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Commission candidates square off in Dayton

Karen Woodmansee
Nevada Appeal

The two candidates for the Lyon County Commission District I seat presented sharp contrasts with one another thanks to some pointed questions from Dayton residents.

At a candidates’ forum on Wednesday hosted by the Dayton Regional Advisory Council at its regular meeting, Lyon County Planning Commissioner Chuck Roberts of Mound House contrasted himself with his opponent, former Lyon County Manager Donna Kristaponis in response to a resident’s question. The two are running for the seat held by Bob Milz, who is retiring.

“I’m an ‘ask’ person, and I think she has this vast knowledge and I think she’s a ‘tell’ person,” he said. “I think she thinks her way is the good way. But I think we have to ask permission a little more often than just telling people what to do.”

Kristaponis defended herself by explaining that being on a commission that sets policy is different than being an administrator following the instructions of a board. A board whose responsibility it is to set policy needs to ask questions before taking action, while the county manager must implement the decisions that board members makes.

Roberts started off the commissioners’ segment of the forum by describing himself as a businessman for 25 years who competes with China, and who has learned to “squeeze a dollar fifty out of a dollar.”

He has been on boards for about a decade, he said, and is in his second term on the planning commission after serving a stretch on the Mound House Regional Advisory Board.

He said he believed the county commission’s duties ar to serve as sort of a corporate board.

“They are the board of directors of the corporation of Lyon County,” he said.

He said he thought the county could find more ways to cut costs.

“I don’t think we’ve squeezed everything,” he said.

One of Roberts’ goals was to improve communication between the commission and residents.

“The contact between commissioners and citizens is less,” he said. “The perception of integrity is down and we have to be a little more open.”

He said he wanted to educate people about how county government works and open communication levels.

“I’m not your enemy and you’re not mine,” he said.

He supported moving some commission meetings to Dayton and other areas outside the county seat of Yerington, and holding them in the evening when more residents could attend.

Kristaponis, who was fired by the commission in February 2007, ostensibly for not communicating with the board sufficiently and not living in Yerington, told the audience she has been a planner most of her life and was involved in many of the issues the county commission is still struggling with, such as the jail, the Dayton bridge and Highway 50 corridor.

She said she would like to see residents more involved in the planning process, in particular the Highway 50 issues, because Lyon County needed an alternative route.

“If there’s an accident on Highway 50, you are stuck for hours,” she said.

She criticized the county commission for not doing zero-based budgeting and not funding planning.

“How do we face the future if we don’t plan?” she asked.

She said she would focus on economic development, improve the county’s Web site and provide better representation for Dayton.

The one point of agreement between Kristaponis and Roberts was that the commission should hold more meetings outside of Yerington.

Kristaponis was challenged by resident and former DRAC member Barbara Peck.

“Back in the past when you were manager and some of the things you were involved in made me think you weren’t concerned about public concerns but were concerned as a county,” Peck said.

She gave examples that included the failure to improve the median strips on Dayton Valley Road after having trees and bushes removed from them.

Kristaponis responded by saying as an appointed person she had to carry out orders by the commissioners.

“There were lots of things I was asked to do that I didn’t agree with personally,” she said. “If the commission tells me to do things and later claims they didn’t tell me, what do you want me to say?”

She said it would have been unprofessional at the time for her to contradict the commission she worked for.

She said there was a plan to improve the medians, but she didn’t know why it was never implemented.

Sherry Parsons, who is seeking retiring Commissioner LeRoy Goodman’s District IV seat representing the Fernley area, warned Dayton residents about becoming a town, saying the wrong people sometimes get elected.

She gave as an example the Fernley City Council, which, she said, didn’t have any business people on it and now city is $96 million in the red.

She listed her qualifications as being a small business co-owner and manager of Don Parson’s Construction. She has represented builder’s groups and has written grants.

One of Parsons’ goals if elected is she would like to try and get more citizens involved in the master planning process.

She is running against Fernley City Councilman Joe Mortensen, who did not appear at the forum.

Parsons is a UNR graduate and taught at the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation, where she wrote grants to help the tribe get a school building after trying to learn in an assortment of trailers.

– Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or call 881-7351.