Five of the 11 candidates vying to be appointed to the open Lancaster County Board seat were named finalists Monday. 

Jim Ballard, Cristy Joy, Shane Jensen, Tami Soper and Christa Yoakum moved on to a second round of interviews slated for later this week. 

The four Democrats and Ballard, a Republican, applied last month for the District 2 seat vacated when Jennifer Brinkman resigned to become the chief of staff for Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird.

Ballard ran for and narrowly lost the election for the seat to Brinkman in 2016. He co-owns and runs James Arthur Vineyards and the From Nebraska Gift Shop in the Haymarket. 

Ballard believes his business skills and agricultural experience give him a unique ability to be a good steward over the county's resources, and he said he would look to common sense and not party politics in decision-making if appointed to the board.

"I think I have something to offer to a place where I have lived for 30 years," Ballard told the three county officials who will make the appointment.

Joy, a Lincoln architect, said her work on the City-County Planning Commission inspired her to seek the County Board seat and among her priorities would be to address the funding needs of infrastructure, including a county wheel tax to help pay for ailing county bridge improvements, she said.

"My goal is to be a thoughtful public servant," Joy said. "I want to make sure everyone is heard."

Jensen, a financial planner, said economic development and infrastructure are among his top priorities if appointed.

He'd listen and work hard to find ways to address the budget challenges without "short-changing" county operations, he said.

"There is not a Democrat or a Republican way to fix a bridge, and I look forward to working with engineer (Pam) Dingman, and our board and our state to find the resources necessary," he said.

Soper, a legislative aide, said she'd explore public-private partnerships and streamline services to help meet essential needs despite funding challenges. 

"I have spent my career as a servant leader, working in and with public and nonprofit organizations," she said in her application letter. "I have solid legislative and administrative knowledge and experience that I believe will be an asset in my role as a county commissioner." 

Yoakum, coordinator of the "Nebraska is Home" program at Nebraska Appleseed, said she had planned to run for this seat before Brinkman declared her candidacy for the seat. 

As a commissioner, she'd work with county department leaders to accomplish their strategic goals.

"I don't come in with a lot of preconceived ideas," Yoakum said in her interview, adding the board had been moving in a good direction. 

The district covers northwest Lancaster County and generally extends from downtown Lincoln and west to Emerald and the county line.

The term runs until Jan. 7, 2021, and the seat will be on the ballot in 2020.

Lancaster County Attorney Pat Condon, County Clerk Dan Nolte and County Treasurer Rachel Garver will make the appointment by June 30.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2657 or rjohnson@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.


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