Tioga Publishing sent the three candidates who are running for Potter County Commissioner a questionnaire to fill out in an effort to inform readers and voters on their stances. Here are their responses.
Hometown: Ulysses, Genesee, Bingham Center
Nancy Grupp, Republican nominee
Paul Heimel, Republican nominee
What unique qualifications would you bring to the office of county commissioner?
Hayman: My career in public education and as a school board member has given me a perspective on the needs of our young citizens, working families and municipal governments. My membership in the Northeastern Potter Economic Development Association has helped me understand the importance of small businesses in maintaining vital and vibrant communities. As a livestock owner, friend and neighbor, I have come to understand more clearly the difficulties faced by our farming community. And, as a senior rural resident, I understand the increasing importance of being connected for health, safety and informational purposes.
Grupp: I have been involved in municipal government for many years, first as a township auditor for three terms (18 years) and most recently as the secretary/treasurer for Eulalia Township since 2012. Along with that I am currently serving as the President of the Potter County Township Officials Association and Vice Chair of the Potter County Tax Collection Committee. I have also served as the first woman president of the Coudersport Rotary, and president of the Coudersport Chamber, along with serving on the Board of Directors of the Potter County Boys and Girls Club. These positions have given me not only experience, but insight into the challenges and concerns we face at the local level. I feel the connections I have made and what I have learned while serving in these varied positions will be an asset that I will bring to the position of county commissioner. I also have 31 years of experience working at Northwest Bank and believe this is another asset I would bring into the position. I am familiar with the budget process and have worked with people from all walks of life. I am a problem solver, enjoy a challenge and take pride in completing every task to the best of my ability. These are just a few of the qualifications I would bring to the office of Potter County Commissioner.
Heimel: Twelve years of proven experience in the position of county commissioner, preceded by a decade in corporate management and two decades in local journalism have provided me with the breadth of experience to serve effectively in the 2020-23 term. I’ve grown effective in advocating for rural counties — and Potter County, in particular — with state and federal leaders. I’ve also benefited from a 12-year-long working relationship with Commissioners Doug Morley and Susan Kefover. I look forward to continuing to pursue some of the causes that they have championed while assisting with the transition to a new Board of Commissioners. I am very optimistic about the upcoming four-year term.
What is the county’s biggest challenge and how would you address it?
Hayman: With so many challenges out there, I think the challenges faced by our farmers and municipalities are among the most important right now. Even farmers perceived as successful are having a difficult time due to factors that are often beyond their control. Farming has never been an easy job but add the fact that no matter how hard they work, their labors go unrewarded and difficult decisions must be made about which bills to pay and whether it is to their advantage to continue, and we have a real crisis. This once important sector of the economy in Potter County is quietly slipping away only to be replaced by corporate farms. With the loss of our family farms we will lose local quality and pride in the products our farmers produce. Our boroughs and townships are facing increasing challenges regarding essential infrastructure failures and costly repairs are causing serious decisions to be made. While demands and needs are great, funds to meet those demands are limited. We must work together, county and municipal governments, for surely we are all in this together. Please see the following question as to how I would address these challenges.
Grupp: I have worked with the committee to prepare the 10 year Comprehensive Plan for Potter County and we face many challenges over the next decade. One that resonates with me is the decline in the population in our county. We need to find ways to attract the younger generations to either stay here after graduation or move here to raise their families. With the addition of high speed internet, we can entice those younger generations to settle here in Potter County. Many of them already have jobs where they can work from home and now want to be located in an area where they can take advantage of the natural resources available. Where better than Potter County? I have spoken to three different people just this week who have either moved to our area or are looking to move here in the next three to six months and they all had one recurring theme: they work from home, so they need the high speed internet connection and they want their children to be able to enjoy a safe environment, where they can all do things together outside. This is one area we need to focus our attention and resources, and then we can reap the benefits of a broader tax base, revitalized communities and a volunteer base that will make our community organizations recharged.
Heimel: Outmigration by the younger residents of Potter County is among our more serious challenges. There are many negative consequences of a rural county losing such a large proportion of its younger residents, which continues to ratchet up the mean age of our overall population. So what can be done? First of all, we can learn from successful models of rural resurrection — they’re out there — so that we are not reinventing the wheel. We can expand educational and training options as part of a broader campaign, involving local employers, to provide our young people with the skills required to obtain gainful local employment. We can make our county more appealing to young people by better understanding what they want and responding to it, whether that might be development of cultural or recreational assets, expanded access to high-speed internet service or other “quality of life” investments. At the same time, we can do a better job of promoting and marketing the special qualities of Potter County to former residents or young families who are seeking to enjoy our way of life.
What is your vision for the county’s future?
Hayman: Based on the recent comprehensive plan, I would work with our local schools and businesses to advocate for truly training workers for 21st century jobs that are available here in Potter County, while maintaining essential academic standards that are important to educating citizens as to their roles in our society. Included in that advocacy would be support for, and possibly expanding, the Career Technical Center’s offerings. I would work to enhance the marketing of all that makes Potter County unique and attractive by seeking an active marketing board either as a stand-alone agency or in tandem with an economic development office. Perhaps the only way we can aid struggling farmers and local businesses is to help them market their unique and diverse products under one Potter County banner. I would maintain a strong advocacy for developing Denton Hill into a four-season attraction and encourage all tourism in the county. I would work closely with our municipalities to educate and inform them of the available funds they will need to address their ongoing challenges and how to access those funds. And I would support the efforts of Tri-County Rural Electric Co-op in bringing high-speed internet to our rural areas. Finally, I would advocate for more local mental health services, counseling and substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation. The very things that have always made Potter County unique are still our greatest assets — clean air and water, our small and welcoming communities, and the hard work of our citizens. I would do all I could to enhance the quality of life we have to offer by working to protect and support those assets.
Grupp: My vision for Potter County goes hand in hand with my last statement. To see more and more people making Potter County their home, and stopping the drain of our natural resources (our younger generations), to the more urban communities across the country. By promoting Potter County as a place to live, work and thrive, we will see communities grow and be revitalized.
Heimel: In December, we’ll adopt a new Potter County comprehensive plan. It’s a framework for decision-makers and community leaders to use in addressing the challenges and opportunities of the next decade. I believe an elected official’s vision should reflect a “common vision” that emerges from an engaged citizenry, while also employing his or her own experience and judgment. That’s why I have been particularly active in ensuring that the comprehensive plan properly reflects the values and priorities of the citizens. It can be found online at pottercountypa.net, under the “planning department” tab. The plan establishes as priorities: business attraction, workforce development and employment; infrastructure (including high-speed internet); attractions for tourism and recreation; downtown amenities and community services; accessibility to health care; support of agriculture (including the forest products industry) and tourism; education; protection of air, water and natural places; volunteerism, and transportation. It is that vision that I intend to carry into the next term. And it’s a vision that you, the citizens, can continue to shape.