CEDAR FALLS — Mayor Jim Brown didn’t see the upset victory coming Tuesday in Rob Green’s challenge to lead the city.
“I expected to win. I expected the other two incumbents (on the Cedar Falls City Council) to just win outright,” said Brown. “Clearly, it was a surprise to me, and my hat’s off to Mr. Green.”
Unofficial results from the election show Green, an at-large council member, won 54.7% of the vote in the the three-way race for mayor. He received 4,623 votes to 3,482 for Brown and 328 for Jim Skaine, the third candidate. Ward 4 council member Tom Blanford, one of two other incumbents on the ballot, fell just short of a majority in his race against two challengers and will face second-place finisher, Simon Harding, in a runoff election next month.
Brown said he left a “quick message” of congratulations on Green’s phone. “He ran a great race, did well with the resources he had and was able to put together a very nice win,” said the two-term mayor.
“Clearly, the voters have decided to go a different direction,” he added. “I wish Mr. Green the best, always support the city I love. I think we did some fantastic things the past four years and I hope it continues.”
Chief among those is “just all the economic development” in the community, from the Second Street corridor downtown to new businesses along University Avenue, said Brown. “I ran on that. I think I can point to a number of things to fulfill that promise from four years ago.”
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Additionally, the city’s controversial public safety officer program, which utilizes cross-trained police officers and firefighters, is an initiative the mayor got behind. “I think the PSO model is the way to go for our city,” he said.
But a segment of city residents strenuously objected to Brown’s staunch support. Skaine, in the mayor’s race, and candidates in each of the three council contests made opposition to the program part of their campaigns. The mayor said the issue contributed to his loss.
“I think it was a big factor, sure. I’d be naive to think otherwise,” he said. During the past year, Brown received a “barrage” of social media comments on Facebook raising concerns about the program, and his political messaging in response “didn’t work.”
His support for the program remains solid, though. “I wouldn’t have done any differently because of my belief in that,” said Brown.
“It was a strange election,” said Susan deBuhr, whose Ward 2 council seat was also on the ballot. She held off a single challenger, the lone incumbent on the ballot winning a clear victory.
DeBuhr strongly supports the PSO program while her opponent, Derick Rogers, does not. Nick Taiber, the top vote-getter for an open at-large council seat, also supports the program. But he fell short of the majority in a three-way race and will face Dave Sires, a PSO opponent, in the runoff election.
“I’d hate to think” the outcome of the mayor’s race was due to concerns with the public safety officer program, deBuhr said. Cross-training police in support of the fire department “was the council’s decision. The mayor inherited that when he took over.”
“It’s hard to guess why the votes are the way they are,” she added, while acknowledging a likely impact from the concern in her race, as well. “I do think the PSO (issue) was definitely a factor that hurt me some and helped (Rogers) more.”
DeBuhr does have a theory about what gave her the edge in Tuesday’s contest. “I think throughout my tenure on the council I’ve always tried to put the people first, and I’m hoping maybe that’s why I did win,” she said.