5 candidates vie for 2 at-large seats

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY 
Marshalltown City Council At-Large candidate Brittany O’Shea of Marshalltown refers to her notes during Wednesday’s Candidate Forum at the Fisher Community Center and sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce. Looking on are from left, at-large candidates Mark Eaton, Bill Martin, moderator Todd Steinkamp, David Shearer and Bethany Wirin. Steinkamp is a Chamber board member and General Manager of KFJB-KXIA-FM Radio. The event was open to the public and free-of-charge.

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY Marshalltown City Council At-Large candidate Brittany O’Shea of Marshalltown refers to her notes during Wednesday’s Candidate Forum at the Fisher Community Center and sponsored by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce. Looking on are from left, at-large candidates Mark Eaton, Bill Martin, moderator Todd Steinkamp, David Shearer and Bethany Wirin. Steinkamp is a Chamber board member and General Manager of KFJB-KXIA-FM Radio. The event was open to the public and free-of-charge.

Editor’s note: This is the second of two stories on the Oct. 11 city council candidate forum hosted by the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce. Thursday’s first installment featured mayoral candidates Joel Greer and Gary Thompson. Also included was first ward candidate Sue Cahill.

Two incumbents and three challengers are competing for two city council at-large seats in the Nov. 7 election.

Incumbent Bill Martin is running for his second four-year term while Bethany Wirin is seeking her fourth-four year term.

The candidates

Martin is a retired school counselor and community college administrator who has lived in Marshalltown since 1971.

Wirin, a native, is the only woman on the council, and also serves as mayor pro-tem. That means she substitutes for Mayor Jim Lowrance when he is not available.

She recently was hired as director of the Marshalltown Christian School.

Martin and Wirin touted their experience and interpersonal skills, which they said contributed to a number of major accomplishments benefitting residents. They ranged from replacing severely dilapidated fire and police stations with the new joint police-fire department headquarters under construction, to major street improvements to the hiring of competent fire and police chiefs and a new city administrator.

Challengers are Mark Eaton, Brittany O’Shea, and David Shearer, and all called for major change.

“We have a large incumbent group who are bored with their job,” said Eaton, a native and consultant who recently moved from Utah. “They want more participation from people but recently approved a council manual which makes it harder to have a discussion in front of the council.”

Eaton said the previous policy was more citizen-friendly allowing for good discussion.

“They (the council) did not like that,” he said. “Now, as a citizen, you get up and state what you want … and they get up and rebut you and there is no more discussion … that is it. That is the change.”

Eaton was also critical of the council for initiating miscellaneous fees, specifically one for storm water runoff.

Eaton said his skill set as an engineer and “logical thinker” would lend itself to councilor duties.

O’Shea and Shearer called for improving outreach to citizens, to using more social media tools, to frugal spending.

O’Shea said she was motivated to make her second run for public office after attending “I Give a Dam About Marshalltown” meetings.

“I got the itch,” she said. “I, along with several others, applied to be appointed to a vacant school board seat but Ben Fletcher was selected … he is doing a good job.”

O’Shea, a Cedar Rapids native, is a stay-at-home mom who said she would have a lot of time to research issues and to reply to constituent’s concerns.

Shearer, a pastor, said he served on the city council approximately 40 years ago as a young man in his 20s.

“A lot has changed,” he said. “When I was on the council, we had consent agenda items (on city expenditures) totaling $40,000 … now they are in the millions … a councilor acts as a liaison between the city and the community as well, but one is there to get behind your department heads … your main role is to govern and present policy.”

Third ward

Incumbent Mike Gowdy is running unopposed for his second four-year term. He is a retired optician now in his 44th year as resident.

He credited the late first ward councilor Bob Schubert for motivating him to run for public office, and for advice in decision making.

” ‘Always stand tall in making decisions, and think about what your decision will do to the community,’ “Schubert said.

Gowdy told the T-R earlier this year he would not run-for re-election if a young adult in the ward took out nomination papers.

That did not take place.

Community challenges

Gowdy echoed what all incumbents said about their concern state of Iowa “backfill” funds allocated to towns to replace commercial property tax revenue “roll back” several years ago under the Branstad administration may be reduced, or eliminated by the state legislature next year, or no later than 2020.

“The council will have to work aggressively to replace those funds,” he said. “Failure to do so would cause a significant deficit in the city’s $50 million-dollar budget.”

He and other incumbents said local challenges include providing affordable housing for all income levels, but also said ongoing construction at “The Willows” senior living complex among others, were positives for Marshalltown.

Format

Questions asked of all candidates were emailed to the Chamber office in advance. Written questions were also taken from the audience and read by moderator Todd Steinkamp.

The event was streamed live on Internet by local KDAO-TV. Visit KDAO.com for re-broadcast schedule.

T-R candidate profiles

Beginning Sunday, the Times-Republican will publish candidate profiles running for 10 consecutive days.

Additionally, the T-R and Iowa Valley Community College District will host a debate showcasing the five candidates for two at-large seats 6 – 7:30 p.m, Oct. 24. A second debate, 6 – 7:30 p.m., Oct. 25, features mayoral hopefuls Joel Greer and Gary Thompson. Also present will be first ward candidate Sue Cahill (incumbent Dan Kester will be away on business) with additional remarks by Gowdy. Both debates will be moderated by T-R Managing Editor Jeff Hutton.

Early voting is underway at the Marshall County Auditor’s Office. Contact 641-754-6323 for more information.

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com