Incumbency isn’t what it once was cracked up to be.
In Tuesday’s elections, voters banished officeholders in mayoral or council races in Cedar Falls, Waterloo, New Hampton, Evansdale, Dunkerton and Waverly and the Waterloo Board of Education contest. In Elk Run Heights, the mayoral race was a tie without a runoff provision.
The most stunning upset was in Cedar Falls where the public safety officer issue proved contentious, most likely leading to the defeat of Mayor Jim Brown by council member Rob Green.
Brown raised $21,000 to Green’s $8,632, but Green, a technologist at the University of Northern Iowa, was more social media savvy. He went from civic volunteer to promoting the nextdoor.com site for Cedar Falls before winning an at-large council seat. He frequently discussed the council agenda and his rationale for decisions on that site and Facebook.
Green lauded Brown’s efforts on economic development as “tremendous,” bringing in an estimated $125 million in new taxable valuation in the past three years. He supports the PSO concept, but not its implementation, which he wants to publicly review following the resignation or retirement of 14 firefighters.
While Brown cited the efficiencies of cross-trained police officers augmenting the fire staff, the firefighters’ union countered with a lawsuit in January, accusing the city of favoritism in promotions for police. Nine days prior to the election, Scott Dix, the firefighters union chief, accused the city of a coverup regarding a trailer fire. He contended police use of compressed air foam made the situation worse, and that the city suppressed a video of the incident.
Green advocated bringing firefighters back into the conversation. He called Brown’s claim Green supported “the PSO model” in 14 of 15 votes “a lie” based on routine budget items.
Green also wants to be demoted, if re-elected, reducing the mayor’s position to part-time. The Iowa Code prohibits any change in the mayor’s status until a subsequent term. Longtime City Administrator Richard McAllister spearheaded city operations before retiring in December 2015. Ron Gaines succeeded him.
The PSO issue still could influence two council run-offs. Susan deBuhr, a PSO advocate, easily won re-election in Ward 2, but Tom Blanford fell just short with 48.7% in Ward 4. His runoff opponent Simon Harding and third-place finisher Fred Perryman opposed the PSO program.
Former at-large council member Nick Taiber, who is seeking a return to City Hall, led Dave Sires, who wants to revert to separate police and fire departments, by a 39-33 percent margin.
Taiber supported the PSO program while in office, but wants to bridge differences with firefighters that have arisen since implementation. Sires would revert to separate police and fire departments. Nate Didier, who finished third, opposed the PSOs.
Taiber also wants to study being part of a regional wastewater system. Sires prefers the city continue to go it alone.
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In Waterloo, retired firefighter Dave Boesen ended at-large council member Steve Schmitt’s stay at four terms with a surprisingly easy win, 65-35 percent. Schmitt, who frequently clashed with Mayor Quentin Hart, consistently voted for lower taxes and privatizing more city services. He had won his third term unopposed.
Boesen has vowed council meetings — the closest thing to an area WWE match — will be more harmonious.
Hart won a third term unopposed. Ward 4 Councilman Jerome Amos Jr. and newcomer Jonathan Grieder in Ward 2 lacked challengers.
Newcomer Stacie Mills, a frequent Waterloo schools volunteer, knocked out incumbent Rhonda McRina off the Waterloo School Board.
In Evansdale, Troy Beatty, who lead the fight to trim a 22 percent tax increase, easily unseated Mayor Doug Faas, 74-26 percent. Beatty has proposed joining a regional wastewater system with Waterloo rather than have the frequently fined city build a new facility.
Indeed, the expense of separate wastewater systems makes little sense — a huge taxpayer investment and ongoing operations costs — particularly for small communities.
Waverly Mayor Dean Soash, a onetime outsider, was returned to that status by Adam Hoffman, 53-47 percent. Council members Edith Waldstein and Mike Sherer lost to newcomers Matthew Schneider and Heather Beaufore, respectively.
Schneider led the fight against the “road diet,” the council-approved Department of Transportation initiative to promote safety by trimming Bremer Avenue to three lanes. Opponents claim it led to traffic congestion.
In Dunkerton’s revolving mayoral door, Michael Schares is back in and incumbent Edward Jessen out.
The first order of business in Elk Run Heights after the 130-all tie between Mayor Tim Swope and Clerk Kristi Lundy should be adopting a runoff procedure. Pulling a name from a hat is customary, but an agreed-upon game of skill would generate publicity and be a lot more fun.
We wish all the new incumbents the best of luck, knowing they have been immediately put on notice by voters that free rides no longer exist.