Shawn Tasset's election to the Ford County Commission brings an agricultural point of view to the legislative body.
The decisions he makes for the people of Ford County as the newest commissioner need to pass two litmus tests, 1st District Commissioner-elect Shawn Tasset said.
"Number one is: Is it in the best interest and is it the majority will of the people I am supposed to be representing? Number two is: if I cast this vote, and I drop off this chair dead, can I look at my lord and savior and say this vote is OK, or do I have to explain that?" Tasset said.
Tasset was selected by a committee of voting precinct representatives to replace Jerry King, whose last day in office is today. Tasset received a majority of the votes over long-time friend Steven "Troy" Snook and Jeannie Zortman in a special convention held Dec. 20. He will assume the position on Dec. 28.
Tasset took over the farm from his father, David, in 2009 as he wound down a trucking company he started in 2001. Working both at the same time, he said, ended up hurting both ventures.
Born in Ford County in 1969, he has lived in the county the whole time except for his service in the Navy and a brief period in Colorado while his wife finished college.
Now he grows wheat, dryland corn, milo and dryland alfalfa and has backgrounded cattle. Last year, he started two calving herds.
Precinctwoman and Ford County employee Pat Heeke, who seconded Tasset's nomination at the convention, said he would be a "farm boy serving farm boys."
"He's not a politician. He just wants to serve the people of Ford County," she said, and "He's not afraid to express a differing opinion."
"As a county leader, he won't always be a unanimous vote," she continued, "but we'll get good information."
Tasset will likely vote on several complicated issues early into his term, including how the "Why Not Dodge?" special project tax fund is managed, whether to build a water park alongside the city of Dodge City and what to do with a lawsuit against the state over oil and gas taxes if the Kansas Legislature does not support the 51 counties joined in the lawsuit's demands.
Tasset describes himself as a social and fiscal conservative, a poor public speaker and someone who wants to know the facts before making grand proposals. During the convention that elected him, he spoke briefly and broadly, and said he couldn't "promise to shake the leaves from the tree" as soon as he's elected.
But, from an outside perspective, it looks like there could be a better working relationship between Dodge City and the county, he said. A willingness to be honest with one another and confront opposing opinions respectfully is why local government is often much more effective than the state or federal level.
Tasset was urged by some friends to accept a nomination for commissioner. "It had not been on my radar to get involved in that until the weekend before the vote. By their request, I decided to put my name in," he said.
His election to the commissioner introduces a viewpoint to the commission from figurative center pivot of the southwest Kansas agriculture industry. Asked if it will grant a perspective that's been lacking in local government, he said, "I think there's people in the county that hope it will. I hope it will."
One example he cited was a seeming lack of sensitivity toward the infrastructure in the county and the needs of farmers.
"We felt that out there in the 1st District, I felt, like some of our infrastructure had started to be neglected," he said.
Before King had announced his resignation from the commission to take a job in North Dakota, Tasset said he worked with the commissioner on what he saw as deteriorating roads and bridges in the county.
"You know, if its grain, that’s one thing, … if something happens and you can't get a truck to it, that’s just going to have to wait. It's not a big deal if you have to wait. You can lose some money in markets, but when you're talking about animals, it has to be done, and it has to be done every day. You have to be able to get your equipment through to take care of those animals.
"It has to be in a state that can be used day in, day out 365 days a year, that's just the way it is," he said.
Tasset will finish the term vacated by King, who was elected for four years in 2011. His first meeting as a commissioner will be on Dec. 30 at noon in the Ford County Government Center.