Printed on: April 22, 2014

Butte County Commissioner faces challenges from two

By BRYAN CLARK
bclark@postregister.com

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Post Register will preview contested races for countywide offices within its coverage area prior to the May 20 primary.

Incumbent Butte County Commissioner Kent Cummins faces primary challenges from two political newcomers, Rose Bernal and Charlotte Robertson, next month.

No Democrat is running for the two-year District 2 seat, meaning the winner of the primary will take office in 2015.

Cummins, a grocery store owner and self-described "ultra-conservative" who took office six years ago, said he will work to prevent waste of taxpayer dollars. Bernal, also a store owner and board member for two economic development organizations, said she would prioritize economic growth and business creation. Robertson, who owns a horse training stable, said she would emphasize the interests of long-time residents.

All three candidates are from Arco.

"I've paid property taxes in Butte County for over 50 years, so I think I know what it means for taxpayers to take the sweat from their brow to pay taxes," Cummins said. "There are too many people who want to spend taxpayers' money for frivolous things."

Cummins said the county's money is being wasted by the Arco-Butte County Business Incubation Center on some projects. He said the economic development organization is giving money to businesses that are too long-established to warrant government support, and that helping to underwrite new businesses can create competition for existing businesses.

"It doesn't make sense, and we are spending taxpayers' hard-earned money to incubate businesses that don't need to be incubated," he said.

But Bernal, who serves on the board of the Business Incubation Center as well as the Lost Rivers Economic Development Board, said economic development is the key to Butte County's future, which is threatened by economic stagnation.

"I can see a steady decline," she said. "We are losing people; we are losing businesses; and it worries me greatly."

"If we wait much longer it is definitely going to get worse, and we may get to a point where we can't bounce back."

Bernal said the level of service at county schools and the Lost Rivers Medical Center has been hurt by a shrinking tax base.

"I think if we had someone in the commissioner's office who felt as strongly about economic development as I do it would help a lot," she said.

Bernal thinks she could leverage being elected commissioner into a position on the board of the the Regional Development Alliance, a nonprofit specializing in business investment that receives support from Idaho National Laboratory, to direct funds toward Butte County.

"The majority of their money never sees Butte County, even though Butte County is the most impacted (by INL)," she said.

Robertson said the county needs "new people," but she worries their views are given inordinate weight.

"The new people move in here and they want to make all these changes and make things different," she said. "I think sometimes the people who have lived out here their whole lives get overlooked."

Robertson, 37, said she could bring a fresh perspective to county government.

"I'm young, so I can have a voice for the younger generation," she said. "I have lived here my whole life, so I know the people of the older generation also."

Robertson said she favors growth, but the direction of growth should reflect the interests of the county's long-time residents.

Rose Bernal

Age: 32

Marital status: Married

Schooling: Vallivue High School

Occupation: Owner, Bargain Barn, Arco

Years in county: 15

Kent Cummins

Age: 67

Marital status: Married

Schooling: Butte High School

Occupation: Owner, A&A Market, Arco

Years in county: 63

Charlotte Robertson

Age: 37

Marital status: Married

Schooling: Associate degree, medical assistant, College of Southern Idaho

Occupation: Owner, Robertson Training Stables, Arco

Years in county: 34

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Catch up on the Post Register's already published May 20 election preview stories.

Saturday, "Thompson faces appraiser in Fremont," tinyurl.com/Fremont-assessor

Saturday, "Baxter faces primary challenge in Fremont," tinyurl.com/Fremont-commish1

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Wednesday, "Two newcomers seek Bingham clerk position," tinyurl.com/BinghamClerk

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April 13, "Hancey facing challenge from Nate," tinyurl.com/HanceyNate

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April 10, "Two-year Jefferson Commission seat up for grabs," tinyurl.com/Jefferson2

April 10, "Secretary of State race gets crowded," tinyurl.com/CrowdedRace

April 9, "Three vie for Jefferson Commission seat," tinyurl.com/JeffComm3

April 9, "Ysura reflects on years of service," tinyurl.com/YsuraReflects

April 8, "Three in GOP end campaigns before primary," tinyurl.com/EndCampaigns

April 3, "Candidates vie for district judge positions," tinyurl.com/DistrictJudges