Three races for Decorah City Council
Monday, November 04, 2013 7:10 AM
There are three contested races for the Decorah City Council in Tuesday's election.
City ward boundaries were redrawn due to redistricting following the 2010 census and as a result, all Council members except Rachel Vagts are up for re-election next week. Mayor Don Arendt also is facing a challenge in his re-election bid from Jim McIntosh.
In Decorah, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Four newcomers are candidates for the Ward 4 and Ward 5 positions. Bill Wagner and Matthew Gausmann are running in Ward 4 and Marion Pruitt-Jefferson and Charles Lore are running for the Ward 5 spot.
Eight-year Council member Randy Schissel, who has represented Ward 5, now lives in the new Ward 1. Schissel and Jarrad Walter, who was appointed to fill the Ward 1 vacancy after Council member John Franzen resigned this summer, are both seeking election in Ward 1.
Schissel is an 8-year member of the Council who works as an account executive with Storey Kenworthy.
"I've taken serving on the Council very seriously since the first time I was elected," said Schissel, who attended his first class of the Iowa League of Cities, which provides training to city officials, before he was sworn into office.
"I've attended the League's workshops and conferences to educate myself on issues and how they impact our community and through these workshops, also created a network that has allowed me to ask questions of other elected or appointed officials," he said.
While Decorah won't soon have a four-lane highway leading to it, it does have a "20-lane super highway" in the new Decorah Metronet, fiber optic network, Schissel said.
"I would like to work more with the Metronet and explore ways to make that an economic driver for the community ... It's a draw for businesses to have that here," he said.
Schissel also wants to see the completion of utilities in the Decorah Business Park and work on ways to fill it.
A Decorah native, Walter left the city with his family to work in Austin, Texas. They returned to Decorah in 2012 and Walter continues to work in sales and marketing support for an Austin-based software company.
"Decorah City Council deserves a Ward 1 representative committed to engagement with their constituents, committed to the stewardship of our town's amazing resources and committed to guiding continued progress in order for Decorah to remain a strong, viable community. I believe I am the best candidate for this role and would enjoy the opportunity to serve," Walter said.
Walter previously served on the Decorah Human Rights Commission.
The candidate said if elected, his goal would be to continue to serve the citizens of Decorah by working with the residents, Council members and city staff.
"Together, we can ensure a perpetually energized and viable Decorah," Walter said.
Wagner works for the Iowa Braille School as a driver and assistant for a teacher of the visually impaired. He has lived in Decorah since 1984 and previous employment included managing Yellow Freight, working in sales for CamCar Textron and driving for Hawkeye Stages.
"I have a sense of exhilaration as my campaign for Ward 4 City Councilperson draws to an end. The encouragement and well wishes I've received from old and new friends alike have been an inspiration to me," Wagner said.
"If elected, I'm looking forward to the challenge of serving on the Decorah City Council. This city has come a long way in the 30 years that I have resided here, and it is my hope to play a part in the future of this great community. Thanks to all my supporters, I will work hard to ensure that Decorah continues to be a great place to call home."
Wagner's opponent, Gausmann, is a Luther College sophomore from La Crosse, Wis.
"I am thankful for the support I've received from friends and community members during this endeavor. Without them I could not have done this. If elected, I will do everything in my power to be of service to the community," Gausmann said.
"As a Luther student I will easily be accessible for students who have concerns about city issues and make sure they are informed of policies that might affect them. I will also reach out and be accessible to the permanent residents too. I want to hear what they have to say and address their concerns because I care about this city very much and want to be of service to it. I want to ensure that Luther College and Decorah maintain their healthy relationship and keep Decorah in the great direction it is going."
Pruitt-Jefferson was pastor at First Lutheran Church from 1996 until 2012.
"During that time I developed my leadership skills, worked closely with a church council of 14-16 members, supervised personnel, worked collaboratively with a staff and managed a $500,000 budget," she said.
"I also had contact with a wide range of community members including those who struggle to find affordable housing, routinely face food insecurity and have difficulty paying their winter utility bills. If elected, one question I would bring to our city government is 'How could a community such as ours - which is rich in economic, natural, cultural and human resources - insure that all people, especially those who live on the margins, are included in our prosperity and growth?' I believe that the true strength of any community is measured by how we care for those who are less fortunate," Pruitt-Jefferson said.
"Decorah is a compassionate city which reaches out in a variety of ways to those on the margins, but we can still do more to ensure that no one in Decorah goes hungry, that everyone has safe, affordable housing and regardless of race, sexual orientation, age or abilities, everyone is treated with respect and dignity."
Pruitt-Jefferson is currently self-employed as a piano teacher and occasionally fills in at area congregations.
Lore is a dairy nutritionist for Nelson Dairy Consultants in Decorah who said he has liked campaigning.
"I've enjoyed shaking hands with the residents of Ward 5 and hope to fulfill the main goals that would preserve the history that is Decorah while moving the city into the 21st century," he said.
"There is a rich tradition in Decorah that values the opinions of its residents, and I want to be the Council representative of my ward. I applaud and recognize the great works of Decorah's past leaders, and I aspire to be a part of bringing new ideas and strategies to meet the expectations of the Fifth Ward," Lore said.
Council member Gary Rustad, who serves at large; Paul Wanless, Ward 3; and Jody Niess, Ward 2; are running for re-election unopposed.
The mayor and Council members serve four-year terms, but in order to maintain staggered terms following redistricting, the terms of Wards 2 and 4 will expire in December, 2015.
A map of Decorah's wards is on the city of Decorah website, decorahia.org. For more information about the election, contact the Winneshiek County auditor's office: firstname.lastname@example.org or 563-382-5085.