Republican Etheredge snags fifth Johnson County supervisors seat


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For the first time since 1962, when Oren Alt last served, a Republican has taken a seat on the historically Democratic Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

By a 51-to-49 majority, Johnson County Republican and Kalona resident John Etheredge claimed the fifth and final supervisor seat. With 3,102 votes, he overtook Johnson County Democrat Terry Dahms, who brought in 2,974. A difference of 128 votes was the deciding factor.

A proponent of thriving small business and farming sectors, Etheredge said he is an active opponent of raising taxes for all individuals, and bonds used for county projects should not be implemented if money is readily available in the budget. He most recently campaigned as an independent in the 2011 election. He has had no former political experience.

“It’s fantastic to win, especially here in Johnson County, and I’m looking forward to doing exactly what I said I would do,” Etheredge said. “I’m going to be jumping right into the current agendas that the board has put together.”

Etheredge said his first steps as a supervisor include the compilation of an alternative to the current justice-center proposal and improving affordable housing availability.

“You don’t do anything suddenly because it leaves a vacuum,” he said. “I will do my best to represent Johnson County. I’m looking forward to being a voice for people that haven’t had one.”

Dahms said he thought the loss was surprising, considering Etheredge’s unspecific plans, but he intends on remaining an active community member and leader.

“I don’t know what we’re going to see from him,” he said. “He has been pretty much invisible in this campaign … He’s never mentioned the justice center, he’s never mentioned reorganization of mental health. The only thing he’s talked about are property rights, and by that I assume he means land-rights issues … I’m not sure how he views that.”

Despite the confusion, Dahms said he will give credit where credit is due.

“I have to give credit to the Republican Party for organizing people to get out and vote,” he said. “I was active in campaigning, and I’m not sure about the winner, frankly, but he did win, so somebody did something right.”

Johnson County Supervisor Janelle Rettig said that although she has yet to meet Etheredge, she believes the newly formed board will operate fine.

“I have absolutely no idea what he stands for,” she said.

“He’s ran twice and to my knowledge he’s never attended a public forum. He’s never been to a Board of Supervisors meeting. I have no idea what he stands for, so I’ll be anxious to meet him.”

Rettig said continuous work on Etheredge’s part will be needed, given a steep learning curve presented to him.

“I’m sure we’ll work fine if he’s a hard worker and conscientious and does his homework,” she said. “I was a Republican before, too, so my problem is he hasn’t been interested or involved in any county functions … It’s going to take him a lot of work to get up to speed.”

In other eastern Iowa election news, Linn County voters approved a controversial and long-debated gambling referendum Tuesday evening by a 61-to-39 percent majority.

A previous proposal in 2003 was shot down by voters by a 6-point margin.

There are more than 60 investors in the casino project, which is slated to be built across the Cedar River from downtown Cedar Rapids.

Officials must now submit a gaming license application to the Iowa Racing & Gaming Commission.

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