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Enterprise Journal

Steve Smolik: Republican for Mitchell County District 3

Oct 06, 2020 11:41AM ● By Savannah Howe
Steve Smolik is the Republican incumbent in Mitchell County’s third district. He is running uncontested, and has served on the board for two and a half years. 

Smolik said it’s important for people to remember that, two years ago, the public voted for five supervisors rather than three. 

“The reason they did that was because they wanted change and thought this was the only way to do it,” said the incumbent. “Now, normally you have hardly anyone running for supervisor [...] because there are so many now, with all different views from each other, the public should be aware of who their politician might be. Because again, two years ago you [the public] voted for change. Make sure you know what the politics of your candidate are, because you might be voting for the same thing that you already had.”

Smolik said that, while he did vote for the county to stick to three supervisors, he’s since changed his mind. 

“I now believe that five is a better figure, and I believe that, in however many years, the public will vote again if they feel that five supervisors aren’t working for them.”

Smolik became supervisor two and a half years ago when former supervisor Shannon Paulus stepped down; while county officials had the capability of nominating someone for the role, Smolik gathered enough signatures from the public to force a special election, which he won. 

Smolik said he has grown concerned about the county’s spending over the years. 

“Tax increment financing (TIF) is the main issue this county has. It’s been brought up a lot. It’s a hot item. It’s brought us $40 million in debt, and people will tell you that it’s free money, that it doesn’t cost you. It does cost us.”

The incumbent said that, according to the county assessor, TIF using is costing Mitchell County up to three dollars per acre of farmland. 

“Not only are we in debt, we are paying a million in interest per year. And the schools are only backfilled 87.5 percent, so they lose out. I understand that the people involved want this, and think it’s a great thing, but on the other hand we must understand that when we borrow that money is an expense that the rural taxpayer pays.”

Smolik wants Mitchell County to tighten its belt financially as the economic impacts of the COVD-19 pandemic trickle down; he expects the county to be coming into a financial shortfall with less tax dollars from local businesses being shut down, and less fuel tax revenue from fewer people hitting the road for work and leisure. 

“Mitchell County is going to be feeling a big squeeze on this,” said Smolik. “So we have to watch our finances.”

In regard to county TIF usage and economic development, Smolik feels that the public is weary of hearing about TIF, and that Mitchell County has been growing for over a century.

“People are disappointed with the fact that, on some of our housing projects, the same people are getting them over and over. [...] Mitchell county has been growing since 1856. If it hadn’t been, we would still have log cabins sitting around an old brick courthouse. This community has grown and it will continue to grow. The spending of dollars doesn’t need to be quite as drastic for that to happen.”

The incumbent acknowledged, however, that the county is facing challenges, including road health. He’s concerned about the consequences of using TIF to go outside of a county department budget, like the road department’s.

“When we use TIF dollars and garner more dollars that way for the roads… there may be some questioning on how it’s used, then.”

Smolik said he is concerned that whitetopping a road (paving over its existing asphalt with a thin layer of concrete) is an issue. “The concrete is too thin, it adheres to the asphalt, then because of something to do with heat and water the concrete pops and blows up. The idea is that it’s cheaper. But cheaper isn’t always better.”

The candidate said that, while he isn’t well-versed enough in technology to give an opinion on whether or not the county should be involved in laying fiber optic cable to rural areas, he’s happy to confer with other supervisors on the issue.

He said he’s not a “no man,” as some may believe—he just wants to be frugal, and says the county’s growth will naturally continue. 

He referenced his own past, where he said he’s never taken a hand-out.

“My wife and I lived in a trailer house. Everyone thought we were trash. We were squirreling away every penny we had while we drove junk cars. People would say we were worthless. But then, after saving every penny, we bought a new house. It was paid for the moment the door slammed shut behind us. We never once asked for a hand-out.

“The main objective is to keep our spending down, and no matter what Mitchell County will always grow.”