BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Current city councilman Matt Mohrfeld will move three seats to his right in January and pick up the gavel as the city’s next mayor.
Mohrfeld garnered 819 of 1462 votes for 56% in a turnout that was about 33 percent higher than the 2017 election.
Mohrfeld said he campaigned for the job with the intention of doing the job.
“Getting elected is easy, now you gotta roll up your sleeves and do the job,” he said. “Tomorrow morning I have to sit down and balance what I do at work, with coaching, and doing the job of Mayor.”
Newcomer Joe Helmick got 516 votes in what he called a last-minute decision to enter the race for mayor.
“I already called and congratulated Matt,” Joe said at about 10:30 Tuesday night. “I told him I thought I did pretty good for a butcher.”
Helmick said the race has only energized him to seek election again on the next ballot and said he will look at winning a council seat to learn more about city government. He didn’t rule out another run for mayor down the road.
“I think a lot of people want a change. I’m planning on running for city council and I think after spending some time on the council I’d be ready (for another mayoral run).”
Rodney Hoskins received 18 votes and said he was happy to see the amount of voters that turned out.
“I just pretty much want to thank the people that voted more and congratulate Matt,” Hoskins said.
“I was glad that everyone that was eligible to vote did. We did have a better turnout than previous years and and I’m happy that people came to vote.”
Mohrfeld said he thinks the school board election was one of the reasons why voter turnout was high, but said the controversy surrounding the golf cart/ATV ordinance also brought people to the polls.
“There’s no doubt about the election having some single things that were controversial. But I ran for mayor because I wanted to do the job for the people of Fort Madison.”
Mohrfeld said his number one priority at the start of the year will be getting out in front of the budget. He said he’d like to use projections and planning sessions to start crafting a vision for the next 10 years.
Mohrfeld also said he’s happy with the way the rest of the election broke on the council.
“I’m really tickled with who the people voters kept in and put on the council. As a mayor, I’m a coach and I’m only as good as a team, but that team got enhanced tonight,” he said.
In the first ward, Iowa State Penitentiary Executive Officer Rebecca Bowker defeated Chris Sorrentino. It was Sorrentino’s second shot at elected office after taking on Brad Randolph for mayor two years ago.
Sorrentino said he thinks the golf cart/ATV ordinance had an impact on the election, but also said he was disappointed in the 1st ward turnout. Bowker won with 139 votes, to Sorrentino’s 64.
Bowker said via text that she was grateful for the vote of confidence from the people in the first ward.
“I am humbled by the confidence that the first ward has in me,” she wrote. “I look forward to listening to each of you and moving our great city forward.”
Sorrentino said this loss gives him pause.
“After I lost to Brad I wasn’t ready to give up. I still had a fight there and I knew that was a big seat,” he said. “But I stayed in it and stayed active. I was just going to step back to the first ward and stay concerned with that. It takes a lot out of you when you do that multiple times and you can get the same results.”
Councilman Kevin Rink will get a fourth term on the council after defeating Jerry Hamelton by 140 votes, 786-646.
“I’m happy to be elected back in with a little bit of experience with the changeover and the knowledge to help move the city forward,” Rink said.
“We have a very good base on the council going forward. Tyler is very good, Rebecca will be very good. She’s a thinker and Matt’s going to lead us all along the way.”
Hamelton said he was starting his next election effective immediately.
“I am running for election beginning today. I’ve learned a lot from this race. There was negativity and that shouldn’t happen,” he said.
“Just stick to the facts. Sometimes the facts are unpopular but you have to speak to them.”
Hamelton said he believes that Rink’s experience and familiarity with the town won the election for him.
“He’s been a councilman for so long and he’s so well known. Being in that seat for that long, I think he’s a super nice guy. I don’t agree with some of his positions, but he’s a great guy. But I think that’s what swung the election.”
He said the win had a narrow margin which should send a message to the council.
“I think that’s pretty close. I almost unseated a veteran incumbent so I hope that sends a message to current city council that the route they are going is the wrong way. Listen to people more diligently and spend the budget more responsibly,” he said.
Hamelton said he wouldn’t challenge current councilman Bob Morawitz for 2nd ward if Morawitz runs in two years.
“I will run in two years and if Mr. Morawitz is running for his seat I will not run against him, we will run for at-large.”