Commissioner candidates take questions at Columbus forum held last Saturday

Thursday, May 5, 2022
Commissioner candidates take questions at Columbus forum held last Saturday

Stillwater County Commissioner candidates Jeff Ruffatto and Ron Van Hoosear fielded questions at the first official forum held last Saturday night at the fairgrounds and held by the Stillwater Republican Central Committee.

Approximately 80 people attended the event, which was moderated by David Howard and consisted of prepared questions drawn randomly from a bowl, as well as audience and Zoom audience questions.

Both candidates gave a brief background of themselves before the questions began. The following are some of those questions with the each candidate’s answers:

QUESTION: WHAT IS YOUR OPINION OF GROWTH IN STILLWATER COUNTY?

Both candidates said that growth is inevitable and can be good. RUFFATTO said there is also a balance that needs to be struck as it ties in with zoning, public safety issues and use of county resources. VAN HOOSEAR said managing growth is vital, also mentioning county zoning. VAN HOOSEAR also spoke about being proactive instead of reactive and that he would like to see empty stores filled up.

QUESTION: HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE LAW & JUSTICE BUILDING DELAY?

Both candidates answered this similarly, as both regularly attend the FCIP meetings and agree with the decision to move forward on the new fairgrounds first. VAN HOOSEAR also said the “county is a little strapped” to try and build the Law & Justice building now. RUFFATTO added, “the money is there” for the fairgrounds.

QUESTION: SHOULD RECENT COUNTYWIDE ZONING DECISIONS BEEN IMPLEMENTED WITHOUT VOTER INPUT?

Again, both candidates said the zoning being referred if fairly minimal and does not impact single-family properties. RUFFATTO said the commission gave the public opportunity to give input, based on what he has seen. VAN HOOSEAR said he would have liked to have seen more public comment, but the public “tends not to engage.” VAN HOOSEAR also said he does think voter input should be sought for such issues as that is a role of elected leadership.

QUESTION: WHAT ARE THREE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A COUNTY COMMISSIONER?

VAN HOOSEAR: Making decisions (budget, departmental, etc.), maintaining communication with citizens and building relationships with everyone.

RUFFATTO: Being the chief executive authority in the county, maintaining/preserving county resources and making sure resources are provided. Ruffatto noted that roads are very important to him.

QUESTION: WHAT PERCENTAGE OF TAXPAYER SUPPORT WOULD YOU NEED BEFORE COMMITTING MONEY TO EXPLORE SOMETHING?

RUFFATTO: Approximately 50 percent is what Ruffatto would look for, but also posed the question is that percentage based on the entire county or just the folks you talk to?

VAN HOOSEAR: The word Van Hoosear used was “consensus” – saying he would need to know that “a good number” of residents were in agreement, but he also added that “We’re never going to agree on everything. Never.”

QUESTION: ARE YOU ABLE AND WILLING TO WORK WITH YOUR CO-COMMISSIONERS FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTY AND PUT ASIDE PERSONAL DIFFERENCES?

VAN HOOSEAR: “It’s fundamental… there can’t be any back-stabbing… There has to be a united front.”

RUFFATTO: Pointing to his long work history in a variety of positions, Ruffatto said he can and would work as one. He also said that he knows the current two commissioners in office “And I can work with them.”

QUESTION: HOW HAVE YOU SERVED YOUR COMMUNITY SO FAR?

RUFFATTO: Ruffatto has a long history of service, having served on the hospital board, the Chamber of Commerce, music ministries in church, the citycounty planning board and the golf course board, to name some.

VAN HOOSEAR: Van Hoosear has become his neighborhood’s electrician — helping neighbors and ranchers with various needs and refusing to accept pay. “It’s the neighborly thing to do.”

QUESTION: HOW HAVE YOU PREPARED TO BE A COMMISSIONER?

RUFFATTO: Ruffatto has been attending a variety of county meetings and “talking to people as well.” He has also studied the county website.

VAN HOOSEAR: Van Hoosear has also been attending as many county meetings as he can. He has also spoken with every county department head (except one) and employee and has gone to all nine communities in the county.

•EDITOR’S NOTE: The next forum will be held on Friday, May 13, in Absarokee at 7 p.m. at the Cobblestone, hosted by the Absarokee Civic Club. Also check back in next week’s issue of the News for candidate profiles.