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Decision on Stutsman's replacement remains unseen

BY BRENT GRIFFITHS | NOVEMBER 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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The election may be over, but at least one more decision remains in the Johnson County government.

Johnson County Supervisor Sally Stutsman was elected to the Iowa House seat in newly formed House District 77. Stutsman will vacate her current spot on the five-member board before the Legislature convenes on Jan. 14, 2013.

“It’s deserving for her to go now, and she will not leave Johnson County without a notebook full of things we want her to work on. I’m curious — when we have our annual meeting with legislators, will you sit with us or them?” Supervisor Janelle Rettig joked. “Maybe in the middle, because you’ll still be a supervisor, but we’ll already be working hard on lobbying you.”

Stutsman said while she does not have an exact date in mind, her last day will probably come at the end of this year. She will have a more concrete plan after talking with her husband and attending the post-election Democratic caucus in Des Moines on Saturday, but at this point, she would prefer to have a replacement appointed.

“Ideally I would love to have an appointment for someone who is not going to seek re-election,” Stutsman said after the meeting. “I would not want someone to use the power of the incumbency to get a leg up on competition.”

Stutsman’s replacement will be determined by one of three options, as set in Iowa code. An appointment could be made the county auditor, recorder, and treasurer, or they could call a special election, at an estimated cost of $75,000. A petition from citizens could also call for a special election. While one supervisor agreed with Stutsman’s concern over costs, he believes the two years left on her term are too long for an appointment.

“It’s always about the cost, but I’m uncomfortable about the two-year term,” Supervisor Pat Harney said. “Voters should have the opportunity to select a candidate and reach a balanced process.”

Harney’s feelings are shared with another supervisor who said the cost of a special election is high, but the length of the remaining term could make it worthwhile.

“I really have no say in it, but on one hand, it’s nice to save the cost of a special election,” Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said. “Considering there are two years left on her term, that’s a lot of time, and it may be reasonable to pay the cost to help make the decision.”

Stutsman’s situation is further complicated by the situation in the Auditor’s Office. Either current county Auditor Tom Slockett or incoming replacement Travis Weipert could help make the decision, depending on when Stutsman steps down.

Depending on the number of candidates, Weipert said, a special election might be worth the cost.
“My feeling is to go for a vote if quite a few people are interested,” he said. “You want to give everyone a fair shot at the job, and sometimes an open election outweighs the cost.”

Regardless of how her replacement is picked, Stutsman said, she is ready to work on a range of issues ranging from mental-health reform and human trafficking to education and budgeting; she considers herself to be “fiscally conservative.”

Budgeting is something Stutsman says she has learned from her time on the Board of Supervisors;she was first elected in 1992.

“I understand how budgeting decisions are made at the state level, and how they affect locally at the county level,” she said. “Legislators don’t always understand how decision affects another, but we need to avoid unintended consequences.”


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