, expectations and wishes with the reality that taxation is truly a taking of dollars from our citizens. Additional challenges including water quality, transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, workforce development and mental health funding within this State mandated redesign. We will continue to work on all of those and everything else that may come our way in 2017.

As I have mentioned 2016 was transformative.  That transformation offers some exciting possibilities and sets the stage for a powerful new year as we jump head first into 2017.