BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Two Lee County elected officials want to continue the work they’ve been doing for the taxpayers in the upcoming primary and general elections.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise and Sheriff Stacy Weber, both Democrats, have announced their intentions to run for their respective offices again in 2020.
The Primary Election will be held June 2nd and all Lee County polling sites will be open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. As of Friday March 6, no other candidates had turned in papers to seek election to those offices.
Fraise, the former president of the State Auditor’s Association, said she enjoys serving the people of Lee County and wants to continue doing so.
“ I would like to continue to serve the citizens of Lee County for four more years. I enjoy the challenges that are presented to me every day. New laws and cybersecurity make elections an ever-changing item. I am proud to be part of the Iowa Auditor’s Association that works so hard to ensure that everyone’s vote will count,” she said.
Fraise has been part of the county auditor’s office for the past 25 years, was elected in 2012 to the post, and was re-elected in 2016. She said the county is doing well in a tight budget environment.
“The county is heading the right direction. We’ve implemented some safety measures for the state, and got the solar panels trying to cut electric bills.”
Fraise said it’s important that county residents know that the county is responsible with taxpayer money and wants to protect that image.
“There’s always a lot of misinformation and that bothers me about public service. The misconception that we’re riding on the taxpayers coat tails,” she said. “It’s not that way at all. Everyone is conscientious about what we do and it’s always on my mind that we are spending their money.”
A big part of Fraise’s job is securing the voting process in Lee County. She said the state is tops in the nation in voter security and that has been an ever-changing focus during her term as Auditor.
“So much has been said about cyber security lapses and things like that and I feel very confident in our equipment here. It’s not connected to the Internet and is tested repeatedly in public testing. Anybody is welcome at anytime to come in the office and I’m big about transparency there,” Fraise said.
She gives credit to Secretary of State Paul Pate for keeping Iowa at the forefront of security and technology.
“We receive a lot of training through the year because there’s always new legislation and we have to be on top of that. The Secretary of State’s office is good about keeping us informed. Nikki (Sugars) and Sara (Helenthal) are always having cyber security sessions.”
Fraise, as auditor, also serves as secretary for the Lee County Board of Supervisors and says she has a very good working relationship with those elected officials.
“I don’t know if previous auditor’s have worked as close with the supervisors as I do. I’m very in tune with them and I know what they are thinking, and try to stay a step ahead.”
Fraise is also a member of the Lee County Democratic Central Committee, Fort Madison Food Pantry Board member, Fort Madison First Baptist Church, and Fort Madison Kiwanis. She served as President of the Iowa State Association of County Auditors in 2019 and serves on their Executive Board. She was named by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate to an Auditors Advisory Group. Fraise and her husband Jim have four children, three grandchildren and one on the way. They reside in West Point.
Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said his first four years in office have been very productive and calls the county 100% safer than it’s been in the past.
“There’s more of us now and the one’s we have are better than what we’ve had in the past,” he said. “That in no way is a dig on those that we’re here before us, but it’s a testament to the type of people we have in the department.”
Weber said during the 2016 election debate, he made some promises to get things done and has achieved all those commitments to voters.
One of the first things Weber did was get a privately funding K9 program. Not only did Weber get one K9 officer, but two – Gunner and Kion – that are now part of a program supported by local donations.
Weber has also overseen transformations in the Lee County Jail resulting in fewer incidents, all while increasing revenues from neighboring counties having offenders held in Lee County. Weber said one of his first moves after making Will Conlee his Chief Deputy, was to install John Canida as the first jail administrator.
“Our administrator is one of the best in the state, But from the top down these guys are all awesome and do different things.” he said.
Other department enhancements include adding two detective positions to the team, a diver program, a county tactical team, re-established the Crime Stoppers program, providing several events for youth including a wildly popular Safe Trick or Treat Night and even hosted dance parties at the sheriff’s office.
“It’s a lot different than I thought it was going to be,” Weber said of running the department. “We accomplished goals such as obtaining all the hardware, personnel, and bringing us to date with technology. But it didn’t take as long as I thought it would. This has been a complete team effort here.”
He was quick to share credit, with not just the department staff, but with the Board of Supervisors and the public as well.
“They have been just awesome to us since I’ve been sheriff, “Weber said. “I don’t think throughout the history of this department we’ve had as much support from the public. It’s been phenomenal and I think speaks to what’s happening here.”
He said with accomplishing the goals he set for the first term, second term goals will be lofty.
“It’s gonna be harder to get better. We’ve done a lot in these first three years and it started day one.”
Weber was referring to his first day in office when the department was called to the riverfront for two men, who both turned up dead, had fallen into the river while fishing.
“I knew both those guys and we had to go down there right after our first meeting. It was a horrible way to start, but we didn’t even have time to think about that when we had a deadly accident on a curve on Hwy. 2,” Weber said.
“There’s been little to time to sit and think about things, but that’s really been the pace for us here. You gotta get through those things and you have to be righteous.”
Weber said then the department had an deputy-involved shooting and he wanted to let the public know there was going to be transparency in the department and posted most of the video of the shooting.
“I wanted to show the public that shooting to show he was right and we were transparent,” he said. “This is the reality of the circumstances of what we’re involved in every day. Adding two detectives and doubling our criminal investigation department has been good, too.
Weber said he doesn’t see himself in the position for many terms, but said having the team in place, makes serving as sheriff a lot easier.
Weber said former Sheriff Buck Jones gave him advice that when he felt it was time to go, he should go.
“If I’m elected again, at the end of that term I’ll be 50 and I can retire. I don’t plan on being sheriff much longer than 50, but you never know. I might consider running again if I win this time, but not much longer than that,” he said.
Weber started as a reserve officer with the Keokuk Police Department and then got on as a deputy with the sheriff’s department, and has more than 20 years of public law enforcement service.