Durham resident and soon-to-be-retired Tampa banker Kent Becker is the choice of Republican electors in the county’s 1st District to fill the county commission position soon to be vacated by Lori Lalouette.
Jared Jost and Craig Dodd, both of Hillsboro, also were nominated at Thursday’s district Republican meeting at the Scout House in Hillsboro. Becker won by garnering 9 out of a possible 17 votes. Jost received 5 votes, and Dodd, 3.
“I am honored to be able to serve,” Becker said. “I’m here to listen and learn. I want to be able to serve the district to the best of my abilities.”
Hillsboro State Bank president Jessie Wiebe said when nominating Becker that this wasn’t the first time he had been asked to run for commissioner.
“In a past election when the position was open, Kent was asked by many to consider running,” she said. “At that time he did not feel he had the time to devote and commit.”
But things have changed now that the Tampa State Bank senior vice president has decided to retire at the end of February.
“It’s been something I’ve been thinking about for the last few years, and time is now going to be a little more available,” Becker said.
Listening to constituents was at the top of Becker’s list of things to do when he takes over for Lalouette in late March.
“It’ll be an open door policy because I want to address the concerns they have and try to use common sense approaches to things,” he said. “Sometimes we overcomplicate things. Sometimes a lot of questions are black and white and we try to make them something they aren’t.”
Becker expressed enthusiastic support for the county’s economic development task force and its efforts to create a countywide economic development corporation.
“It’s going to be a real kick start for the economy of our county,” he said. “We have a lot to offer. I would like to be a sounding board to them, but there’s a lot of experience on that board. I’m pretty confident that they’re going to have a pretty good handle on things, and their communication channel with the commission will be open.”
Becker said he wants to take a systematic look at road improvements.
“Infrastructure in this county is a recurring theme. We have a lot of miles of roads, we have a lot of bridges,” he said. “It’s going to take some time to work through that, but we have to keep some of these roads in a condition where farmers can use them, because that’s the basis of our economy,” he said.
In answer to a question posed to candidates about the future of ambulance service in the western part of the county, Becker diverged from the position held by both Dodd and Jost, who wanted to preserve stations in both Marion and Hillsboro.
While he would maintain existing distribution of ambulances for the time being, Becker said he was open to studying the possibility of having a centralized location supported by paid EMS personnel.
County commissioners Randy Dallke and Dianne Novak were among more than 20 observers who attended.
Becker, Tampa State Bank senior vice-president, has served on Durham city council, USD 410 board of education, and county planning zoning commission.
Becker’s name will be forwarded to Gov. Sam Brownback, who has the responsibility of officially appointing him to the position.