Minden resident Jim Mott joined about 120 people at CVIC Hall Wednesday night to see where 10 county commission candidates came down on the issues.
"I want to see if any of these people know anything about government," Mott said.
The Business Council of Douglas County, the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and The Record-Courier sponsored the town hall debate.
Growth, the economy and the county budget dominated the discussion.
"I know how to keep the county budget under control," said District 1 candidate, Republican Dave Nelson. "I know how to find the gravy and get rid of it, without raising taxes. We can cut costs in labor. Human resources make up 86 percent of the budget."
Nelson also said diversifying business would bring jobs to the county.
"When the whole economy is dependent on single family residences and housing takes a downturn, it really hurts," he said.
Republican opponent Greg Lynn agreed.
"I want to get away from the big box stores supported by residential roofs," he said. "Small manufacturing operations could import wealth to this Valley, but we will need a work force and affordable housing. We also need to limit taxes and regulation and ensure this is a competitive, inviting place."
Lynn said managed growth is necessary to maintain integrity of the county's infrastructure, but said no growth can also be devastating.
Democrat District 1 candidate Anje deKnijf said economic stability was her No. 1 priority.
"Encourage light manufacturing and increased gaming in north county while maintaining the Valley corridor in its pristine condition," deKnijf said.
She said economic viability would ensure revenue for vital programs.
"We need an enhanced senior center and the continuation of our youth programs," she said.
Republican District 3 incumbent Doug Johnson said he has fought for balanced growth.
"I helped write the growth management ordinance," he said, the ordinance which allows a 2 percent rate of growth compounded annually and follows an allocation schedule for building permits. "I believe it is the responsibility of the master plan to define the rate of growth."
Johnson said economic development efforts need to focus on the towns, rather than the north county line.
"De-emphasize the box stores, and revitalize downtown Minden and Gardnerville," he said.
Independent American District 3 candidate Eric Rieman said California businesses can be enticed to locate in Douglas County because of lower tax rates.
"New business will bring in revenue for the budget," he said. "The sheriff's office and firefighters are the two most important things."
Rieman said the Valley's water resources and agricultural heritage need support and protection.
"We don't want to see here what happened in White Pine County," he said.
Republican District 3 candidate Blaine Spires said the economy was his top priority.
"We have a great tax structure and quality of life that attract businesses from other states," he said. "We want to ensure the right businesses come here, and once they are here, that they continue to function. We need to open up a formal dialogue with the business community and learn what their needs are."
Spires also said the way to preserve open space is to respect property rights and provide ranchers with the tools to "do what they have always done."
Republican District 5 candidate Mike Olson stressed affordable housing and higher education as important factors to a healthy economy.
"We already have a college here," Olson said. "We need to work with Western Nevada College and figure out what businesses need."
Olson said keeping tax rates low and revamping the county's sign ordinance would help maintain a business-friendly atmosphere.
"Our community attracts good people," he said.
Republican District 5 challenger Stuart Posselt said Douglas County's rural character needs to be protected.
"I support the growth ordinance, which allows us to grow, but in an orderly manner," he said.
Posselt said government should not act as a "sugar daddy" for business.
"Giving incentives to businesses to move here is not fair for businesses already here," he said.
Democrat District 5 candidate George Thiel said he opposes the growth ordinance.
"I believe the ordinance is bad for Douglas County," he said. "Once enacted, we'll see declines in revenue that haven't been taken into account."
Thiel said Douglas County could attract business with its ample water supply.
"We have a plethora of water we could market," he said. "We could say, 'Come to Douglas County, we have water.'"
Fellow Democrat District 5 candidate Nancy Epstein said growth doesn't have to be a decisive issue, that the master plan suffices as an adequate guideline; however, she said a balanced budget is her top priority.
"We are experiencing dire economic times," she said. "I encourage the community to support our local businesses and keep money in Douglas County. Those who don't want to pay for county services need to step up and volunteer."
The Business Council of Douglas County will post candidate answers to more questions on their Web site at www.bcdouglascounty.org. Footage of the debate will be aired on Douglas County community access channel 16. Visit www.dccatv.org. for show times.
n Scott Neuffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 217.