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League of Women Voters holds first virtual forum for county candidates

League+of+Women+Voters+holds+first+virtual+forum+for+county+candidates

Candidates running for Poweshiek County offices answered questions on COVID-19, community safety and county infrastructure on Monday at a virtual forum hosted by the Grinnell League of Women Voters (LWV).

Former farmer Diana Dawley, elected to the county board of supervisors in 2016, is seeking a second term. When asked about her record as supervisor, Dawley pointed to the improvement of roads and infrastructure. During her term as supervisor, she helped fix and resurface Grinnell’s 11th Avenue, as well as multiple decaying bridges throughout Poweshiek County. She also cited the passage of the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) policy, which directs 50 percent of profits from Poweshiek County wind turbines to the maintenance of rural roads.

Dawley is being challenged in her bid for a second term as county supervisor by Kelly Bryan, who works as a sales manager for DuraCrop Seed, a seeding company in neighboring Mahaska County. A lifelong Poweshiek resident, Bryan hopes his diverse career background across construction, farming and management can help meet the needs of rural residents of Poweshiek County.

The candidates were asked if they’d support a county-wide mask mandate to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

“Everything I’ve learned so far when it comes to government overreach – it’s very easy to do,” Bryan said. “I’m not a firm believer, especially at [the] county level, to mandating masks. … I don’t believe that’s something I would push for.”

Bryan also encouraged county residents to avoid large gatherings to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect themselves. “Common sense goes a long, long way,” he said. “If you think you are susceptible, obviously you need to wear a mask, or stay inside.”

Dawley did not answer if she’d support a mandate, but she said she supported a requirement for employees of county office buildings to wear masks when physical distancing of six feet or more isn’t possible.

Both candidates were asked what they would do in their positions to make county residents feel safe and respected in Poweshiek County.

Bryan, a Republican, encouraged unity across the political spectrum. “Regardless if you’re a Republican or Democrat . . . we just have to stop the division, and just look at our neighbor and say, ‘Look, we all want a better place for yourselves and for our family to live,’” Bryan said. “We’re still humans on this planet, and just gotta get along. Plain and simple.”

In her response, Dawley, a Democrat, said, “We just need to be assured that our law enforcement is top notch, and I know they do the best they can, to take care of the people within Poweshiek County to keep the people safe.” She added, “Another thing we can do is to help people with mental health issues.”

Midway through the forum, County Auditor Missy Eilander called in to attend. Running unopposed for the seat, Eilander, a Republican, has served as Poweshiek county’s auditor since 2016.

When asked about what issues she’d like to address in her next term, Eilander pointed to elections and election security. Later in the forum, she also talked about election security in Poweshiek County, reassuring voters that all returned absentee ballots are in a secure vault until election day.

The candidates for county supervisor were also asked what they viewed their most important issues to be. Dawley said that, if she’s re-elected, she hopes to improve county-wide radio and cell systems, pointing to “dead spots” within the county where cell service is inaccessible. Dawley said she hopes to improve the county’s resources for children’s mental health and wants the Iowa state legislature to appropriate more funding for children’s mental health resources.

According to Bryan, the “single most important thing. . . is the secondary roads.” He continued, “When we say secondary roads, I’m saying gravel. Gravel roads, not just hard surfaced.” Bryan focused on the countryside’s “pretty bad road conditions,” and lack of paved roads. Bryan also stated that gravel roads aren’t as common in other Iowa counties as in Poweshiek, even in those that are similarly rural.

In their closing statements, each of the candidates encouraged a nonpartisan view of county elections.

Bryan stated that his aim in running for county supervisor is creating unity, not division. Bryan said his mantra is “vote for the person, not the party.”

As county supervisor, Dawley said her job is not political, but rather bound by a code of ethics for all of Iowa’s county supervisors. “I don’t think I’ve ever made any decision, since I’ve been in the courthouse, that has to do with politics,” she said.

County auditor Eilander reiterated Dawley’s point that her job was not political. Eilander said her job as auditor is bound more by state guidelines than party politics. “Truly, my job … doesn’t lean towards one party or the other.”

Country sheriff Thomas Kriegel, a Democrat who is running unopposed, did not attend the LWV forum. A second forum hosted by the Grinnell LWV featuring candidates for state house and state senate will be held on Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7:00 p.m..

All offices up for election this year will appear on Nov. 3’s general election ballot.

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Nina Baker, Staff Writer
Nina Baker is a fourth-year Russian major with a Russian, Central European and Eurasian Studies concentration from Lakeville, Minnesota. When she's not reporting for The Scarlet & Black, she loves taking long walks, reading, and learning foreign languages.
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