County candidate: ‘Communication, cooperation, collaboration’

Republican David Lee believes county should have a grant writing position. He also believes county should follow the science on COVID-19 and sees the internet as an economic development tool.

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October 9, 2020 - 3:28 PM

“I have empathy for the folks who don’t have it as good as we do,” said David Lee, the Republican candidate running for county commissioner in District 2.

Lee faces Democrat Michelle Meiwes.

Lee works at his family’s company, LaHarpe Communications. The position to install and improve internet capabilities around the area leads him to place improving local broadband high on his list of “keen interests.”

He has significant experience in public life, having served on the LaHarpe city council, USD 257 Board of Education and Allen Community College board of trustees.

Lee’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in business management.

He served in the military for 34 years before recently retiring, with stints in the U.S. Army, Army Reserves and Army National Guard.

REGARDING some specific issues involving the commission, Lee is a strong believer in grants, and said “as a councilman in LaHarpe, I always thought it’d be cool to have a grant writer on staff.”

Not only can a grant writer pay for their own position, he noted, but if you “take a little risk” by empowering someone to pursue grants, it’s often possible to achieve impressive things.

And Lee isn’t shy about how he’d approach COVID-19 as a commissioner, noting that he has aging parents and a brother who’s a physician.

“We have a responsibility to keep each other safe,” he said. “Masks help with breaking that chain of transmission … and I struggle to see [how it] encroaches on civil liberties.”

“I follow science. I believe in science,” he emphasized, and referred to wearing masks as “a sign of respect.”

IN TERMS of economic development, Lee again highlighted the importance of the internet, which he described as “the new oil.”

And he added that, more generally, “when you have communities that struggle but have a desire for growth, you need that big brother … [and] the only honest broker is going to be the county.”

Lee doesn’t view the county as a bank, however, nor does he think it has a place in promoting private business interests except in a general way that benefits multiple parties.

As he put it, the key question is whether “any profits would go into the county.”

That said, he also argued it’s important to overcome the attitude that just because an investment by the county doesn’t benefit “me” personally, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

COMMENTING on recent measures by the county to improve transportation for residents, Lee said he thought there was “obviously” a need.

He agreed though with the current commission that it was best to start slow and build up the program bit by bit.

“Starting small, I agree with that,” he remarked. “It shouldn’t be a taxi cab.”

He also said he thought that before the county makes a financial intervention that it should look to existing organizations and programs before starting new ones.

SPEAKING on his experience campaigning across the county, Lee highlighted how much he’s learned throughout the process.

“It’s been an eye-opener for me,” he said. “I have a much better appreciation for how my neighbors live.”

This is especially the case, he remarked, with regard to addressing poverty and other forms of economic disadvantage.

He also highlighted the importance of constructive dialogue with residents, whether it’s tending to roads or any other issue.

When something happens or doesn’t happen at the county level, Lee noted, “there’s a reason … it’s just got to be communicated.”

And sometimes that communication means saying something unpopular, but that’s part of what being a leader means.

Sometimes, it’s necessary “to be that guy who says what other people are afraid to say.”

He’s running against Michelle Meiwes. Read her story here.

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