We used this space Tuesday and then Thursday to detail the Iowa House races between Mary Wolfe and Joma Short, and Norlin Mommsen and Ryan Zeskey for Districts 98 and 97, respectively.
Today we take a look at the three contested Clinton County races; they are for the county treasurer, a seat on the three-member Clinton County Board of Supervisors and the Clinton County sheriff’s post. All of the candidates graciously took time out of their schedules to meet with the Clinton Herald Editorial Board in early October to tell us about their goals and what led them to run for election.
Clinton County Treasurer
The county treasurer’s race features current treasurer Dustin Johnson and challenger Bill Jacobs. Johnson was appointed to the position earlier this year following the retirement of long-time county treasurer Rhonda McIntyre.
In fact, Johnson, a Republican, had thought about running for the position in 2016 but decided not to after learning McIntyre, also a Republican, was going to seek another term.
Johnson, whose training is in robotics and automation, worked his way into becoming an industrial technician and engineer with training in budget analysis while working at a Cedar Rapids firm. Then he was given the opportunity to farm the family farm near Andover and jumped at the chance to fulfill that dream; he also became president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau.
He said it was the latter experience that led him to work with the Clinton County Board of Supervisors on various county issues. At the same time, his technology and data-driven decision-making skills were expanding alongside his growing farm.
So when the county began looking for an appointee to the treasurer’s position, he decided it was time to seek it out, knowing he would bring private sector experience as well.
One of his initial projects was to do a labor utilization and productivity analysis, which seemed to be a foreign concept to government as proven by how the software had difficulty getting the data out, he said. In the end, he came up with good data for worker productivity based on experience, number of years on the job and the tasks workers were required to do. He said that also is helping him as he looks at the staffing needs in the Treasurer’s Office in the DeWitt annex.
The annex provides county services in a satellite location and is helpful to those who live in the western side of Clinton County. Getting services to residents in the western portion of the county is something Jacobs is focusing on during his campaign. Because he is concerned with climate change, he wants to train someone to become a universal clerk who can offer the services of multiple county offices. That clerk would then drive out to communities in the county. Jacobs said it makes sense because there would be one person driving to those locations rather than having five people drive to the annex for services. That would be good for the climate, he said.
Along with addressing climate change, Jacobs’ other plans are focused on improving residents’ experience when they visit the office, the safety of residents and the department’s workers, and the staff’s needs. His strength, he said, is managing people. He has set up a couple bookkeeping systems and has taken some online accounting courses, too.
Clinton County Board of Supervisors
The Clinton County Board of Supervisors race pits current Supervisor Tom Determann, a Republican, against Democrat Mike Brown, who retired from his position of Clinton fire chief a year ago.
Brown said he was inclined to run after he was approached by former Clinton Fire Marshal Grant Wilke, who served two terms as a Clinton County Supervisor. Describing himself as someone who has worked with the public for many years, he said it is in his wheelhouse to serve.
He said the city of Clinton’s election results in November 2019 showed him that people were ready for a change in their city government, when several new councilman and a new mayor all were elected to serve. “The election results kind of gave me some encouragement in Clinton that folks desired change.” ... he said. “I think we’ve seen great results from that.”
His goals are to have transparent and open government: “I think the board in general is doing a great job. But more communication is needed with constituents.”
He said he doesn’t want the county in the position where it is reacting to what is happening and said the county lacks a comprehensive plan, one needs to be developed and citizen input is crucial. “We need a blueprint – is this in line with what we’ve adopted with our plan?”
When it comes to economic development, Brown doesn’t necessarily think it all hinges on four-laning U.S. 30: “I don’t have a magic answer. I do know that positivity from all of our elected officials goes a long way.”
He said the Supervisors from time to time should attend some council meetings at towns throughout the county to learn more about them and their concerns.
Determann, who has lived his entire life in Clinton County, said he is running again because he wants Clinton County to do good. He’s been very active in the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Clinton Regional Development Corp., the effort to four-lane U.S. 30 and attended all the trips to Washington, D.C. over the past 20 years, which he said brought $100 million-plus to the county.
He said four-laning U.S. 30 is of top importance. “That’s one of my priorities.” Incentives to attract residents also is a prime focus as he pointed to Clinton County’s population loss, the greatest in the state. “We need to have the best incentives in the state of Iowa.” That includes his goal for 100 percent tax abatement for housing for five years, minimum, although he’d really like it for 10 years.
Clinton County Sheriff
The Clinton County sheriff’s race is between two long-time law-enforcement officers: Steve Diesch, who is a chief deputy and oversees the new Clinton County Jail, and Bill Greenwalt, a veteran Clinton police officer, a deputy chief whose father was a long-time sheriff’s deputy.
Both of these public servants are devoted to their law enforcement careers. Diesch has been handpicked to run for the post under the leadership of long-time Clinton County Sheriff Rick Lincoln, who is retiring. Greenwalt’s run to be sheriff is a dream he’s had since the early years of his career.
As such, both men have deep experience in policing and management, training and budgeting.
Diesch stands tall on his work planning and now overseeing the jail, plus his work already overseeing much of the sheriff’s office operations. He said it is important for anyone elected sheriff to have that jail experience.
Greenwalt takes a different approach. He doesn’t have that experience, but her doesn’t need to have done it. What he needs, he said. is to have the right person in that position, which all comes down to his ability to manage.
Seriously, both of these candidates are top-notch, personable, and have our respect. Either one would be the right choice.