County Commission candidates take a stand on issues

Updated: Jul 29


Voters in Linn County Commission District No. 1, which includes Scott and North and South Lincoln townships and the cities of Linn Valley and La Cygne, will be electing a new county commissioner on Tuesday. (Map by Linn County Mapping Department)


On Tuesday, Aug. 2, voters from the La Cygne and Linn Valley area will go to the polls to choose the area's next representative on the Linn County Commission. Both candidates, Rosemary Long and Jason Hightower, are Republicans, and without any opposition from either Independent or Democratic contenders at this point, the winner of the election will be decided on Tuesday.


Rick James, the current commission representative from that district, did not file for re-election this year.


The Linn County Journal asked both candidates to respond to a list of questions on their background and over current issues facing the county. Here are their responses.


Jason Hightower

What is your background?

I live on my family farm near La Cygne, with my wife Jessica, our daughters Avarie, Riley, and our son Rhett. My children are the fifth generation of my family to be raised in my house, so my roots in Linn County run deep. I graduated from KSU in 2004 with a degree in Ag Economics with a minor in Animal science. I spent 15 years working with First Option Bank in La Cygne as a Loan Officer, working my way up to Senior Vice President. I've also worked for Ag Risk Solutions, before turning all my attention to the family farm that has been my passion since I was a small kid.


Why are you running for the commission seat?

My motivation is predicated on a desire to serve the office by being reasonable, responsible and professional. I have served on numerous boards with other community leaders over my professional career, learning much but always yearning to learn more. I think growing up in our community has given me an excellent perspective on the Linn County way of life and how to incorporate that way of life to help our county progress into the future.


How would you balance keeping taxes low and providing important services to county residents?

I think this balance between keeping taxes low and continuing to provide services to county residents is always delicate. I think this is something that all of our community leaders wrestle with. I believe the right thing to do is to talk to constituents, community leaders and people who would be affected by loss of services to decide what the community needs are.


With Evergy announcing plans to shutter the La Cygne Generating Station within the next 15 years, what steps can the county take to make up for that tax loss?

We need to continue to build our tax base and be responsible in the way we spend tax dollars. I also believe we need to get a more complete picture of what Evergy's plans are. Focusing on job growth, adequate housing and necessary utilities are also issues that we face. Having the county and the cities align their focus could help us make changes that we can never do alone. People need to believe that you can make and live your life in Linn County. We cannot be pushing our most valuable resource, our people, to other communities.


How would you propose growing business in Linn County, help local business people grow their business or recruit outside businesses to locate here?

I believe we should empower staff to leverage state incentives with county incentives to find the best package possible for our businesses. We also need policy on how incentives are given out to businesses, so everyone knows the rules. One of our best assets as far as recruiting new businesses to the area is our industrial park outside of Pleasanton, Kansas. I think we should invest in that industrial park so that we are able to market it to the best of our ability.


Do you feel that the county should financially support a skilled nursing facility?

While I do think that our county needs a well run nursing home, I do not believe it should be taxpayer funded.


Should the county lead the way in developing tourism opportunities, and how should it do that?

From my experience the most successful tourism activities stem from grassroots movements. I think the county can serve a supporting role to these grassroots movements, but I'm not sure the county should take the lead role. I believe a grassroots movement geared toward tourism could help showcase our county's attributes better than a county department can, because the people involved in grassroots movements are passionate about what they are doing. An excellent example of this would be the Sugar Mound Arts and Crafts Festival. The committee for that festival is a group of volunteer community members who have come together to promote our beautiful county and it has become one of the premier arts and crafts vendor events in the Midwest.


What do you think the working relationship has been between the county and cities and school districts? Should it change?

I believe the working relationship between the county the cities and the school districts will improve with more open and direct communication. I think that if we continue to get our community leaders involved in regional projects and continue to value input from each community, be that city, county, or school, we can only get stronger together. I look forward to being in a position where I can work with our community leaders to help move Linn County forward.


Rosemary Long

What is your background?

My name is Rosemary Long; I am 53 years old, married for 35 years to Jim Long. We have our daughter Julia, our son Nick, and our grandson Isaiah. My husband is a lifelong resident of Linn County, and I have lived here since we married 35 years ago. I hold a degree in nursing. During my time in the medical field I worked in medical research, medical-surgical hospital care, and as the medical program director for a medical assisting program. After teaching in the medical assisting program for some time, I decided I wanted to change careers and work with students to help them learn to read and comprehend math better than what I was seeing come through my technical program. I did make the leap to this new career and completed a Master's degree in Education. May 20th of this year was my last day teaching. I will miss my students, but when the opportunity arose to own my own business I couldn’t pass it up. Purchasing Hook N Deals Bait shop made sure a small business stayed open, and stayed locally owned. While keeping a business local is important to me, please understand it is a ton of fun owning this business, especially with the great customers who have continued their patronage with us. We have been able to help with kids fishing tournaments, and other local fundraising events.


Why are you running for the commission seat?

I have always had very strong opinions about how the American people are represented by the people they elect. In the last few years I had begun to think that I should stop talking and throw my hat into the political ring. As things shaped up in the last year, it became clear that this was the right time to take the step into politics, the right time to represent the people of Linn County District 1.

How would you balance keeping taxes low and providing important services to county residents?

Each budget from the respective county departments provides detailed account of the needs of the department. The commissioners begin going over those details many months before so they are able to compare the needs of the department with the incoming revenue. At times the departments are asked to make additional cuts to their budgets, but not to the point of cutting services such as in the fire and police departments. It would be important to me to continue planning ahead for the next year’s budget, and to pursue avenues for the county to make money.


With Evergy announcing plans to shutter the La Cygne Generating Station within the next 15 years, what steps can the county take to make up for that tax loss?

I believe we need to find companies that will bring good jobs to Linn County. If elected I look forward to working with the Economic Development Committee on ideas they are working on related to this issue. We also need to work with the different communities in the county to make sure infrastructure such as sewer, water, and housing are ready for the businesses to come to Linn County.


How would you propose growing business in Linn County, help local business people grow their business or recruit outside businesses to locate here?

Keeping the lines of communication open will be important. To me this means visiting with current business owners so we know what they need when they want to grow their business. We need to listen to what the citizens have to say about businesses they would like to see come to Linn County.


Do you feel that the county should financially support a skilled nursing facility?

I do believe we should find a way to have a skilled nursing facility in Linn County. Our population deserves to have the option to stay in the county they were born and raised in if they so choose.


Should the county lead the way in developing tourism opportunities, and how should it do that?

We have wonderful places to visit and live in Linn County. As I looked at how Google represents the places to go in the county, I found there are corrections that need to be made to the information on the search engine. Starting with something as simple as correct information to a place most people will consult when they are looking for something to do can make a difference.


What do you think the working relationship has been between the county and cities and school districts? Should it change?

In this county I believe the county, cities, and schools have worked together to achieve certain goals, for example, the SRO program. In the future there may need to be some changes so the program continues to be successful. Change is inevitable in any relationship; it’s how the people at the table comport themselves when changes are needed that makes the difference.

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