Mayor, city council campaigns now in home stretch

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On Tuesday, Marshall Country residents from Albion to Saint Anthony will go to the polls and elect eight mayors and 39 city councilors.

In Marshalltown, 10 candidates are seeking elective office to four council seats and the mayor’s post

Campaigns are in the home stretch, with candidates knocking on doors, installing yard signs, and debating issues, among other initiatives to attract voters.

Overview-Marshalltown

In Marshalltown, voters will select a mayor, two councilors at-large, and councilors for first and third ward.

Of all, only the third ward is uncontested, where incumbent Mike Gowdy has the relative luxury of running unopposed.

Gowdy, 66, said earlier this year he would have stepped aside had a younger candidate taken out nomination papers.

No one did, so Gowdy stands in what will probably be his last run for public office, a statement he made at the Times-Republican-Iowa Valley Community College debate last month.

Gowdy, a Newton optical company retiree who raised his family in Marshalltown, has championed youth during the campaign.

He said Marshalltown’s young adults were, “the key to the city’s future.”

That comment was not lost on Brittany O’Shea, 31, the youngest candidate and one of three women seeking a seat.

O’Shea is one of five candidates for two at-large seats held by incumbents Bill Martin and Bethany Wirin.

Martin, 71, a retired educator, is running for his second four-year term and Wirin, 44, her fourth four-year term.

Wirin is the only woman on the council, and serves as mayor pro-tem (vice mayor). She is the administrator at Marshalltown Christian School.

Joining Martin, O’Shea, and Wirin are Mark Eaton, 59, a local businessman and consultant, and David Shearer, 55, a “preacher” at the Marshalltown Church of Christ. Shearer served one term on the city council circa 1982.

Issues

Campaign platforms are as diverse as the candidates themselves.

For mayor, Second Ward Councilor Joel Greer decided to run when Mayor Jim Lowrance announced in August he had reconsidered a previous announcement he would stand for re-election. Rather, Lowrance, said after careful thought “it was time to try new things.”

Prior to taking out mayoral nomination papers, Greer said he tried to recruit Emerson Process Management/Fisher Controls executive Terry Buzbee and retired Marshalltown physician Terry Briggs to run for mayor.

Both declined, so Greer threw his hat in the ring.

He cited a request he run from retired Lennox Manufacturing General Manager and former Mayor Tommy Thompson.

If elected, Greer said he “would get out of the way” of City Administrator Jessica Kinser, who Greer called “the best city administrator Marshalltown has ever had.”

Kinser will be celebrating her one-year anniversary with the city Nov. 15.

She is the first woman, and fifth city administrator in the town’s history.

She was proceeded by Jay Gsell, Ed Geick, Dick Heirstein and Randy Wetmore.

Conversely, Greer’s opponent, Gary Thompson (no relation to Tommy Thompson) has advocated returning to the mayor-city council form of government.

Marshalltown switched to mayor-city-council-city administrator government in 1990.

Gary Thompson has repeatedly said he “is not anti-Jessica Kinser,” but believes funds paid to the city administrator could be more effectively spent elsewhere.

He alleged at the T-R/IVCCD debate that “Kinser was being paid an estimated $132,000 annually, and “was holding the hands of city department heads making $80,000 to $90,000 per year.”

Greer and supporters have strongly rebutted those claims.

They have said effectively managing a community of Marshalltown’s size (approx. 28,000) with a $50 million budget, through the complex labyrinth of constantly changing federal and state mandates requires a paid professional. They believe the mayor and councilors, elected by the people, have adequate oversight authority with the city administrator. Specifically, the city administrator can be disciplined or terminated if necessary. Such was the case in 2003, when the council terminated the contract of then City Administrator Geick.

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