116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — The two candidates in the only contested race for the Marion City Council are touting their experience and their vision for the rapidly growing city, which now has a population for 40,000.
Incumbent Randy Strnad and challenger Dale Monroe face each other in the Nov. 2 election. They presented their views during a Wednesday evening forum at Lowe Park.
Strnad, owner of an insurance agency, said that in 2040, he pictures Marion having expanded beyond Highway 13.
“We will see a built-out Tower Terrace Road and a closed landfill,” Strnad said. “We will have nice paths, spots for groceries and pharmacies on the north side. I also want to see moderate-income housing available.”
Monroe, a retired educator, said he sees Marion being a town of 60,000 residents by 2040.
“It will require amenities,” he said. “People want to have biking and walking paths, more adult sports available. But the biggest obstacle is infrastructure. If we have that kind of growth, what are we doing to accommodate that?”
The Nov. 2 ballot also will ask voters to extend the 1 percent local-option sales tax, which the city mainly uses on infrastructure such as roads.
Both candidates said they support extending the tax, which brings in about $6 million a year to the city.
“The money comes from people who visit Marion, too,” Monroe said. “We would pay big time if we don’t pass the extension.”
“It’s simple math,” Strnad said. “If we don’t pass this, we could potentially see an increase on property taxes, so that (tax) is critical for us.”
Asked if they would favor “defunding” the police, both candidates said no.
“Defunding a police department or any department would just be catastrophic to any city,” Strnad said. “We need more police officers, not less.”
“I’m definitely not in favor of defunding the police or fire department,” Monroe said. “If you think about expanding the community, you can’t live without either one of them.”
In their closing pitches to the audience, each candidate touted his experience.
“I’ve been passionate about serving on various groups. I believe my background will provide you with the opportunity for great leadership,” said Monroe, former superintendent in the Anamosa school district and former assistant superintendent in the Linn-Mar district. He is currently a member of the Marion Planning and Zoning Commission.
Strnad, appointed to the council in 2016, was once a paid, on-call firefighter in Marion.
“We’re going to be onboarding a new city manager and having a solid council up there with experience and history will help with that,” Strnad said. “We need to have stability up there.”
Three other council candidates, all running unopposed, introduced themselves
Sara Mentzer, the YMCA’s development director, is running for the Ward 4 seat being vacated by council member Rene Gadelha, who is not seeking re-election.
“I really believe in Marion, and it's a special place because of the people … The people that have driven initiatives in this community,” Mentzer said. “The momentum is unmatched, and we really are an envy to other communities. … We have to keep things moving in a positive direction.”
Grant Harper, a former teacher and coach at Linn-Mar who went on to work at Pearson Education and is now retired, was appointed to the council last year to fill the at-large seat of the late Paul Draper.
“Over the last 17 months, it’s been a steep learning curve at times,” Harper said. “But I’ve learned the role of a city council member and understand we have a responsibility to understand the depth and breadth of issues coming to council.”
Steve Jensen, on the council since 2017 as the Ward 2 representative, is an accountant and commercial loan officer. He said serving on the council is an extension of what he’s done in the past, serving the community.
“I originally ran because I wanted to continue the momentum,” Jensen said. “I believe where the city and council are today, we are in an excellent position with all of our projects and initiatives.”
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