BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Voters in Lee County will go to the polls Tuesday in a heavy field of candidates for area city and township elections, along with school board seats.
For the first time in more than two decades the Fort Madison mayoral election doesn’t feature an incumbent. Current Mayor Brad Randolph indicated this summer that he would not be seeking re-election to the post.
Randolph has served as mayor since the death of Steve Ireland in 2012. Fort Madison businessman, current 3rd Ward councilman, and former Lee County supervisor Matt Mohrfeld has to be considered the front-runner for the seat.
Newcomer Joe Helmick is running in a grass-roots campaign as the non-establishment candidate. Helmick’s a meat cutter at Fareway Grocery and campaigns as the average Joe and fresh face of city leadership. Rodney Hoskins II is also on the ballot. Hoskins has previously run for city council.
1st Ward councilman Chris Greenwald also announced this summer that he wouldn’t be returning to the council this term. Iowa State Penitentiary executive officer Rebecca Bowker, and Over the Road operator/owner Chris Sorrentino are in a ramped up battle for that seat. It’s Bowker’s first foray into public office. Sorrentino challenged Randolph for the mayor’s seat two years ago.
The At-large seat up this election is a hotly contested seat between four-term councilman Kevin Rink and newcomer Jerry Hamelton. Hamelton’s embarked on a fiery campaign and, at the center of the debate, is the newly approved golf cart law and the idea of a franchise tax to help the city out of financial woes.
Rink supported the golf cart/ATV ordinance. He is also open to the idea of a franchise tax on city utilities to help bring the city out of debt. Hamelton calls the idea of a franchise tax morally corrupt and said wasteful spending is to blame for budget woes. He also has called Rink out for not representing the voice of the people in voting for the new golf cart/ATV ordinance.
The 3rd Ward seat is also being vacated with Mohrfeld’s run for mayor. Twenty-one year old Tyler Miller is the only candidate for that spot. Chad Cangas is running unopposed for the 5th Ward seat.
In the Fort Madison School board seat, four seats are open with six candidates.
Incumbents Dianne Hope, Jared Hotop, Carol Ross, and Lois DiPrima are trying to hold onto their seats while Josh Wykert, who held a school board seat for about two months, is seeking a more permanent position. Newcomer Candice Smrt is also running.
The new board will again be saddled with trying to find a solution to aging elementary schools as well as how best to utilize the extension of the state’s Secure an Advance Vision for Education (SAVE) funds through 2050.
Elsewhere in north Lee County, Houghton has six candidates for five Council member seats with Marty Bentler, Cheryl Brock, Jay Henrich, Kurt Lowenberg, Russell Schwartz, and incumbent Andy Wilson all seeking seats. Gale Thompson is the only candidate for the mayor’s seat.
Donnellson has no contested seats with Jennifer Estrada and Jan Fraise running for two at-large seats and Brian Moeller and Selissa Weber are running to fill two at-large vacancies.
Montrose incumbents Mayor Ron Dinwiddie, and council members Jeff Junkins and Darcie Uhlmeyer are all seeking re-election unopposed.
St. Paul Mayor Janice Neuweg is running unopposed and incumbents Rod Cox, Mark Hymes, Randy Neuweg, and Stephanie Schinstock, all incumbents, are running with John Dingman for the five open seats.
Central Lee has three seats open on the board with Kimberlee Hasek (District 1), Bill Young (District 2), and Mark Hulsebus (District 3), all running unopposed.
In West Point, Mayor Paul Walker is unopposed, while all five current city councilman Bruce Wellman, Dan Waters, Will Stuekerjuergen, Brian Meierotto, and Joseph Loving are all on the ballot again for the five seats.