BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Two residents of Fort Madison’s 2nd Ward have stepped forward to fill in for the vacancy on the council created by the death of Councilman Bob Morawitz last week.
Tom Schulz and Jerry Hamelton both informed the Pen City Current Tuesday that they would be offering their names for the seat.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison City Council, the council passed two resolutions that it intends to fill the vacancy, as well as a 3rd Ward vacancy created by Tyler Miller’s resignation, by appointment.
However, state code allows for someone to file a petition to have a special election for the seat.
Hamelton said he will be gathering signatures for the petition to put the seats in front of 2nd Ward voters.
The vote could however, result in the 3rd Ward seat also being put up for election. Iowa code 372.13 states that appointments are good until the next general city election, unless an intervening special election is called.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said Tuesday night she would have to check with Secretary of State’s office on the unique nature of the dual vacancies and how a special election by petition would impact the other vacancy.
Hamelton ran unsuccessfully in 2019 for an at-large seat against Kevin Rink. He said the city isn’t being financially responsible.
“The most fundamental reason to cut taxes is an understanding that wealth doesn’t just happen, it has to be produced,” Hamelton wrote in a prepared statement.
“And those who produce it have a right keep it.”
He wrote that taxpayers may choose to give up a portion of their wealth to pay for public services like police, fire, parks and roads.
“But we don’t give the city council an unlimited claim on our money to use as it sees fit.”
Hamelton, a former law enforcement officer, said money will do more good for more people in private hands than in government hands.
He also said the city runs the risk of scaring off business with maximum property tax levels and additional franchise taxes.
“A franchise tax is an end-around way of taking more money from the people without letting them decide for themselves,” he wrote.
“The people are not to blame for the city’s financial problems. The poor choices in spending by the council is the reason for the city’s lack of funds.”
Schulz said he was already considering a run for 2nd Ward in the next election. He said he didn’t run in the previous cycle because he thought Morawitz was doing a good job representing the district.
“He was also running against Brian Wright, who I thought was also doing a good job so I didn’t see the need to fight that election. Obviously, that situation has changed.”
Schulz owns and operates Your Heat & Air Guy heating and air conditioning and has served on boards with the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce, the P.A.W. animal shelter and Fort Madison Main Street.
“I think what we’re seeing with the city budget and funds… I’ve had experience managing companies that have a larger budget than the city and I think I could be of some help there. And that’s critical right now,” Schulz said.
“I look at the condition of our infrastructure and I compliment the current council because they are making significant improvements to what has been decades of neglect. Fort Madison hasn’t looked at the long-term very well.”
He said Fort Madison has become a great hometown for his family and he thinks now is the time to help make it better.
Schulz said he’s ready for an election or an appointment.
“I’m ready for whatever. I willing to put my ideas up against his any day of the week,” he said. “But I have more respect for the taxpayers of Fort Madison than to expect them to pay the thousands of dollars needed for a special election for a position for less than a year.”