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Special election still preferable to fill supervisor seat

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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The recent appointment of Janelle Rettig to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors shouldn’t placate citizens who would like to hold a special election. While we believe Rettig would be a fine fit for the board, our support for a special election is unwavering.

The selection committee, made up of Auditor Tom Slockett, Recorder Kim Painter, and Treasurer Tom Kriz, selected Rettig on Oct. 30 to succeed Larry Meyers, whose September death opened up a supervisors’ seat.

Both Slockett and Painter voted in favor of Rettig, but Kriz supported former Supervisor Michael Lehman. Lehman served on the board for eight years before losing the primary election in 2006 to Meyers and Supervisor Sally Stutsman. Despite his experience, selecting Lehman after he was voted out of office just three years ago would have been improper.

Rettig has a heavy political involvement within the community. She is the chairwoman of the Iowa City Airport Commission, a member of the Iowa Natural Resources Commission, a member of the Johnson County Trails Advisory Committee, and development director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.

Her financial background is also impressive. She currently serves as treasurer for the Joe Bolkcom for Senate campaign and has served as treasurer for the League of Women Voters and for Supervisor Sally Stutsman’s campaign.

There were other viable candidates for the position as well.

Iowa City Mayor Pro Tem Mike O’Donnell, a lifelong resident of Johnson County, would have brought community political experience to the board. Former UI Student Government President Maison Bleam was also in the running and would have undoubtedly brought a unique perspective to the supervisors.

Still, Rettig’s regular interaction with local and state officials gives her the needed background to be an effective county supervisor. In fact, Rettig announced her plan to run for the position in the November 2010 general election. Her website lists an array of prominent supporters, including Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City; Sen. Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville; and a number of county officials, including Supervisor Rod Sullivan.

Despite our positive thoughts about Rettig, we won’t renege on our staunch support for a special election. The supervisors will have to make numerous important decisions in the next year, including the location of a possible new county jail.

The best way to ensure citizens’ voices are heard on paramount subjects is to hold a special election rather than appointing Meyers’ successor. While a special election would cost approximately $75,000 to administer, the sum is a small price to pay for democracy.

A group of around 30 people is collecting signatures to call a special election to fill the position. They will need 7,299 signatures by Nov. 13.

Solon resident Lori Cardella, who helped organize the circulating petition, said Sunday night the group has collected approximately 4,100 signatures. Although the group is 3,000 names short of the requisite 7,299, she said she remained confident the citizens will attain their goal.

“We can do that,” she said buoyantly.

We sure hope so. While Rettig would be a worthy successor to Meyers, conducting a special election would be a more equitable way to fill the vacant seat.


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