Better Know Your Leaders: Ken Zander
Name: Ken Zander
When did you move to Stark County?
Born and raised in Stark County, my mother’s family farmed east of Lefor, and my father’s family farmed five miles southeast of Dickinson. I have resided in Stark County for 59 years.
What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing the county commission?
The obvious answer is oil-impacted county roads and bridges. But we have many other areas of concern; Social services, law enforcement, veteran services, the court system and jail services. These, along with other departments, have all seen increased needs for staffing. In many cases these services are mandated by state and federal laws that do not provide 100 percent funding, which means the county must budget local tax dollars.
How do issues in the county differ from those facing the city?
Stark County does not borrow money, so we have been fortunate to pay cash for projects such as roads, highways and bridges. We have used in-house funding sources to pay for major projects like the new county shop. The paved farm-to-market road north of South Heart, and rebuilding and paving of Highway 10 from east to west is matching local dollars with the North Dakota Department of Transportation and is paid for with county tax dollars and oil impact funds. Stark County does not have any special assessments or bond issues. That’s not to say we wouldn’t look at those areas for funding future needs. Stark County is not a home rule county so we do not have revenue from sales tax collection.
What are some of the issues facing rural areas near non-Dickinson Stark County cities?
Rural areas used to be farms and ranches, now we see new subdivisions being created, both residential and commercial. There has to be good balance and I look to the Planning and Zoning Boards to make recommendations. The smaller communities have leaders that are making good decisions for their residents to manage growth. I see this as a partnership, if we can help or offer assistance we do it without hesitation.
While all cities in Stark County have had some type of oil impact, the communities of Dickinson and Belfield have had more of a direct impact than those of Richardton or Taylor. How do you balance the needs of these communities?
County commissioners have to keep in mind that we represent all of Stark County from Belfield to Richardton — 54 miles. Stark County has provided financial assistance to those communities in areas of rural fire and emergency services. We have provided funding for ambulance vehicles and partnered with them for staffing EMTs. We have assisted in parks and recreation facilities through the County Parks Department. Stark County partners with three neighboring counties to share veterans’ services and cost.
Where is your favorite place to relax in Stark County and why?
Chris and I have been married for 37 years and we enjoy entertaining family and friends in our home. But when we need to get out, there’s a small bar and grill on Main Street Gladstone that makes a great cheeseburger basket and the beer’s cold. We enjoy the company of good friends.