EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of profiles on Yankton County candidates running for office in the general election. Today’s profile is part of the series on the two candidates for the two-year term on the Yankton County Commission. The election is Nov. 4.
NAME: Cheri Loest, PE
FAMILY: My husband Greg and sons Josh (12) and Zach (10) live on farmland near Utica.
EDUCATION/OCCUPATION: Professional Engineering License, Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering from SDSM&T, Master's in Curriculum & Design, South Dakota Teaching Certificate. I am a retired engineer and high school chemistry and math teacher. Currently an active mom.
1. Why are you running?
It is important to have representation for all sections of Yankton County, including rural, and a voice for our farmers and small business owners. Although I do not have political experience, my experience in plant operations and construction, insurance, and safety give me a sound background for asking the right questions and making informed decisions.
2. What experiences do you feel have prepared you for the position?
I worked on a family farm near Wessington and have lived in four other states and communities ranging from 125 people to the Minneapolis area. I worked 15 years in the corn processing industry, making sweeteners and ethanol. Engineering taught me to manage budgets, evaluate and plan projects and work with teams to make the hard decisions. I learned to never draw your box too small and always seek input from all sides. Finally, teaching at Yankton High and being involved with youth activities keeps me in touch with our future generation. I want my boys to have the opportunity to work in our region.
3, What do you think the biggest issue is at the county level and how would you address it?
I believe the main responsibilities for our County Commission are to maintain infrastructure, ensure public safety and assist the poor. The current commission is in the process of developing a long-term blueprint for roads and bridges. Prioritizing is the first step, but even harder is finding the money to carry out the final plan.
Published plans should be in place to evaluate proposed business projects (i.e. TID/TIF). I am conservative and believe every taxpayer penny that is spent should be thoroughly vetted, justified and directed toward the main responsibilities of government.
4. How do commissioners balance the needs of a growing city (Yankton) while also addressing the needs of smaller communities throughout the county?
Every decision made should consider the impact and benefit to each citizen. Having equal representation from both city and rural residents is key to making sure all perspectives are considered. There need not be an “us” versus “them” mentality.
5. What are your thoughts on the Napa Junction project and how it unfolded?
I worked for a company that built over 100 ethanol facilities throughout the country. Purely from an engineering perspective, this facility needs access to BOTH rail and reliable roads. Yankton has the rail junction and Bon Homme has the junction of two state-serviced roads. Either way, an investment around $10-12 million is needed to do this project RIGHT. Just fixing three miles of 435th and one mile of 306th is not enough. In the long run, more roads will need to be upgraded and continually serviced by Yankton County. The projected TID taxes from this project would only devote $3.6 million over 20 years. This is not enough to cover the real cost to Yankton County.
6. What major development projects do you foresee in the county's future?
Recently announced expansion projects show our manufacturers' commitment to growing our community. Seeking businesses with focus in the financial and technology areas would help to balance our workforce around economic downturns. Lastly, since our county is heavily invested in agriculture, the transition of family farms to the next generation is a critical factor.
Every business (including farming) needs an educated work force. Young families seek affordability, job prospects and educational opportunities for their children. That's why my family moved back to South Dakota and specifically to this area. Through the work of our schools, we were very fortunate to receive funding for the career and technical education courses that award certifications to area students, a regional benefit. This is certainly a major aspect for bringing new projects to our area.
7. Additional thoughts?
It is amazing the amount of work that is invested in a campaign, and the assistance I have received is greatly appreciated. Vote, attend meetings and write to your leaders. The best plans are developed with all perspectives in mind. Silence is the worst enemy to democracy.