Commissioner candidates weigh in

Apr. 25—DECATUR COUNTY — Decatur County's May 7 Primary Election features six people seeking the Republican nomination for two seats on the Decatur County Board of Commissioners.

In District 1, they are incumbent Tony Blodgett, Melanie Nobbe and Brian Wennng.

In District 3, they are Nic Asher, Deanna Burkart, incumbent Mark Koors and Gabe Nobbe.

During a recent candidate forum hosted by WTRE in partnership with the Daily News, they all had an opportunity to share their views on various issues. Highlights from what they had to say follow.

Solar Farms

Melanie Nobbe said she is against the development of solar farms, but that "we can't tell [landowners] what they can or cannot do with their farmland." She also said she is opposed to the idea of providing solar development companies local tax abatements.

Wenning also opposes solar farm development and pointed out that Decatur County Board of Zoning Appeals will have more of a say in the matter than the commissioners will. He also said that if solar farms are developed here a plan will need to be formulated regarding what to do with the tax revenue they generate.

Blodgett said everyone has a right to do with their property as they wish unless doing so encroaches on the freedom of others. He noted an ordinance regarding solar farm development was addressed as recently as three years ago and as it stands this is an issue the Board of Zoning Appeals will have to address. Lastly, he said projected tax revenue from proposed solar development works out to roughly $1 million and that "money is tight, so that needs to be considered in the process as to whether that money is worth the loss of ag."

Burkart said after reaching out to some of the county's largest farm owners as well as people involved in energy development she is of the opinion "our valuable farmland resource is not best used for solar" and that while she understands the importance of landowner rights she leans towards not supporting solar in our community.

Koors said he is a firm believer in property rights, but doesn't think placing solar arrays on farmland is the best option. He further stated that there are "hundreds of acres of parking lots" in Decatur County and placing solar panels in those types of locations is preferable, citing Honda as a local example.

Gabe Nobbe said he is not opposed to solar arrays, but doesn't favor placing them on prime agricultural ground. He also said landowners should be able to decide what to do with their own property until it negatively impacts their neighbor's land. He, too, cited the existing ordinance regarding solar development and noted it will be up to the Board of Zoning Appeals to make a final decision.

Like several of those answering before him, Asher said he does not support development of solar farms, because the place for them is not on prime farm ground. He also acknowledged landowner rights, but only up to the point they don't negatively impact others who own nearby property.


The candidates were each asked what their priorities are if elected.

Wenning said it all boils down to protecting farm ground and whether or not we, as a county, want to grow and, if so, where are we going to develop new housing. He also cited a need to better address mental health for Decatur County residents.

Blodgett said Decatur County hasn't shown much grown and that lack of growth has resulted in a small tax base, making it more expensive for those who do live here to pay for government and related services. He suggested working with Decatur County's existing small towns to promote growth and build the tax base, and also mentioned doing a better job of addressing mental health.

Melanie Nobbe cited a need for more affordable housing to promote growth and help spread the tax burden among more people. Like her predecessors, she also said improving available mental health services is important.

Koors pointed out that based on attendance numbers at area schools, Decatur County has seen little to no growth in the last 8 to 12 years. He said every farm in Decatur County has a site where housing could be built without taking productive farmland out of service and that those should be looked at with respect to adding more "rooftops" to the area.

Gabe Nobbe advocated doing a better job of implementing structured development throughout Decatur County while also noting that attracting new residents is important in order to help reduce the tax burden on those already living here.

Asher also said growth is important to Decatur County's long-term future, but attracting new people to Decatur County isn't an easy task. "[Growth] is just something the commissioners need to work on and figure out as a team," he said.

Finally, Burkart said "the first thing we need is a plan" and that " our community hasn't had a a comprehensive plan since 2014 and 2015." She suggested the commissioners, county council members and community members get together and discuss what is most needed in Decatur County.

The commissioner candidates also shared their views regarding roads and bridges, the need for transparency and how to do a better job of engaging the public when it comes to local government.

More information and additional comments from the recent candidate forum is available at

To watch the commissioner candidates portion of the recent WTRE/Daily News forum, visit

Contact Kevin Green at or 812-651-0885.