116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — Three candidates are running in Tuesday’s special election to fill a vacancy on the North Liberty City Council.
All residents will vote at the North Liberty Community Center, 520 W. Cherry St. The center will be open for voting from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday.
The person elected will serve the term through the end of 2023. The vacancy was created when Chris Hoffman became mayor and resigned from his council seat in January.
The Gazette asked the three candidates about their decision to run, challenges facing the community and what they hope to accomplish if elected.
Affordable housing, keeping up with growth and ensuring North Liberty is an inclusive community were among the topics all candidates brought up in their responses.
Robert Strickland, 34, is running for a seat on the council because he wants to continue making North Liberty a welcoming place for everyone to live and work.
Strickland has lived in North Liberty since 2017. He works in the purchasing department at Integrated DNA Technologies.
He has served on the city’s Board of Adjustment and is currently on the Board of Appeals.
On his campaign website, Strickland lists four focuses, including the city’s growth, creating an inclusive community, equity and fiscal responsibility.
North Liberty saw its population increase by 53 percent in the past decade, from 13,374 in 2010 to 20,479 in 2020. If elected, Strickland said he wants to be part of the city’s continued growth “in a meaningful way that supports both current and future residents and businesses.”
Strickland said equity needs to be a focus so all residents have equitable access to services.
“Quality lower-cost housing should continue to develop in North Liberty, as well as transportation within the community to keep pace,” Strickland said.
Strickland added the city is going to grow rapidly with the new University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics hospital, as well as other new businesses.
“I want to be sure that North Liberty is able to accommodate that growth in a way that serves our current residents and protects our environment,” Strickland said.
Samantha Gulick, 32, is running for the council because she feels passionate about the direction the city is going and helping shape the city’s future.
Gulick is a customer experience designer with GEICO. She’s lived in North Liberty for seven years.
“If elected, my hope is to increase the knowledge and involvement of our community in our local government and its plans for the future,” Gulick said.
Keeping up with growth includes building recreation facilities, growing the city’s annual festivals, ensuring affordable care and education, as well as providing opportunities for local businesses, Gulick said.
“So much of our town is made up of young families with children, and I want to make sure that we have a city that is designed to grow with them,” Gulick added.
Gulick said the city has an opportunity to better acknowledge and celebrate marginalized populations by supporting diversity in the community.
Among the challenges facing the community include a lack of socioeconomic diversity, which is “exacerbated by the lack of diverse businesses that provide different levels of employment,” Gulick said. Another challenge is a lack of affordable housing at a variety of income levels, Gulick added.
She would like the city to focus on improving transportation, such as working with Iowa City to integrate North Liberty into its bus system or building a system that will make it easier for residents to commute.
“Bringing in transportation assistance also gives our city the ability to attract a more diverse population and expand our tax base and business sustainability,” Gulick said.
Ashley Bermel, 39, said she is running because she is passionate about making North Liberty affordable, safe, welcoming and livable for all.
She has witnessed the city’s growth and wants to ensure the city attracts and retains quality businesses that enhance the community.
Bermel is a residential real estate agent at Urban Acres Real Estate. She has lived in North Liberty for seven years.
Bermel said it’s important for the city to have options available for housing. She added the importance of having housing at various price points, as well as varying categories and architectural styles.
“As a city councilor, one of my main focuses will be on housing and future developments,” Bermel said. “Not only do we want to have options available for everyone, but quality options secure resident longevity and entice citizen collaboration.”
Bermel said she wants to explore what other communities outside of Iowa are doing for land development. She said various organizations have done research on affordable housing, sustainable building practices and meeting future needs.
“Through diligent networking and communication, my goal would be to present further opportunities for our city to consider and thus, have the potential to partner with these organizations backed by significant financial support, broad knowledge and a wide range of experience,” Bermel said.
If elected, Bermel said she would also encourage the city to develop a relationship with a “sister city” to encourage volunteerism and collaboration. Bermel also mentioned creating a North Liberty Newcomer group to help new residents feel connected.
“Partnering with local businesses, we can introduce our city newcomers through a citywide open house of child care options, regular meetups and free activities,” Bermel said.
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