Both candidates for the lower district seat on the Board of County Commissioners have prior experience in local government, both having served on their township advisory boards for 12 years.

The candidates, in alphabetical order, are Republican Paul Joe Brawner and Democrat Mark Cash, the incumbent.

The Board of Commissioners has three members. The upper district seat, held by Democrat Tom Pietrykowski, is not up for election this year. The middle district also is contested.

Although candidates must live in the district, voters throughout the county can cast ballots in the race. The term is for four years. The pay is $22,998 a year.

Paul Joe Brawner

Paul Joe Brawner said he wanted to run for the Board of Commissioners when he was a young man.

"I farmed, we were raising six kids - I didn't have the time," he said. "Now I'm retired. I feel like I can put more time into it. The county's been good to me.

"If I win, I'll be happy," Brawner said. "If I don't get elected, I know God's got something better in store for me."

Roads are the highest on his priority list. "That's what I hear most when I'm out knocking on doors," he said.

He also hears that people want to be involved in decisions. With that in mind, if he is elected he plans to make a form for people to fill out when he responds to their calls or is out visiting in the county. It will have the person's name, contact information, and issue they are concerned about. When that topic is on a commissioners' agenda, he will call the person and urge them to attend the meeting.

"I think that's what people want, is to be involved," Brawner said.

He said that if he is elected, he wants county department officials to make streamlined requests.

"Lay it on the table and talk about it," Brawner said. "State the five reasons they need something and why they need it. It's simple, no beating around the bush. I don't want them coming in with a sack of papers. ... It should be simple. It should be exciting and fun. When it's your dollar and my dollar, it's pretty simple if you just handle it right."

Also important, he said, is for all the governmental entities in Jefferson County to work together, and for the emergency services around the county to get what they need.

"They (fire and law enforcement) work night and day to protect us. If they need something to do their job, I want to help them," he said.

For economic development, he said, "The new direction they're going, it's something to look at. It's a challenge, and I'm looking forward to it."

Brawner said that as an elected official, he wouldn't be able to make promises, except for one.

"The only thing you can promise anybody is I'm made in the U.S.A. ... I haven't got no ax to grind. I just want to do it.

"If they want me to change, they don't want to vote for me. I use common sense. I don't want anybody to hate me until they talk to me and know me."

His campaign slogan is "A vote for me is a vote for you."

Mark Cash

Less than five months after Mark Cash took office as the lower district member of the Board of County Commissioners, a major fire engulfed the Courthouse, and it subsequently was rebuilt.

"That took up a good part of my term," he said.

Cash won the lower-district seat four years ago by beating Brawner's son-in-law, Gregg Sinders.

This year, Cash said, he worked with victims of the tornado, putting large trash bins at Chelsea Park a couple of days after the tornado so residents could dispose of debris.

His other accomplishments as a commissioner, he said, included that he was "able to make some changes at the health department," where the longtime administrator was fired.

Cash said other high points of his term included putting together the county's first website, which has continued to be expanded to where taxes can be paid online and the public has access to property records.

Also, he said, he was "instrumental in hiring the first IT (information technology) director" for the county, who takes care of the computers in all of the county's buildings.

"That has been a great move that has saved us thousands of dollars a year," he said.

Before the county had one person in charge, he said, "We used outside contractors and nobody knew everything that was going on." He said his computer experience was key to establishing the position and filling it, and that he and she both monitor the county's computerized systems once a week. He said he also fills in for the IT manager when she is on vacation.

The next step, Cash said, is to have an imaging system for all county records, which would be scanned into a computer and be searchable using keywords. "It's a process over a number of years," he said.

Being able to get away from paper documents would save a lot of space in the Courthouse, he said.

Another goal is roads, and how to pay for maintenance of more miles. "I want to make our infrastructure the best it can be," he said.

The county has about 540 miles of roads, with 380 of those paved and the rest unpaved. The county can afford to pave and chip-and-seal only some of the already paved roads every year, but cannot afford to pave unpaved roads, he said. This year, the county doubled the money it spent on roads to $1 million to be able to pave more miles.

But for the long-term, Jefferson and other counties need to find other funding sources, he said.

"The legislature has finally heard us," Cash said, as the Association of Indiana Counties has been repeating the message. "They (legislators) are hopefully looking at that," he said.