Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that there is a fourth candidate for Brookings County Commission, independent Tim Bauer of Elkton. Bauer is not listed on the South Dakota Secretary of State's 2020 Candidate List, but the Brookings County Finance Office confirms that Bauer has filed his nominating petitions and is a candidate in the commission race. The two winners of the June 2 Republican primary for county commission will join Bauer on the November general election ballot, with the three candidates competing for two Brookings County Commission seats.
This is the first in a series of three stories that will appear in The Brookings Register this week, featuring Republican candidates for Brookings County Commission.
BROOKINGS – Incumbent Brookings County Commissioner Mike Bartley is hoping to continue to bring his knowledge and experience to the forefront for Brookings County as he seeks re-election to a four-year term.
Bartley, currently commission chairman, is one of three Republicans running for two available commission seats in the June 2 primary election. Also running are Shawn Hostler and Ryan Krogman.
The two winners of the Republican primary will face independent candidate Tim Bauer of Elkton in the November general election, with the three competing for two seats.
Coming to Brookings after returning from the Army in 1974, Bartley, a Minnesota native, opened an optometrist clinic in town. Bartley said he pursued several different avenues to gain leadership experience upon settling in the community.
Bartley has served the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) first as the local president, then regional director, state officer and then as parliamentarian for several years. Bartley has also served on the local Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission for 12 years and was a member of the Brookings City Council for six years.
Bartley founded the Opticians Association of South Dakota three decades ago, and he was on the State Licensing Board for hearing aid dispensers and audiologists for 21 years. Last year he sold his optician business to Brookings Health System but still operates Brookings Hearing Associates, which he founded in 1991.
Bartley said the county currently faces two main priorities: fixing roads and bridges damaged due to last year’s flooding, and the jail expansion and lawsuit.
He said he was glad this spring has not brought nearly as much rain and flooding as was originally predicted for the area, because the county has a long list of projects to accomplish. One of the main tasks Brookings County faces is repairing bridges on Highway 77. Two bridges have been out for over a year and have faced delay after delay due to flooding getting in the way of workers and causing more damage.
Bartley said he is pleased with how well the county has been able to function and effectively reach goals in construction and budgeting while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
As a commissioner, Bartley has pursued the expansion of the Brookings County Detention Center and said he’s disappointed the City of Brookings has appealed the court’s ruling in favor of the county earlier this year, which determined that the county could move forward on the project.
“That kind of a delay will cost taxpayers – and when I say taxpayers, I mean every property owner in the City of Brookings, White, Volga, all of the municipalities in the entire county who pay property taxes – are going to be affected by the increased cost of the jail due to the action of the appeal taken by the city,” Bartley said. “And right now, our off-the-cuff estimate is probably a little over a million dollars.”
He said the county wants to start the bidding process for contractors and laborers this summer because it is a good time to bid for contracts due to the pandemic. He said that the county could save upwards of 10% of estimated costs if they were to bid out the jail expansion right now. Bartley also said that once the bidding process is finalized that construction could begin this fall. He said now is a good time as well to update the security system at the courthouse, and it should be linked with the jail’s security system to create efficiency.
However, none of that is possible due to the appeal. Bartley said that the county has been told it could take around a year for the South Dakota Supreme Court to hear the county and city’s case.
“In my opinion,” said Bartley, “this is an expense that shouldn’t be spent.”
Despite the political issues that come with the job, Bartley said he has enjoyed being a commissioner and hopes to continue serving.
“It’s pretty simple,” Bartley said. “I don’t see all of this as politics as much as I see it as public service. I’m not a person who writes a check or has the ability to write a check to accomplish the things I’d like to see accomplished. But I do like to think that I have a common-sense approach to helping.”
Contact Matthew Rhodes at [email protected]