Cascade County Commission candidate questionnaire: Joshua Eli
Name: Joshua J. Eli
Age: 40 years old
Occupation: Hydraulic specialist
Party affiliation: Republican
Experience relevant to position sought: I have a background in multiple disciplines that have afforded me a well-rounded set of skills. I have worked in engineering, agriculture, manufacturing, construction and sales. I am able to communicate and cooperate with people from all walks of life. I grew up here in Cascade County and I feel personally vested in our future.
Campaign website/social media accounts, if applicable: Josh-eli.com (still under construction)
Q: Why are you running for county commissioner?
A: I am running for County Commissioner because I feel I have more to give to my community. I have a desire to guide my hometown and community to future prosperity that will inspire growth and give a reason for our youth to want to stick around. Cascade County has a lot to offer, but there is potential for us to be much better.
Q: What do you believe is the role of a county commissioner?
A: The primary role of a county commissioner is to listen. Commissioners are to represent the people of Cascade County on boards and governing bodies and to establish personnel policies. They are to govern and guide the operations of the County and departments and offices within the administrator’s span of control. They are responsible for holding public hearings for official county business; to consider applications for funding from community agencies, county departments and elected officials.
Q: What do you believe are the top three challenges facing Cascade County?
A: The biggest issue facing Cascade County right now is communication. A more open and effective line of communication between the county and its constituents would take care of the majority of the county’s issues. There needs to be a better way to explain decisions to the people in a manner they can understand.
The next big issue with the county is the lack of sufficient funds. There are many shortfalls within the current budget. There are never enough funds for roads, education or public works. You can only tax and levy the property owner’s so much to pay for all of this. I believe that we are past that point. We need to seriously look into cutting wasteful spending and unnecessary expenses.
My other top issue is the current state of our infrastructure, more specifically roads. I do not agree with the current process of deciding which roads receive maintenance while others are left to entirely deteriorate. There is currently a computer program designed to decide maintenance schedules. A computer cannot factor in common sense. I would look to re-establishing a board or panel to oversee the results of this program, and give them the authority to adjust it accordingly.
Q: If elected, what would be your initial priorities and how would you accomplish those goals?
A: My initial priority would be to push for changing the bi-monthly, Tuesday morning meetings from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. This would allow for more direct input from our active working constituents. With all of the various social media sites available, televising the meetings should not be a difficult task.
Q: If elected, how would you approach the decision making process on items before the commission?
A: I have three main criteria in a decision making process. Is it legal? Is it ethical? And is it right? After those three things are found to be in the positive, we need to decide if we can afford it. What is the risk versus reward ratio? Do the people even want it?
Q: How would you conduct public outreach on controversial matters before the county, or to promote a general understanding of the county’s public process?
A: I think this comes back around to moving public meeting times to a more conducive time frame where people are available to attend. With recorded meetings for review, our politically active constituents can stay up to speed on what was actually said, and not what was perceived. I believe by getting active with online forums (a modern day letter to the editor) the commissioners could keep the people up to speed.
Q: How would you approach working with the City of Great Falls staff and the City Commission to address broader community needs and goals?
A: The majority of the population resides within the city limits, the concerns of Great Falls are the concerns of the county. Cooperation between similar departments of the city and the county will lead to inherent cost savings if done properly. As a County Commissioner it would be imperative to attend and be very active with the City Commission.
Q: What do you believe is the role of the county commission in economic development?
A: Cascade County government’s role in economic development is huge. For new businesses looking to come into Cascade County, the county government is in charge of giving (or not giving) tax abatements and other incentives for them to move here. The impact these businesses have on the community can have profound implications on infrastructure and quality of life that the county is responsible for. We need to be more active in assisting our existing companies in growth and retention as well. In my opinion, it is worse to lose a local business than it is to miss an opportunity for bringing in a new one.
Q: What do you believe are the core services a county should provide to residents?
A: Roads (public works), protection (fire & law), health department (compliance), and zone-planning; these should be the core services. When the government gets involved into too many aspects of day to day life, bureaucracy inevitably breeds inefficiency.
Q: How would you approach the budget process to ensure the county is making the best use of taxpayer dollars?
A: I will go through each departments projected budget line-by-line. There are wants and then there are needs. If there is something that is questionable, I would speak with the department heads or their appointed representative for justification on the budgetary requests. We cannot spend what we do not have. Taking a loan for operating expenses should be an absolutely last resort.
Q: How would you work with the sheriff’s office to ensure public safety?
A: I am not a peace officer. Our elected-sheriff is responsible for identifying what equipment, resources, and personnel are needed to ensure public safety. They are also responsible for developing and justifying their budget for such things. I would work with our sheriff and his department to ensure they have the best resources that the county can afford. I will also help to try and identify where funds and resources might be better served elsewhere.
Q: What do you envision your working relationship with county staff would look like?
A: I am a very personable guy. I am fairly jovial and easy going. I do expect professionalism and efficiency while dealing with the public, but people should be able to have some fun while at work. While in supervisory positions in the past, I have come across as fairly stern when I am confronted with incompetence and flippant attitudes. I will hold our county staff accountable to perform their jobs well, just as I expect my constituents to hold me to the same standards.