County Commission candidates: Jim Larson
Name: James (Jim) Larson
Political affiliation: Republican
Experience: Current County Commissioners, six years
Q: Why are you running for county commissioner?
A: I am currently serving as Commissioner. I enjoy serving the citizens of Cascade County and feel there is still unfinished work to be done.
Q: What do you believe is the role of a County Commissioner?
A: A County Commissioner is really an ambassador for the County. To encourage others to enjoy the fruits of Cascade County, along with overseeing the many Departments that provide services to the citizens of our County.
Q: What do you believe are the top three challenges facing Cascade County?
A: Right now the first challenge is the COVID-19 Virus that has begun to increase in the amount of cases. The citizens are tired of masks and not being able to mingle at events like they normally do.
Keeping the County roads in good shape is always a work in progress and never enough money or time to repair them all.
Attracting new business to Cascade County is always something that is a challenge.
Q: If elected, what would be your initial priorities and how would you accomplish those goals?
A: I would like to complete the electronic payment system in the County Departments that handle money and also get Wi-Fi into the ExpoPark. In order to achieve these projects would need to find the funding and the right time to install the components needed for their functionality.
Q: If elected, how would you approach the decision making process on items before the Commission?
A: It takes at least two commissioners to make a decision of consequence and I see no use in changing that process.
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: The usual process is to post on the county website and if it is a public hearing then it is advertised in the Great Falls Tribune so the public can see there is a meeting. Since the COVID-19 has appeared our meeting have been “ZOOM” meetings. If it is a meeting with a large following the commission will have an evening meeting to accommodate the public, so they can attend the meeting. In the past, a number of ways have been tried, so folks can attend if they want to. The regular meeting time of 9:30 a.m. works best with normal agenda items and evening public meetings do work for contested type meetings.
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: After becoming a County Commissioner, I felt it would be an easy chore to work together with the City Commission and staff, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. There is a difference between the city’s managerial government and the county’s three-person commission form of government and they do not always see eye to eye on financing of departments that have city/county dual oversight. For the greater good of the citizens of Great Falls and Cascade County things usually do get worked out.
Q: What do you believe is the role of the County Commission in economic development?
A: There are several groups that have a sole purpose of economic development in the area and it is the County Commissions role to help make it as easy as possible for new business to set up shop in Cascade County. There are tax advantages that are available to those new businesses, such as TIF Districts and/or Tax Abatements the Commission can offer as incentives for those businesses to use.
Q: What do you believe are the core services a county should provide to residents?
A: The three most important services that come to mind are: Aging Services, that provides Meals on Wheels, Congregate Meals and Welfare Checks for our Senior Citizens of Cascade County; City/County Health Department that provides health check-ups, vaccinations, etc. for general public, as well as low income families; public safety through the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement and jail detention services.
The County Attorney’s Office, Public Works Road Department and the Elections Office are also important services provided by Cascade County.
Q: How would you approach the budget process to ensure the county is making the best use of taxpayer dollars?
A: The Commission sets the budget by using the past year’s performance of the many departments and what their estimated needs and wants are. After looking over those needs first and finding suitable funding there, it is then set out to find out how the wants can be fit it an affordable budget.
This year’s budget of $64 million was less than 2019 so most departments were basically held to the same budget as a year ago.
Q: How would you work with Sheriff’s Office to ensure public safety?
A: The sheriff is an elected official and has the duty of public safety. The County Commission is charged with his/her budget to perform that duty. There is a fine line to keep the CCSO’s funded with the amount of money allocated to that budget and the many unanticipated costs that come up during a fiscal year that are instrumental for the public safety stated above.
Q: What do you envision your working relationship with county staff would look like?
A: I not only envision a great working relationship with county staff, I demand it of myself. They are outstanding people and they work hard and I am proud to have them around me to help with the many duties of the County Commission. I cannot thank them enough for all they do.
Q: Any additional comments on your plans if elected.
A: I plan to continue to use a common sense approach to the many decisions that come before the commission, that help the citizens of Cascade County. I would like to thank the citizens for allowing me to be their commissioner for the past 6 years and would appreciate their vote for Jim Larson to continue as their commissioner.