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Dave Bartel

New manager at helm of James River Water Development District

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ABERDEEN -- The James River Water Development District will have a commitment to open dealings and transparency, said Dave Bartel, the new manager.

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Bartel was recently named the permanent manager of the district after having served on an interim basis since February, when Darrell Raschke resigned under pressure.

Bartel inherits an organization that had lost public trust after a state audit found numerous improper business practices as well as thousands of dollars in undocumented credit card expenses.

Previously, he worked for the district in charge of the lower James River total maximum daily load implementation program.

The development district has an annual budget of about $1 million, which it uses to fund projects along the James River to improve water quality and prevent flooding.

Randy Grismer, a district board member from Aberdeen, said Bartel is a good choice for the job.

"There is a couple of great things he brings to the position," said Grismer. "He has the institutional memory for what requests have been made and which ones have been funded. He also has forged a lot of important relationships with farmers and ranchers as well as conservation agencies."

The board evaluated Bartel throughout the interim period and is very comfortable with him, Grismer said.

Judy Smoyer, who had worked as an administrative assistant and bookkeeper for the district, was hired as chief financial officer and associate manager.

While former manager Raschke came under fire for improper business dealings, Bartel and Smoyer were never involved with any of them, Grismer said.

"It has always been my opinion that the problems with the James River Water Development District started and ended with Darrell Raschke," he said. "There have always been a lot of people in this organization with very good skills."

Bartel said one of the first priorities as interim manager was to get the website operational and begin posting all meeting minutes, funding requests and progress reports.

The website is www.jrwdd.com.

"Every dollar we spend is recorded in those minutes," he said. "We are making our life an open book."

Under Raschke, the website contained little financial information and was shut down during the last few months of his tenure.

Raschke, who served as director for 18 years, made an annual salary of $98,000. Bartel's salary will be $65,000 a year.

Grismer said the water development district funds important projects all along the James River from Marshall County in the north to Yankton County in the south.

Eight projects totaling about $225,000 were approved for funding at the July meeting.

Bartel said choosing good projects is important.

"When working with tax dollars, we feel obligated to spend the money as wisely as possible," he said.

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