Candidates discuss issues with public
Four candidates for city offices got to address the community during a forum Monday night held by the Washington Chamber of Commerce prior to the Nov. 5 city elections.
During the forum, unopposed mayoral incumbent Sandra Johnson and Ward 4 council newcomer Jaron Rosien gave statements on their candidacies and plans for the office. At-large incumbent Merle Hagie and challenger Lyn Thomas faced off. Candidate Kathryn Salazar was out of town on business and unable to attend the forum, so she had law partner Robert Schlegel read a prepared statement of her goals for the coming term.
Council incumbent Russ Zieglowsky of Ward 2 and Park Commission incumbent Kevin Caldwell were also not at the forum. Both are running unopposed.
Schlegel said, on Salazar’s behalf, that Salazar practices law in Washington and has been an active member of the community. She has served on the City of Washington Plan
ning and Zoning Commission, the Washington Chamber of Commerce Board, the Washington County Hospital Foundation Board and the Washington Community Y Board, among others. He said that the service has allowed her to become familiar with the city.
“Kathy is excited at the opportunity to continue to serve our community once elected to city council,” Schlegel said. “She is planning to make a difference by encouraging economic development, developing and promoting cooperative partnerships with community organizations, investing in infrastructure and ensuring the goals and objectives of the comprehensive plan are implemented.”
Schlegel also said that her previous service would allow Salazar to continue working with staff, elected officials and the city administrator. He also said that Salazar believed the best opportunity for the city is the implementation of the comprehensive plan the council adopted last year. This includes the creation of an industrial park on the south side of town.
The statement also mentioned the proposed Wellness Park, which Salazar said would be an asset to the community and a large income generator. She also said the biggest challenges facing Washington are economic development and maintenance of infrastructure. Salazar also said that she would work on the city’s plan for handling dilapidated housing and poor rental housing conditions. She also said she supports a hotel-motel tax.
Thomas and Hagie were each asked why they were seeking the office and what qualifications they have.
Hagie said that he has held the office two terms and “kind of enjoyed it.” He said that he had done the best he could do and never had an agenda.
“I would like to try it one more term if the voters would agree to that,” he said.
Thomas said that she is a retired registered nurse who has worked at Washington County Hospital for 34 years and had worked at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. She was also the administrator of nursing at the state mental health institute in Mt. Pleasant. She said dealing with budgets qualified her for the position.
“Primarily I am running for council at large because I would like to see our city promoted in a positive manner,” she said. “I have raised two children here who are adults. I am invested in this community. I have lived in the city since 1990 and built a home here in 1992. To run for this at this time in my life is a way to give back.”
Thomas said that working in health care has taught her to deal with lots of different personalities, when asked about working with other council members and the public. She said with a common goal, people could usually overcome differences. Hagie said he had been doing that for eight years and feels they work well as a team.
Moderator Ed Raber asked the candidates what challenges and opportunities will Washington face in 10 years. Hagie said Washington “is loaded” with challenges and opportunities. He said that the city is dealing with aging infrastructure and the city is being caught with many items at once. He cited the industrial park as an opportunity. Thomas said that she saw in the comprehensive plan that Washington in third in retail sales in the county. She thinks that is something to work on.
Thomas said that she read the comprehensive plan, now the council needs to “knuckle down and do it.” Hagie said he agreed and he is proud the city did it and thinks the city did a good job. He said the council is working on many of the 58 goals.
Other questions included the issue of the sanitary and storm sewers, how the city should proceed on proposed rental housing inspections and cleaning up the dilapidated housing, and about a hotel/motel tax.
In Washington, wards 1 and 4 will vote at the Washington County Courthouse, which is located at 222 W. Main St. Wards 2 and 3 will vote at the former library building located at 120 E. Main St. Voters can still vote by absentee ballot at the Washington County Courthouse. The deadline to vote by absentee ballot at the courthouse is Tuesday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m. Hours for the auditor’s office are Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 5, according to the auditor’s office.
Sandra Johnson — Mayor
Johnson said that she was first elected to council in 1999 on a write-in ballot. She has served on the city council since then, with the last five years serving as the mayor.
“I think I can sum it up by saying I have learned in a way to appreciate the only town I have ever lived in,” she said. “I would not have had that opportunity had it not been for my position as an elected official.”
She said during her time as mayor she has had the opportunity to broaden her understanding of Washington. The most productive exercise, she said, was helping form the city’s comprehensive plan. The plan, she said, required her to look at all aspects of Washington, from the socio-economic to housing needs, to industry.
Johnson said that she believes that elected officials working with the community is how growth potentials are made and how a community is improved.
“I would appreciate the opportunity to be your mayor for the next four years,” Johnson said to finish her speech.
Jaron Rosien — Ward 4
Rosien is running for the Ward 4 seat for the coming four-year term after incumbent Fred Stark announced earlier this year that he did not plan to seek re-election. Rosien is running unopposed.
Saying that he grew up in Washington, Rosien said that he moved back to town and is a business owner.
“It is a privilege to run for city council and I looked at it as an opportunity — when people encouraged me to consider it as an opportunity to serve and provide input in our community and promote many of the good things already happening in this area,” he said.
Rosien said that as a council member, he had no agenda other than to work with other council members for the greater good of the community.
He said that each perspective on the council is very important and he looks forward to finding other points of view. He also said it is good to have a spectrum of different beliefs as the city moves forward.