When Mike Beneke, 57, Lincolnville, filed for commission, the outspoken advocate for better roads fulfilled a promise.
“It’s what I vowed a year ago after helping to orchestrate the lake hall meeting with more than 300 angry county patrons,” he said.
Beneke and his wife, Cindy, have three grown children, and they have a cattle farming operation. He worked as a section operator for the road and bridge department for four years.
While he hasn’t held public office, experience dealing with seven agencies that regulate his business would apply to his work as commissioner, he said.
Beneke expressed concern for alleviating courthouse structural stresses caused by storing documents in its attic, but his top priority would be roads.
Cost effectiveness is the rule Beneke would apply to issues from what roads to rebuild to how to haul and distribute gravel. Harder rock on high-traffic roads would cost more but last longer, he said. Cutting trees that shade gravel and dirt roads would help them to dry faster after rain and snow, resulting in less road bed and gravel deterioration.
“I can’t fix it in four weeks,” Beneke said. “I’ve got four years to dedicate to fix the road system and spend the money more wisely. Can we do more with less?”
Beneke said he inspected the erosion along 190th road and believes there’s a simple solution using backfill and interlocking sheeting that would keep the road open for minimal cost.
An effective county administrator could save his salary and that much more, Beneke said. Putting aside what he called “the two-on-one tag team that’s been going along so long” would make the commission more effective, he said.
Employee pay should reflect that of surrounding counties, Beneke said, and raises should be based on performance so that employees know “they’re earning their keep for what we’re paying them.”
Retaining young adults who leave the county after high school and don’t return has implications for improving both economic development and EMS services, Beneke said.
“We’re not keeping enough of the young people and inspiring them to be an EMT,” he said.
Beneke wants to see what the commission’s economic development committee recommends for recruiting out-of-county businesses, but developing home-grown business is essential, he believes.
“That would be the focus, the mom and pop or the young entrepreneur businesses,” he said. “That’s probably the most we can hope for. At some point we have to have the next generation take it.”
Beneke said commissioners need to do better in spending wisely before approaching voters with any proposal for tax increases, and he doesn’t want to drain county reserves.
Projects such as a new transfer station could be financed by a special sales tax once the jail is paid off, he said.
“If you put something in front of the voters that makes sense, is practical, that’s cost effective over the next 50 years, I don’t know why they wouldn’t support it,” he said.
Beneke said he had some concern about having the time to do the job with the extra hours outside of meetings commissioners should be putting in.
“It’s more than showing up for four hours a week,” he said. “From the start I was wondering if I might need an assistant. If somebody wants to come to my house and climb in a feed truck to discuss something with me, that’s when I’m going to have time. I will have to make time.”