Three-Way Race for Presiding Commissioner

By Tim Schmidt, Record Editor
Posted 11/7/19

Improving county roads remains a top priority for the three candidates for Warren County presiding commissioner, and all three point out the need to pave the more traveled roadways. Incumbent Arden …

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Three-Way Race for Presiding Commissioner


Improving county roads remains a top priority for the three candidates for Warren County presiding commissioner, and all three point out the need to pave the more traveled roadways.

Incumbent Arden Engelage is being opposed by former Southern District Commissioner Randy Lewis and political newcomer Tom Hoeft. All three candidates are Republicans. 

The winner will be unopposed in the November general election and will serve a four-year term.

The county began receiving sales tax revenue July 1 previously approved by voters to be used for road maintenance, including paving more roadways. Engelage said the county commission has been working to identify roads that could be upgraded.

Engelage, a self-employed farmer, has served as a commissioner since 1996. He spent his first 10 years representing the Southern District before winning his first term as presiding commissioner in 2006.

Some of the progress has been slowed somewhat by a few property owners who have been reluctant to grant easements. 

“We’re moving with the blacktopping projects,” Engelage said. “That is something we’re working on. We’re trying to get roads prepped and roads ready for this year. We’re still coordinating everything.”

Lewis, meanwhile, was appointed to fill Engelage’s vacancy. He lost a re-election bid in 2008 to Hubie Kluesner. He is employed as a land surveyor at Lewis-Bade Inc., a surveying and engineering company in Warrenton.

He wants to see the county road policy changed to where a 50-foot width is allowed rather than the current 60 feet.

“I want a master plan for county roads so residents know what roads will be paved,” Lewis said. “The most traveled should be paved first. We should not pave roads that go nowhere.” 

Hoeft has owned an excavation business for 15 years. Prior to that, he was a union carpenter for 10 years. This is his first time running for public office.

“I would like to spend money to get our roads going, to pave our roads,” Hoeft said. “We’re wasting money with the (administration) building. You put a road in, everybody gets use out of that.”

One issue that is being disputed among the candidates is the need for a new county administration building. 

The county last year purchased land on South Highway 47 at Mockingbird Lane to build a new facility to house all non-court related offices. The commission has $6 million budgeted for the project and expects to go out for bids next month and complete the project late next year.

By the time the swearing-in ceremony is held the first week of January, construction should have already begun.

Both Lewis and Hoeft oppose the project and said it’s needs to be delayed.

Lewis, who during his time on the commission preferred a new building be located in downtown Warrenton, said the project needs to be delayed.

“We can’t take care of the building we have now,” he stated. “We have no reason to be building a new administration building. It’s quite obvious in the county people don’t want this. The commissioners should realize that.”

Hoeft would like to see other alternatives considered, such as possibly buying an existing building.

“There isn’t a real need,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind looking at some different options.”

Engelage, meanwhile, continues to stress that the county has been saving funds over the years in preparing for the project. He said a misconception that has been misrepresented to the public is the capital improvement funds can be used in the general fund or elsewhere. Engelage remarked that simply is not true.

“It’s not something we’re pushing for, but it’s a need,” Engelage said. “We have the money. Now is the time to build.”

During his time serving the county, Engelage said he has helped the county become debt free by paying off the money owed for constructing the current courthouse. He also was involved in opening the recycling center, expanding the health department and getting grant money to get four bridges constructed at low-water crossings.

Engelage said one of his best traits is listening to concerns from throughout the county.

“We work for the people,” he said. “We need to help with what problems they have.”

Lewis, in his time on the commission, said he helped spearhead bringing sewer service to Dutzow and was working on getting an overpass at Interstate 70 and Stracks Church Road.

He also wants to see the county more involved in economic development and improve the communication with the municipalities.

“I had a good dialogue with the three major municipalities in the county,” Lewis said. “That dialogue is not there anymore. We must work together, have a good relationship.