Commissioner takes oath of office following candidate interview process

YORK – Andrew Bowman took the oath of office, to be the newest York County Commissioner, in the York County Courtroom Thursday morning, following the Wednesday night interview session during which he and six other candidates answered questions about their intentions to apply for the District 3 seat.

They were interviewed by York County Attorney Gary Olson, York County Treasurer Megan Thomas and York County Clerk Kelly Turner. The panel of three also made the final decision as to whom will fulfill the District 3 four-year term.

The position was vacated by the death of Commissioner Stan Boehr. At the beginning of the interview session, Olson said it was “sad, we have to have this moment. Stan (Boehr) was always warm, prepared and it’s a great loss for York County. He will be missed.”

Olson asked for a moment of silence to remember Boehr.

“I also want to applaud the seven candidates for their willingness to serve,” Olson said.

The names of the candidates – Bowman, Andrew Dunkley, Steve Warren, Brian Bedient, Shannon Graves, Jason Balaban and John Prusia – were placed in a container and drawn at random, to determine the order in which they would be interviewed.

First up was Dunkley who talked about his work with the Department of Agriculture and Farm Bureau and his family’s decision to live in rural York County. “I’m not originally from York County and I’m still new here, but I feel I could bring a lot with my skillset. Since moving to Bradshaw, I have served on village committees.” He said through his work on the state level, he’s worked with individuals from the Nebraska Association of County Officials and the League of Municipalities. “I like to work as part of a team. I’m politically conservative but I move forward with my faith. I’m blessed with a good amount of experience, I’m able to help in a number of ways and I’m able to form relationships.” Olson asked what he saw as issues facing the county. “I know there have been a lot of discussion about solar projects and protecting election security. These are tough subjects and I’ve dealt with tough subjects my whole career. I have no axe to grind, I’m not representing myself but rather the Third District.”

Warren was second in the interview process. He noted how he ran for election for this very position in 2022 and was the second highest vote-getter. “Former county board members told me to run, as I have lived in York County my entire life. I know the people, the roads – I’ve crossed every road in District 3. York County has done a great job on the roads. I believe I can provide the people with good representation. I have served on the Bradshaw Village Board, I’m a member of the Methodist Church where I’ve held about every office. I have firsthand knowledge of the roads, bridges and land conditions. I want to be a good representative for York County. We need to continue to work as a board and keep good county employees. I think York County has been very productive and we need to keep moving forward. I believe some security measures need to be made at the courthouse and Id like to see budget costs stay the same while I also realize the costs of everything have been going up. Law enforcement in York County has been very good and I realize there are mandates, but if we can just try to work with them the best we can. Stan was a good friend of mine, his death has been hard, I just want to help the board move forward. I know there has been a lot going on with solar projects and I have relations on both sides of the fence. And I want to work with the maintainer operators at the roads department.” When it comes to conflict, he said, “I try to listen to both sides of the story and agree with the majority.”

Graves talked about her living in the Arborville Township, on a farm homesteaded by her husband’s ancestors who were founding members of York County. She also noted their fight against “a pipeline of poison,” (also known as the Keystone XL Pipeline) and the amount of time she’d spent in that effort before the county board for many years. “I believe in landowners’ rights. In 2013, as the Good Life Alliance, we put together pipeline zoning regulations weren’t adopted by the county board at that time. I know the difference between tax cuts and tax shifts. And I’d also like to see some evening meetings of the county board each year. And I’ve spent y life in the service industry; I listen to more than just the words.” I also feel I could give a different perspective, as women are 50% of our populations and our voices need to be heard.”

Bowman talked about being a lifelong resident of York County, a father of five and being proud how he and his wife farm together. He talked about having a long career with Aurora Co-op and recently changing his occupational path in order to take over his family’s farm. “This change allows me to to serve my community, honor my father’s memory (who recently passed away) and work for the common good of our county.” He is a member of the local 4-H Council, is a member of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church and he helps coach his kids’ ball teams. In his long career with Aurora Cooperative and a key management position, he at one point was a manager of 96 employees and worked with budgets, among many other aspects of the cooperative arena. “The biggest thing I can bring to the county board is change, and helping to administer change,” Bowman said, while introducing himself to the panel. “Change, which is active and positive. I also feel I bring a strong background to this role.” He said he was concerned about specific issues that have been put on hold since Boehr’s death (including a public hearing for solar zoning), “which need to be addressed immediately. “My skills would come from understanding all the sides of the argument,” Bowman said, “by doing the research and making the best decisions on behalf of the constituents. My intent is to inform and discuss.”

Bedient talked about being “from the Arborville territory” and how he recently retired from working for the York County Transportation office. “I tried to make all my passengers feel appreciated. My retirement has opened up my calendar. My great-grandparents settled here in the 1880s and I understand the proud history of agriculture in York County. Critical to York County’s success are our small towns and agriculture. I have experience in managing people and I want to be a strong voice for York County. I want to represent District 3, the people who live in my corner of the county who feel unrepresented and not heard. I would want to talk to them and try to be a better representative for the entire district.”

Balaban spoke of how he’s been a resident of York County for more than 45 years, living in the Lushton area. He also spent 14 years on the Lushton Village Board, with some of those years as chairman. “Regarding the roads in Lushton, I have experience with working with the county roads department and the road supervisors including Harvey Keim. I’m an electrician specializing in ag and commercial work, so I do a lot of work in York County. I know a lot of farmers and I know the roads.” He said he could be very available to serve, if chosen. I understand that you can’t make everyone happy but it’s best to keep your cool and hear everyone out, to decide what’s benefits the most people possible.”

Prusia talked about his career in York County, with the York County Sheriff’s Department since 1999 and then becoming the police chief in Henderson. “I ran when Stan (Boehr) ran in 2022, I have been trying to come to and watch as many county board meetings as possible. I want to educate myself on the solar projects and I understand conflicts and how to resolve them.” When asked why he would be the best candidate, he said, “I don’t know that I am, honestly. But I’m honest, trustworthy and I’m not afraid to ask questions.”

The panel thanked everyone for their candidacies and took a vote, with Bowman receiving the consensus.

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