BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Four-term Lee County Supervisor Rick Larkin announced Monday that he will be running for another 4-year term on the board.
The former Fort Madison City councilman and 30-year employee of the Iowa State Penitentiary said he wants to continue working on economic development and law enforcement issues in the county.
“I would like to see us continue funding the Lee County Economic Development Group because that whole group has been pretty successful,” Larkin said. “They’re doing additional funding out in the communities of the county. But those businesses and industries are looking at this as a public/private partnership and that’s help bring entities like Siemens, the Iowa Fertilizer Co., and the Mills Group here.”
He said the big issue facing the county right now is the state’s economy and how that’s going to impact the county’s budget.
“The big question right now is if the state’s going to keep making payments in place of the commercial property tax that they rolled back in 2013,” he said. “Thus far they’ve been keeping those payments in here, but there is talk now that they’re not going to backfill that. If the state passes that law, then we have to make up the difference and we’re going to have to go back and look at our budget and we may be looking at cutting programs and that could mean the LCEDG funding or other services.”
He was first elected to the seat in 2004 for a two-year term and then has been re-elected for three consecutive terms in 2006, 2010, and 2014. Larkin said the county has done a decent job of controlling spending while providing much-needed services to the residents.
“We have been able to stabilize our tax asking for the past three years. Our tax rate has not gone up and we’ve been able to live with what we’ve budgeted. We’ve had to take some out of our carryover the past couple of years, but if can we slowly reduce the amount we need to get out of there we should be ok… but there’s so much looming out there right now including this big tax reduction bill.”
The legislature is proposing a tax cut bill that could slash up to $1.2 billion annually from state coffers with hopes that growth and tax on online purchases will make up the difference. The proposal has drawn the ire of many including public school districts and most Democrats in Des Moines.
Larkin said he’s always been a proponent of transparency in government.
“I believe in open and transparent government. I welcome every citizen to attend our meetings or give me a call and voice your opinions. Democracy works better if we all participate. When you consider the corrosive environment in our federal and state politics, it’s great to work with solid, dedicated board members. While we may not always agree on the issues, we respect each other and do our best to represent the people we serve.”
Prior to being elected as a supervisor, Larkin served in the Iowa House representing Fort Madison in the legislature. He was also elected to the Fort Madison City Council and has served on many volunteer and civic organizations including the Elks Club, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Holy Family Catholic Parish, Pre-Rodeo Pancake Breakfast, Mental Health Risk Pool, and many other groups and organizations.
Larkin was just re-appointed last week by the governor to serve on the Mental Health Risk Pool state board.
“I was appointed to that in 2009 through the Iowa State Association of Counties,” he said. “I believe there are nine members on that board and four of them are active supervisors. What we do is if there is carryover at the end of the fiscal year in mental health funds then it is referred to that board and they make awards to counties that run into trouble funding mental health programs.”
The board didn’t have much money to award after the state adopted a regional mental health structure, but he said this year may be different considering all the changes going on at the state level.
In a release put out by Larkin on Monday he said he was also interested in keeping a focus on law enforcement.
“I support the efforts of the Board of Supervisors to improve law enforcement in Lee County. We have increased the number of deputies patrolling Lee County roads and the number of correctional officers working in our jail. Soon we will be enacting security measures to protect our county workers and the public in county buildings.”
If another Democrat were to run for the seat, a primary would take place in June prior to the general election in November. Larkin said he’s not aware of anyone else running for the seat at this time.