Two will face off in June 2 primary for District 1 Supervisor seat
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – Tony Keefe and Ron Fedler are both seeking the 1st district Lee County supervisor seat, but they both will have to do it practically from home.
With self-distancing in place and the future unknown, the campaign for the incumbent Keefe, and two-term veteran Fedler will not be waged out in the public.
Keefe is a full-time Lee County dispatcher who moved to the area about nine years ago. Fedler is a former Iowa State Penitentiary guard and area businessman seeking his third term on the county board.
Keefe said he had thoughts of running in 2016 but pulled out due to a family health scare. He said Fedler had indicated he wouldn’t be running again this time, so put a plan in place to run for Fedler’s seat.
“Ron announced during his 2016 campaign that he was done so that’s when I made a decision to run this go round. I put a lot of leg work into starting a campaign clear back before he announced in August,” Keefe said.
“I felt an obligation to district one that has supported me. They encouraged me to stay on and run. Everyone was under the impression he was going to hang it up, and I already made that commitment. Win or lose, it’s important to try.”
Fedler said continuing to run is all based on health and right now, despite a hip replacement just three weeks ago, he said he feels really good and wants to continue to work for the people of the 1st district.
“Right now my health is really good and I have a lot to contribute to the people of Lee County and the 1st district,” he said. “Being retired I can work a lot of hours that are just devoted to doing this. It’s very difficult to have a full-time job and do this because you just don’t do justice for the people of Lee County.”
The first district is the only district that doesn’t include part of the county’s two major cities, Fort Madison and Keokuk. Fedler said it’s important that whoever is in that seat be representing the rural parts of the county.
Keefe lives in Donnellson with his wife and two children. He said he got his interest in politics after working for the former KOKX radio station in Keokuk covering local politics.
“I was introduced to the political world by attending meetings of city councils and supervisors. That’s where I got into politics on a local level. It took a couple years to pull the trigger obviously,” he said.
After stints in retail, Keefe said he was trying to find something more meaningful and ended up as a dispatcher with LeeComm and has been doing that for six years.
“I absolutely love it. I get to see both sides of public safety, the front lines with first responders and also the victims of crimes and medical emergencies,” he said. “I see a little bit of everything.”
Keefe also sits on the Lee County Democrats central committee and has been involved with a couple national campaigns.
“I really enjoy politics and I like being able to help people out. I love sitting and talking with people and trying to come up with solutions to problems,” he said. “I do that a lot at work and it seems like a natural progression to think outside the box and help those in need.”
He said he feels the county is in good shape, despite the cloud of the coronavirus and the current funding crisis for Lee County Emergency Medical Services, the county’s ambulance provider.
The ambulance service issue is going to take some time and energy from supervisors even before the primary and general elections.
“Lee County residents have to have a way to get to the hospital. This has to be a priority as we go forward,” Keefe said.
But he would also like to be a part of getting people in the county back to work in general terms, whether that means continuing to work on bringing more jobs to the area, or getting people to take the jobs are that here now.
“The fertilizer plant was a big project that brought a lot of people in town and put money into our economy, but need to look at our business and Lee County Economic Development Group to reach out and find out what is good for Lee County,” Keefe said. “We have a lot of agriculture and the fertilizer plant was a good fit, but what else.”
Keefe said the thinks the current board is performing well, and is being as transparent as they can about funding and budget woes, but said a new face would bring energy back to the supervisors.
He believes the sheriff’s department needs additional manpower and the county has to find additional funding internally or through grants to get more deputies on the streets. Keefe said he would also like to see the county focus more on its public libraries as a resource to all county residents.
Keefe’s campaign has set up a website at www.tonykeefe.com and a facebook page for campaign information at https://www.facebook.com/TonyKeefeSupervisor/
Fedler said he wants to continue to be a part of the economic growth of Lee County that has been a part of his last two terms.
“Even though this virus has hit us, I really do see a bright future for Lee County and more potential, and I want to be there another four years and make sure we live up to that potential,” Fedler said.
Fedler puts a lot of the budgetary pressures the county is feeling at the feet of the state government. He said mandates, such as mental health, that are shredding county budgets, are pumping up the state’s budget and that can’t continue.
“I would love to see the state take back responsibility they used to have when it comes to mental health,” he said.
“We’ve had $1.4 million in mental health costs in mandates from the state. That’s a lot of money to come up with when the county has a $30 million budget and the state has a $7 billion budget. I say let us run the county, and you can run the state. That issue has bothered me for eight years now.”
Fedler said the county is being tested right now with the virus and the lock-downs. Supervisors locked down county buildings with the exception of court services, three weeks ago for four weeks. The end to that resolution comes next Tuesday.
He said department heads’ performance during this crisis is a reflection of how well the county is running.
“People think we’re just at home, but a lot of these people are putting in more than full days from home and are keeping things running as best as they can,” he said.
“I’m pretty happy with the group we’ve got running things right now. They are under a tremendous amount of stress because people can’t get into the building with this virus spreading like wildfire.”
Fedler, a West Point resident, said the county has to get through the ambulance crisis and the constraints of the virus and then get back to pursuing additional economic growth.
“There’s absolutely no way I’ll let Lee county residents go without ambulance service. We’ll get something done.”
The recent announcement of ConAgra’s $35 million expansion, which includes 91 new jobs, is the kind of growth he wants to continue to pursue over the next four years.
I wanna see jobs coming that are good paying with what I call livable wage, not a minimum wage job where people can’t even survive,” he said.
Fedler feels Lee County isn’t in as bad of financial shape as others and has weathered the financial pinch from the state as well as any.
He attributes the fertilizer plant and the Dakota Access pipeline with helping keep the county in decent shape.
“I wanna be around to make sure we continue to increase our revenues,”
The primary election takes place on June 2nd. County officials have reduced the polling locations to just three in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. County officials are encouraged residents to cast their vote by mail by requesting absentee ballots. Those ballots will start being mailed on April 23, 40 days prior to the primary election. Absentee ballots can be requested from the Lee County Auditor’s office or the Secretary of State’s website.