Candidates for Douglas County’s top board vied for votes in the first large forum of the campaign season.

District 2 candidates John Engels and Steve Thaler and District 4 candidates Janet Murphy and Wes Rice described their experience and platforms at the Good Governance Group forum on Thursday.

Questions ranged from new county manager appointments, department sizing, Tiregate, the master plan, and growth and housing.

Engels said he believes affordable housing is synonymous with gang housing.

“We have gang members here already,” he said. “As nice as it would be to believe, when there’s affordable housing, you’re going to start getting an element we all tried to get away from, and we don’t want it here.”

He said there are places for veterans just coming out of the service to go besides Douglas County.

“We don’t need to (offer affordable housing) for vets here,” he said. “We’re not set up to do it. There’s an affordable housing development for vets in Reno. We don’t want it. We have enough congestion here.”

Thaler said he was most concerned about land conservation in the master plan.

“We’ve conserved 30,000 pristine acres so far,” Thaler said. “That’s the most important, keeping those lands preserved.”

Murphy said she was focused on infrastructure, but hadn’t been able to read the master plan yet, as it was too long for her to get through at present.

Rice asked the 200 or so attendees how many of them were born here, or lived here all their lives. Only a few hands were raised from the audience.

“The people coming here to retire from California had their house that they bought for $115,000 now selling for $1 million plus, are coming here to buy up all the nice houses,” he said. “They’re jacking up the price for the rest of the county. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, or a bad thing, but it is a thing.”

None of the candidates disagreed that Douglas County is a essentially a retirement community.

Murphy said she would reduce the number of county employees, opting for cross-training to fill empty positions.

“Do I think that this county is bloated?” she said. “I do, Eighty percent of the budget is personnel. When people retire, we should not fill their jobs, but cross-train.”

Thaler, who is the only incumbent, said county staff should grow to meet residents’ needs.

He said infrastructure will need to be improved in the coming years, and more employees will need to be hired to deal with that.

“The county grows as resources are needed.”

All four candidates speaking at Thursday’s forum are Republicans. The District 2 election will be resolved in the June 12 Republican primary. A nonpartisan candidate is on the District 4 ballot for November.