Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Allen Bowker and Frank Smith are running for the District 1 Roosevelt County Commission seat currently held by Jim Shanks, who is not running for reelection. The district covers the eastern part of the county.
Both Bowker and Smith responded to a questionnaire.
Why did you declare yourself a candidate for commissioner?
Bowker: I have thought about this for six years and have had a lot of encouragement by people in this area to run for District 1 county commissioner. The people in this district believe, as I do, that we would be well served by someone who has seen first hand the changes taking place due to the new influx of people in District 1.
Smith: I declared myself a candidate for commissioner after being asked by many of our voters. The voters know that I stay in contact with my area and know many of the issues that are handled by the commissioner office because I attended many of our local meetings, many of them across the Hi-Line and have knowledge of many state, tribal and federal laws that we have to follow. I was co-signer to the bill to turn the secondary roads over to the state when we could no longer afford to maintain them. I also helped negotiate the agreement between the state, tribes and counties so the tribes could repair or rebuild roads on reservations that were a problem for traffic and made it possible for tribal I.R.R. programs to rebuild a section of road north of Poplar that had a high accident rate on it, saving the county a little over $1 million.
What do you hope to accomplish on the commission?
Bowker: I hope to represent and communicate to the constituents of District 1. I plan to represent not only with my voice but implement a plan to get all of our voices heard, not only at the county level but at the state level as well. I have a plan that can be viewed on my website, available this summer, when I start campaigning full time. Watch The Searchlight and watch for me on foot knocking on doors all over District 1.
Smith: I will strive to develop more economics and foster smooth development of our area as industry moves west and south but still stay active on our road problems as most of them are not built to handle the heavy loads that is currently happening.
What do you see as being the major issues facing the county?
Bowker: I see the major issues as the roads, law enforcement and housing.
Smith: One of the major issues facing the counties is money. Because of better fuel mileage on our cars and the fuel tax refunded the following year we are always working a year behind. I have tried to get the refunds more like North Dakota’s where they could use general funds to repair roads or any intersections and help schools without going through the legislation process.
What areas do you feel are the most in need of improvement? How would you address those areas?
Bowker: The road conditions are probably the biggest issue I have heard about. Money needs to be allocated proportionally to accomplish this, not only for infrastructure improvements but wages for those involved.
Smith: Our roads are in need of improving. We also need to seek more law enforcement, both state and county. That’s why I volunteered on the state highway safety committee when they asked me and I am glad I did because under my tenure on the committee we were able to get another officer in our area and helped to build our highways to specifications to handle the heavier trucks that are on them now.
What areas do you feel have the most and least needs for spending?
Bowker: At this time, roads would be at the top of the list as needing the most funding. As far as the least needs, you have to look at everything on a case by case basis and by hearing both sides of every story because the fact is, there is only so much money to go around.
Smith: I feel all of our needs are important. That’s why I endorse a good planning board.
If any programs need to be cut in the future due to a budget shortfall, what would you cut first, second and third?
Bowker: The county commissioners salaries should be cut first. I would not ask anyone to do anything that I would not do myself. Everything else would be a case by case basis by hearing both sides of the story.
Smith: At this time I don’t want to comment on possible cuts in programs until I take a good look at our finance records and have the input from the public because all of the programs got where they are for a reason.
Do you feel county staffing levels are adequate? Too high? Too low?
Bowker: The road department, at least in District 1, is too low. For the rest of the staffing levels, you can’t possibly know without studying it in depth.
Smith: At this time staffing looks adequate except for a shortage in roads as we have to be careful because a lot of the employees in the county are state employees mandated by state, federal or elected by the public and the commissioners have very little say over them.
Do you have any relatives employed by the county? If so, how many and who?
Bowker: No, not at this time. I do have a son who may be working as a temporary summer employee with the road department. (Take it easy on him!)
Smith: To my knowledge I have no family or relatives working for the county.