Democrat Donnie Horstman is facing off with Republican incumbent Randall "Randy" Kleindienst in the race for the Eastern District County Commissioner seat. The general election takes place Nov. 3.
Born and raised in Callaway County, Donnie Horstman graduated from South Callaway High School in 1980. He and his wife Lois have three children together. Horstman worked for many years in the construction business at Daniels Construction Company and GloveCon. He currently serves as Callaway County's building and grounds maintenance supervisor, having worked for the Building and Grounds Maintenance Department for 16 years. Horstman describes himself as an "avid outdoorsman" who spends his spare time hunting and fishing.
Why did you decide to run for county commission?
Since the commission decides where tax dollars are spent, I believe two terms is enough for those positions. Different people have different priorities, so change every once in a while, I think, is a good thing. I also feel employees respond differently to different personalities, so here again I think change can be a positive.
How does your experience prepare you for being an effective Callaway County commissioner?
Over the next few years, the county will be building two new facilities: a new jail and justice center. I have worked for Daniels Construction Company and the BeCo pipe plant (now Fred Weber Reinforced Concrete Products). I spent 14 years with GloveCon and I am currently working for the county as building and grounds maintenance supervisor.
I've been with the county for more than 16 years in building and grounds maintenance, the last five of which has been as supervisor. Not only have I seen firsthand the potential maintenance issues, as supervisor I'm familiar with preparing a budget for each year. I feel with my background and my willingness to listen to all sides of an issue, I am very much qualified to be an effective commissioner.
What makes you a better choice than your opponent?
As I mentioned earlier, I think I have a lot to offer in making decisions during the construction of the two new facilities because of my experience with GloveCon Construction and also my 16 years with the county Building and Grounds Maintenance Department. I also think a fresh set of eyes looking at some of the problems might not be a bad thing.
How do you intend to keep an open line of communication with your constituents?
I plan on being out in the community quite a bit, rather than being over there in that office all the time. When there's not meetings, I plan on popping in on different places, having lunch here and there and giving people a chance to visit with me and a chance to get to know me better.
What are your goals?
Last year's general revenue fund, which is unassigned money and is public information, had high and low ledger balances of $12.25 million and $9.85 million, respectively. While I agree there should be a reasonable nest egg in case of an unforeseen emergency, I feel we should be using more of that money to get our county roads back into good shape.
We have miles and miles of gravel roads, and when we get big rains, it cuts ditches along the signs and, in some cases, across the roads. I would invite everyone to take a drive and notice where the old ditches are. I feel we need to get the water off the roads and into the ditches. Hopefully that will cut down on the damage to the roads and, in turn, cut down on some of the maintenance.
Our Road and Bridge Department seems to have a lot of turnover with employees in part, I feel, to not having competitive-enough wages. A side effect of high turnover is oftentimes operators with not a lot of experience, so I think some additional training could prove to be beneficial.
What's the biggest challenge currently facing Callaway County, and how would you solve it?
Well, I think one of our biggest challenges right now is paying our employees enough to keep good employees. We have trouble from time to time — we can't get applications or enough applications to choose from, and we pretty much have to take what applications we get. I don't feel like the county pays enough to attract and keep good employees.
I think, especially, our Road and Bridge Department will hire somebody and we just can't seem to keep them very long. We've lost a lot of experienced help over the last two or three years. I think that's one of our top priorities.
What should Callaway County's funding priorities be?
Getting the roads up in better shape and better wages for all our employees are important priorities. Law enforcement is another important priority. Last year, voters approved a half-cent sales tax for law enforcement that should make it much easier to keep them properly funded. County government is involved in many things, but our roads, employees and law enforcement are things taxpayers most frequently depend on, so I think it's important we do as well as we can in those areas.
What changes, if any, would you make in the way the county is handling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic?
I feel like, for the most part, the county's doing about as well as they can. They recently acquired a couple of fogger machines where if somebody, an employee, gets tested positive we can go in and fog that area. So I really don't know a whole lot more that could be done than what we're doing.
In brief, what do you love most about Callaway County?
I really don't know anyplace else. I've lived here, I was born and raised here in Callaway County, I went to school here. I really don't know any place else. We raised our kids here. I just think overall, it's a pretty good place to live.