Editor’s note: Brookings County Commission candidate and Republican incumbent Michael Bartley is seeking his second term on the commission. A Monday report in the Register incorrectly reported the number of terms he has previously served.
BROOKINGS – Incumbent Republican Mike Bartley wants to continue to bring his years of public service experience to the forefront of the Brookings County Commission.
Bartley is currently the commission chairman and is seeking his second term on the commission.
Bartley, along with independent Tim Bauer and Republican incumbent Ryan Krogman are vying for two, four-year seats on the commission. Early voting has already begun, and election day is Nov. 3.
“I moved to Brookings in 1974 after I got out of the Army, and I’ve been here ever since,” the Minnesota native said. “I’ve lived here longer than I have anywhere else. I’ve always been active in the community and community service. I’ve served on several boards.”
Barley has served on the Junior Chamber of Commers (Jaycees) first as the local president, then the regional director, state officer and then 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 busines to the Brookings Health System but still operates Brookings Hearing Associates, which he founded in 1991.
He has also served on the Brookings Economic Development Corporation board when Bel Brands established a facility in Brookings; Bartley said that was what had piqued his interest in county government.
“That was an eye-opening and very interesting process. I learned a lot,” Bartley said. “I learned a lot of things about how the county is involved with recruitment along with South Dakota State University being crucial to bringing them to Brookings. It’s not just what the city can do, but it’s a culmination of all those efforts and that was what encouraged me to run for county commission at that point.”
“And the reason that I’m running is that … I’ve always listened to people, and I’ve always applied common sense to everything that I do. That doesn’t mean I’m right all the time, but even if I use common sense when I’m wrong, I can live with my decisions. I can also live with the decisions of others. I never hold any ill will toward others. If I live to fight another day, well then I’m just fine,” Bartley said.
The 2021 budget for the county is around $32 million with about $14 million in the general fund, but even with such a large budget and the added expenses of repairing roads and bridges, some due to past flood damages, and now COVID-19 expenditures, the property tax levy actually decreased for next year.
“As far as the county and the shape that we’re in, we’re in pretty good shape financially and structurally,” Bartley said. “We’ve got the jail project. It’s been a process, but we’re at the building stage.”
Bartley said that the Brookings City & County Government Center was being designed and built when he was a city councilor, and that was an instrumental process for him in being able to bring about the Brookings County Jail expansion project.
“We’re going to have a safer facility not only for the incarcerated inmates, but for the staff also, because right now it’s not a particularly safe building – and we’ve been fortunate that no one has been hurt, but we’re building something really good here for everybody,” Bartley said.
Contact Matthew Rhodes at [email protected]