Clearwater County voters will have a choice in the Nov. 3 election between a candidate who describes himself as conservative and is no fan of property taxes and a moderate who sees her strengths in networking and developing economic diversification.

Republican Mike Ryan, 65, who is completing his first two-year term on the District 1 commission seat is being challenged by Christina St. Germaine, 55, running as an independent candidate. She works for the county’s economic development program.

“I bring experience in natural resources, knowledge of government policy-making and processes, and my networks,” St. Germaine said. “I have a wide network of expert information and access to resources.”

Ryan, retired from the trucking industry, said he has enjoyed being able to provide property tax relief on the county’s board of equalization to citizens in financial straits. He said he hopes some changes are coming to state tax law.

“I would like to see something along the lines of a small percentage increase in state sales tax to offset property taxes,” he said. “Sales tax, to me, is more equitable. If you can afford to buy expensive things, you pay the tax. If not, you can avoid that tax by not buying things.”

St. Germaine, who is married with two grown sons, has not run for political office before but has worked on a number of government-related projects, including helping find solutions for the sustainability of the county’s ambulance service.

The cost of managing and maintaining Clearwater County’s roads, solid waste program and other infrastructure systems also concerns her. To help resolve some of these issues, she is interested in bringing in the perspective of different citizens and groups, such as senior citizens, department heads and county staff.

“Leveraging resources to help our infrastructure is where I have some skills to bring to the table,” she said.

One of the difficulties Ryan faced during his first term in office was dealing with unfunded mandates by the state government.

“We have to provide things such as indigent health care, public defense, and the state doesn’t assist us in funding those services,” he said. “So we have to try to find ways to fund that, and the taxpayer gets stuck with the bill.”

Ryan, who is married and has three grown sons, said the big difference between himself and St. Germaine is their fundamental approach to government.

“I represent conservative values, and she’s running as an independent,” Ryan said. “I’ve worked with Chris on (economic issues) and I think she does a good job. But I represent more conservative values, including conservative fiscal issues and politics issues.”

St. Germaine said she does research on matters that concern her and “I like to analyze both sides of the agenda and get the one that would make the most sense for our community. … I believe that I have a stronger passion for Clearwater County and the culture we have. I have passion and energy and a love of getting things done.”

Hedberg may be contacted at kathyhedberg@gmail.com or (208) 983-2326.

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