At-large candidates outline their vision

2 contested seats

Layout 1

With election day, Nov. 7, 13 days away, an incumbent and three challengers for two open Marshalltown City Council at-large seats tried to make a case Tuesday night before a crowd of approximately 45 residents in DeJardin Hall on the Marshalltown Community College campus.

Two seats

Three challengers are vying for two seats held by incumbents Bill Martin and Bethany Wirin.

Both are running for re-election.

Martin is working for a second four-year term while Wirin is seeking her fourth four-year term.

Wirin was unable to participate because of previously scheduled family vacation.

With Martin present, challengers Mark Eaton, Brittany O’Shea and David Shearer outlined their vision for Marshalltown on a wide range of topics presented by moderator Jeff Hutton, managing editor of the Times-Republican. The T-R and Iowa Valley Community College co-hosted.

The candidates

Eaton was raised in Marshalltown and attended local schools, including MCC. His family has extensive roots in Iowa and Marshalltown. He went away for college, and managed business concerns in Utah before returning two years ago. He now manages his businesses locally. His father, the late Darrell Eaton, was a businessman and city councilor.

Martin has lived in Marshalltown since 1971. He retired several years ago from the staff of IVCCD. He and spouse raised their children in town. He has been active in the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, youth sports, and more. He had taken keen interest in the joint fire and police facility construction and costs.

O’Shea moved to Marshalltown approximately eight and one-half ago when her spouse accepted a job from Emerson Process Management/Fisher Controls. She is currently president of the Fisher Elementary School PTO and has been active with the group the past four years. Additionally, her three children attend FES. She is active with “I Give a Damn about Marshalltown” organization which studies issues facing Marshalltown and formulates options for problem-solving.

Shearer is a native who served on the city council one term in the 1980s. He is a preacher (his words) at Marshalltown Church of Christ, has counseled small businesses and is a historian. He currently is volunteer chaplain for the Marshalltown Fire Department. He told the T-R he did not have “deep pockets” and would run a campaign based on meeting people.

Wirin is a native who attended local schools before leaving for college. She and spouse Bruce Wirin lived in the Twin Cities for a period before moving to Marshalltown to raise their family. They have two children. She is executive director of Marshalltown Christian School.

Issues

The candidates outlined their positions on the city budget, a petition by two residents to sever their properties from the city, how best to engage residents in council decision-making, including the Latino population, security cameras installed throughout the county and more. All gave opening and closing statements before answering questions from Hutton.

Budget

The state of Iowa funds the city nearly $435,350 annually in “backfill” to make up for tax revenue lost when the state “rolled-back” commercial property tax several years ago. There is concern the state will reduce or eliminate the backfill in the legislative session beginning in January, 2018. However, candidates seemed hesitant to making cuts to city staff or services until the exact amount of backfill loss was determined, as well as knowing all revenue sources. All agreed it was critical to keep essential city services of fire, police, street repair and more intact.

Resident participation

In separate interviews with the T-R, all candidates said it was critical the council work to get more residents involved with the city or volunteer organizations. The debate offered solutions

ranging from posting city council meeting notices on Facebook and other social media to having the council bring their meetings to the people, by having meetings at the public library or schools.

Severance

Eaton’s brother, Monte is one of the two petitioners attempting to severe property from city. Mark Eaton said city should have allowed severance instead of paying out an estimated $24,000 he alleged city has spent to date to fight challenge. O’Shea said she did not know a lot of details about the particular case. Said each severance issue must be handled on its own merits.

Closing/opening remarks

Eaton said he represented change, and urged voters dissatisfied with city government to vote for him. He believes the city has a cash flow problem, hence, that is why it went to the voters for permission to re-allocate Local Option Sales Tax funds (voters did approve earlier this year. 52 percent to 48 percent).

In a previous interview with the T-R, he claimed some councilors were bored. Additionally, Eaton said he wants to bring a business management approach to the council. He claimed councilors have delegated to much power to City Administrator Jessica Kinser.

Martin said he remained true to his campaign pledge four years ago of being fair, consistent and transparent. He said he was not bored, and remains fully invested in the community, and considers serving as councilor challenging, but fulfilling. Martin said he has replied to every constituent email, telephone call or personal visit. “We are all in this together,” he said. He commended Kinser for providing detailed information when needed.

O’Shea said she was running so her children had opportunities in a city which is safe and managed effectively. Additionally, as a young adult (age 31) she considers herself and others her age the town’s future and a major asset. Third Ward Councilor Mike Gowdy identified the town’s young adults as keys to Marshalltown’s future.

Shearer Repeatedly said he wants to work with city administrator, mayor and councilors as part of a team approach to solve issues. If elected, Shearer said he would attend department head meetings and visit individual departments, a habit he developed when he served. Will work strongly to get residents more involved in city policy-making

——

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