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Rettig seeking second full term

BY STACEY MURRAY | OCTOBER 27, 2014 5:00 AM

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Janelle Rettig used to be a Republican.

Originally hailing from the Land of Lincoln, she said both the conservative influence of her home state of Illinois and her professors pushed her political views to the right.

But some of her views were more liberal. In 1992 at the state Republican Convention in Cedar Rapids, a guest speaker expressed pro-choice views, and the Republican Party made it clear the speaker wasn’t welcome.

And on the drive home, Rettig felt like they didn’t want people like her around.

“A lesbian, pro-choice environmentalist didn’t have a very good home in the Republican Party,” she said.

Certain issues — such as the environment, abortion, and marriage equality — are what she calls her “soul issues,” or things she can’t change her opinions on. Slowly, she noticed her voting record favored more and more Democrats, and when a friend, Kim Painter, ran for Johnson County recorder in 1998, she officially made the switch from red to blue, denoting her new-found Democratic identity.

And now, Rettig, 49, is vying for one of the two seats on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors. She is seeking re-election against John Etheredge, a Republican who was elected to the board during a special election, and Mike Carberry, a fellow Democrat and chairman of the Johnson County Democrats.

Rettig and her wife, Robin Butler, have lived in Johnson County for more than 20 years. She has owned a small business, served on several boards and commissions, and now, is a spervisor.

Five years ago this week, Rettig was appointed to an open seat on the board. A few months later, in January 2010, she won a special election to remain on the board and won a regulation election that fall. Supervisors’ terms last four years.

The supervisors’ role in the 1105 project is among Rettig’s favorite. In the fall of 2012, the board agreed to sell a 7,000-square-foot former public-health building to be used by local nonprofit agencies, including the Crisis Center, the National Alliance on Mental illness, Free Lunch, and the Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

In the last four years, the supervisors created a reserve policy and added more details to the budget to improve transparency. They also created a county Finance Department.

“I’m for squeezing every last ink out of a dollar so we can get all the value,” she said.

And Supervisor Rod Sullivan said in recent years, the supervisors have made progress on the budget, calling the financials “solid.” But, he said, the budget will be the No. 1 priority, as tax cuts at the state level will be felt county-wide.

Rettig and Sullivan have been friends since 1991, even before she joined the board. And on some issues, they agree, and others, they don’t. But, he said, that is part of an effective board.

“If you have a board where everyone gets along all the time and is 100 percent in agreement, then you probably have a terrible one,” he said.

For Sullivan, who will remain on the board until December 2016, he said he wants supervisors who have opinions rather than people who want to get elected.

“I think she’s already done a great job, so there’s no reason to think she wouldn’t,” he said.

Other projects included creating a sustainability plan, coordinating a multiyear strategy for storm-water management, increasing economic tourism, and keeping urban sprawl under control.

Some of Rettig’s other supporters include Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, and Iowa City City Councilor Kingsley Botchway II.

“She’s the type of person who’s going to put the work in,” Botchway said.

But, Rettig said, Johnson County’s growth will be a challenge in the next four years.

“It’s really a brewing problem,” she said. “How do we protect our air and water quality and focus on growth where we aren’t affecting everything else we do.”

Growth means strain for the county. Rettig said the Ambulance Service is facing pressure by a constant stream of calls, and the number of residents in Johnson County who are food insecure has topped 19,000.

Even though there is much to be done, Rettig said she would consider running for the state Legislature after serving on the board, but that time hasn’t arrived yet.

“For now, I have four more years of things I’d like to get done,” she said.


Johnson County Board of Supervisors

This week, The Daily Iowan will profile the candidates running for the two open spots on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

• Today: Janelle Rettig, Democrat
• Tuesday: John Etheredge, Republican
• Wednesday: Mike Carberry, Democrat


In today's issue:





 
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