BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – There won’t be a lack of passion on the supervisor’s District 4 seat come November.
Incumbent Gary Folluo and Garry Seyb, Jr., are facing off Nov. 3 for the seat, and both candidates have had a loud voice for the people of the district and the county.
Seyb is looking for his first public election win, while Folluo is the incumbent and has been a part of Lee County’s political scene for close to 12 years.
Seyb has been vocal and a regular call-in for the supervisor’s regular board meeting and many special meetings since announcing his candidacy in March.
The retired National Guardsman and supervisor at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility, has lent his voice to many issues including recent discussions around a potential county mask regulation, and the county’s hearings on the ambulance service.
Folluo is looking for his fourth term as a Supervisor and was integral in putting together options for the county, when Lee County EMS hit financial struggles toward the end of 2019. Folluo has also been deeply involved in the county’s economic development efforts as a liaison to the Lee County Economic Development Board and Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission.
He also served several terms as Keokuk’s mayor and was the general manager at Keokuk’s radio stations KOKX, KRNQ, KOOL oldies, and WCEZ.
Folluo said the impacts of the COVID virus and the county’s move toward ownership of county ambulance services are two bigger issues facing supervisors.
“It’s going to take a lot of work for the county to get back up to speed, and the whole country for that matter,” he said during an interview during April’s primary season.
“We’re looking at reductions in our sales tax and reductions in motor fuel tax which will create some difficult times.”
Secondary roads will be affected as will some other projects that depend on those funding streams.
“We don’t know what the outcome is going to be by this yet. It’s gonna take a lot of work from supervisors and county government to get things stabilized after this outbreak is over,” Folluo said.
But he said the county, state and country always seem to rally after catastrophes and he hopes that happens again with the coronavirus.
Lee County is not unlike other areas of the country. It seems like catastrophes always bring innovative ideas and ways to make things work. We’ve got our political sides but everybody tends to come together and find resolutions to make things better,” he said.
“I think this will be the same after this coronavirus situation.”
He reference his time as mayor in Keokuk with Y2K concerns and the ’93 flooding as issues where despite the pinch of the situation, things were better with the resolutions that were a part of the mitigation efforts.
The closing of the Iowa Workforce Development offices was devastating to the county, but Folluo said that’s another example of how a hardships have created resolutions.
“The LCEDG and our school systems have come together and are working toward getting our students ready for the workforce. As far as I’m concerned, closing those offices was devastating and something good has come out of it.”
But he said these are some of the most challenging times for a county government. Revenue is at the forefront of most of those issues.
Folluo said the revenues lost during the coronavirus closures and mitigations will never fully be recovered. Despite some money that will trickle in from the CARES Act, Folluo said the county will feel the pinch and budgeting experience will be factor in who people vote for on November 3.
“Revenue lost is revenue never really gained back. I don’t care how well you do in the future, you’ll never regain that income lost. I’m talking about motor vehicle tax, gas tax, anything to do with transportation funds,” he said.
“We’re gonna lose some money, the State of Iowa is going to lose money out of it. Sales tax is taking a hit because people are not shopping consistently like they were in the past.”
He said projects may have to be put on the back burner because of those lost revenues and governments still don’t know the full affect of the coronavirus.
“Nobody knows what that impact is going to be over this catastrophe. It will be significant and the board will have some tough decisions to make. Experience there will be critical,” he said.
Folluo said he’s proud of the work done with the Mills family to resurrect the former Keokuk Steel Castings, and the progress made toward a Lee County Joint Education Center.
But he’s running again because he finds public service to be one of the most rewarding things a person can do.
“Representing a group of people means you have to address issues that are important to them. You are resolving problems for people and that is a very noble thing to do,” he said.
“The statement that resonates with me is ‘leave it better than you found it’. That’s my intention and hopefully I can fulfill my obligations to citizens of Lee County and I ask for their support again for my fourth term.
Seyb said his entire life has been committed to public service, and said at 50, he’s not ready to be done yet.
“I just want to give voters an option. I’m a firm believer in new ideas, new concepts and ways of doing things. Some times we get stagnant in ideas and thoughts and I think I can offer something fresh and new idea to the Board of Supervisors,” he said.
With military experience from the local to national levels, Seyb said he’s ready to jump in and help redefine the issues facing the county.
“I’m not ready to sit on the couch,” he said.
“I believe I operate on the premise of defining the problem and going forward with common sense. I’m a big fan of getting the most bang for our buck.”
Seyb was vocal on calls about the ambulance service and urging the county to not make snap decisions, but utilizing common sense to resolve the issue in the best way moving forward.
Growing up on a farm in Donnellson until he was 10, Seyb then went to Central Lee Schools where he graduated in 1989. He joined the service out of high school and enlisted in the National Guard, where he spent 31 years before retiring in January, a Colonel, commanding the 671st Troop Command in Des Moines.
He also served in a Desert Storm deployment and in Afghanistan from 2008-09.
“Those are significant in running for office, because it allowed me to deal with a lot of budgets including a multi-million dollar budget in Afghanistan
He attended college at Southeastern Community College and then Western Illinois University later on.
He started at Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison in 1993, was promoted to a Lieutenant in 1998 at the Women’s Unit in Mt. Pleasant, and then was made a captain at the Mt. Pleasant Correctional facility in 2006.
He’s also a member of the Jackson Township Fire Association holding the positions of firefighter, Captain, Trustee and Assistant Chief. He is currently the Chairman of Trustees in charge of the association’s budget and bills. He holds a criminal justice degree and a BS in law enforcement/administrative justice from Western Illinois University.
In addition to all that, he also farms about 150 acres of row crops annually so he knows the plight of the Lee County farmers, volunteer firefighters, veterans and county residents.
Seyb said county infrastructure, budgeting, and security have to be priorities with the next board. He said bridges and roads always have the attention of voters.
“I think infrastructure is always a priority. Some of bridges and roads and secondary roads need work and that’s going to be a big issue and is always looked at by voters,” he said.
“The other thing out there is some security concerns and county offices need to be addressed.”
But he said the budget will require a lot of attenion.
“I can tell you looking at budgets, if you put a very critical eye to each area, there is always some spending out there that can be utilized better. Look at non-profits that are under utilized – those are some areas I want to look at,” he said.
Seyb said he’s written several grants for the Jackson Fire Department and said the board needs to be doing more to find those extra dollars.
“It’s not about stretching your budget, but utilizing it to the best of your ability and getting the most of out of it,” he said.
The status quo isn’t something Seyb said he puts much stock in.
“Anyone that knows me knows I’m not a big status quo guy,” he said.
“I want to move the ball and see what we can do to increase our standard of living, tax base, jobs, and things of that nature. If you get some people on the board that are inspired and invigorated to do that, I’m not taking any shots – its a big job – but I’m ready for that. I’m inspired and ready to go.
“I’m all in, not half way. If I’m elected I’m in for the whole county and my district. That’s my guide, what do I need to bring to the table for the residents in my area.”
Seyb said, if elected, he will limit his service to no more than two terms as he believes in term limits and fresh faces with new ideas.