A challenger to Lincoln County’s longest-serving commissioner and a first-time North Platte City Council candidate lead the latest group of local entrants in the May 12 primary election.
Veteran rural North Platte building contractor Irving Hiatt entered the Republican race for the County Board’s District 1 seat against 35-year Commissioner Joe Hewgley. No Democrats have filed for the seat.
In North Platte, computer professional and mixed-martial-arts entrepreneur Brad Garrick filed for the Ward 3 City Council seat. Incumbent Andrew Lee is running for mayor.
It’s the first run for public office for Hiatt, who founded Hiatt Construction Inc. in 1966 and continues to work there alongside his family.
Commissioner District 1 covers western and southwest North Platte and nearby rural areas on either side of U.S. Highway 30.
Hiatt, 84, lives 3 miles north of the highway and 1 mile east of Front Road at 9676 W. Jay’s Road.
He has five children, 21 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren. Hiatt’s wife, Vivian, died in July 2014.
He entered the County Board race, he said Friday, both to give his district a fresh face and out of dissatisfaction with commissioners’ removal last summer of former County Treasurer Lorie Koertner.
“There’s no reason for what they did, as far as I’m concerned,” said Hiatt, whose sister Deb McNeel worked alongside Koertner during a long career in the Treasurer’s Office.
Commissioners invoked a little-used 1879 state law to unseat Koertner, elected to her office in 2018, after complaints from some Lincoln County local governments of unexpected shortfalls in property tax receipts.
A Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts review found $6.14 million in undeposited checks around the office, along with backlogs in other routine treasurer’s business.
Though all five County Board members wrongly voted to dismiss an elected official, Hiatt said, Hewgley made a “smart remark that he didn’t like (Koertner) in the first place.”
Hewgley, who served as County Board chairman during 2019, replied Friday that he didn’t know what Hiatt was talking about. He invited him to read the Auditor’s Office “attestation” report on its staff’s findings after Koertner’s removal.
“I think the entire board tried to be as fair as possible with Lorie,” Hewgley said. “If I’m not mistaken, it was five voting members of the Board of Commissioners that had Lorie removed, not myself.”
The county’s two newest commissioners, Walt Johnson (District 4) and Jerry Woodruff (District 5), remained the only candidates for the two new County Board seats voters approved in 2018.
Garrick, who turns 40 Sunday, lives at 1118 W. Fifth St. He joins fellow first-time candidate Pete Volz (Ward 2) and incumbents Jim Backenstose (Ward 1) and Lawrence Ostendorf (Ward 4) in the city’s four council races.
The 1998 North Platte High School graduate is a clinical business intelligence analyst for Great Plains Health Innovation Network, which connects several GPH-related medical clinics.
Garrick also owns and coaches at North Platte-based Top Tier MMA, which teaches boxing, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, taekwondo and “a little bit of wrestling” to 50 to 60 young people on the top floor of the D&N Event Center.
“Politics has always been an interest of mine, especially at the national level,” Garrick said Friday. “This gives me a chance to educate myself on the local level and make a difference.”
Like other announced council candidates, Garrick said he’ll stress the need for economic growth to encourage more people to move to and stay in North Platte.
Sports tourism naturally interests him as a potential growth area, he said, but he’s especially interested in North Platte Area Chamber & Development’s efforts to set up a industrial “rail park” along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks near town.
“Right now, you can’t pull your truck up to the (railroad) and unload right onto it,” Garrick said.
Housing codes need to be more strongly enforced, he added, which would be aided if North Platte were to appoint a city health inspector.
The city needs either “to get rid of” Iron Eagle Golf Course “or make it profitable,” Garrick said, but he believes “we can’t stay in the golf course” unless someone buys it.
Garrick’s wife, Emily, runs the couple’s RA Productions video production company. His 18-year-old daughter, Alexus, lives in Lincoln, and he and Emily have a 4-month-old son, Kiah.
He’s a third-generation North Platte business owner after grandfather John, who owned the former Johnny’s Cafe downtown, and father Don, who owned The Minnow Bucket for 35 years.