116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Phil Hemingway, 62, of rural West Liberty in Johnson County, is a Republican candidate seeking one of two open seats on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in the Nov. 8 general election. Hemingway was previously elected to the Iowa City School Board and has run for Supervisor five times. He owns Phil’s repair in Iowa City.
The Gazette posed a set of questions to Johnson County Supervisor candidates. Below is the transcript of Hemingway’s answers. Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What do you think are the three most important issues the county is facing? What would you do to address them?-
Hemingway: The high cost of living in Johnson County. The urban/rural divide. Preserving agricultural land. Johnson County is one of the most expensive counties to live in; a couple of things to address this – reduce burdensome regulation and micromanagement of rural residents; and control the spending of the supervisors. For decades, many rural residents have felt unrepresented by the Board of Supervisors. This needs to change; we have people that do not understand rural life dictating to the people living and working in rural areas. I look to bring a voice to the entire community – urban and rural, having lived and worked in both. We must preserve our resources of productive agricultural land by limiting growth in agriculturally zoned areas and to help agricultural related businesses.
Do you support the use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines? Why or why not?
Hemingway: I do not support the use of eminent domain, period. After attending the CO2 pipeline meeting in North Liberty, it quickly became apparent to all who have studied this issue that the pipeline is a losing proposition for everyone except hedge funds and the company putting the pipeline in. It will do little to nothing to help with CO2 in our atmosphere; it will disrupt and destroy ag land and poses serious health and safety concerns for those in proximity, along with the fact that safety standards have not been written for these pipelines. That's a big NO.
If you’re forced to cut the county’s budget, where do you look for savings? Why?
Hemingway: When looking to cut the county budget, the supervisors need not look any further than a mirror. I am the only candidate in the last 5 election cycles who has pledged not to seek or accept a raise in salary during my term. I made that promise in FY18 when the salary was $71,240/year. Since then, it has risen to $92,558/year - a 29.9%+. In the same period, they have increased their staff from 3 to 9 and their budget has gone up over 100%. This is unsustainable. This contributes to the high cost of living in Johnson County and will only stop when the community puts forth supervisors who are truly interested in service, not personal wellbeing.
How would you assess the long-term planning and vision of the county? Are there areas that you think should be planned for?
Hemingway: It is important that in long term planning, we are truly trying to preserve rural Johnson County for future generations. Decisions such as those taken in Frytown, River Junction and now Windham, show that a heavy-handed county leadership can change rural life in a second. Great care should be given to preserve the lives and livelihood of those that work the land and live in our small rural communities. All actions taken by the county must also obey Iowa Code and Iowa Law.
What should the county's role be when it comes to affordable housing programs? Should there be additional partnerships with cities or other organizations? What other programs could the county implement to assist residents in need?
Hemingway: The county's role should be to make it easy and inexpensive for builders and individuals to construct dwellings in Johnson County. The present supervisors do not have a good track record when it comes to constructing county buildings let alone advising others on how to make housing affordable. Partnerships with other cities and organizations should definitely be looked at but lowering the cost of county government will make it more affordable for all. Partnering with local trades groups to promote blue collar jobs and skills would help with all. Opportunities for maker spaces would benefit the entire community.
Does Johnson County need a new jail? Why or why not? If yes, should the county consider a multi-county facility? Why or why not?
Hemingway: The Sheriff is an elected position. It is important for the supervisors to support the rule of law, law enforcement and first responders. We must provide for a safe community and if the Sheriff feels it is necessary to build a new jail for the safety and security of his staff and our community, then actions must be taken to meet that end. If the community does not share the same sentiments as the Sheriff, the community has the opportunity to vote him out and elect a Sheriff who shares their values.
How should the county approach balancing the needs of urban and rural residents?
Hemingway: For decades, there has been an over-representation of urban wants over the needs of rural residents. There definitely needs to be a realignment and balancing and the recognition that living in Iowa, we are in the number one ag State in the country and a recognized leader in the world. We have been blessed with great natural resources in our county and they should be preserved for future generations. We can all take pride in where we live and the great abundance we have been blessed with. Hard working rural residents need an advocate not an adversary on the Board of supervisors.
Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors rejected the Sheriff’s request for a smaller armored vehicle. Sheriff Brad Kunkel has previously said he would not negotiate the need for an armored vehicle but would get rid of the MRAP if the smaller BearCat was purchased. What is your opinion of the need of these armored vehicles in Johnson County? Would you support a request for a smaller armored vehicle, why or why not?
Hemingway: As I previously stated about the Sheriff's position, if he feels there is a need for his staff's safety as well as the community's safety to utilize this equipment, I will support his request. I have spoken with Sheriff Brad Kunkel about this matter. There are many benefits with going with a smaller vehicle which can be utilized by more staff, is easily serviced by commercial entities, smaller to house and cheaper to operate. At the end of the day, we must make sure that our community is safe and that we do not expose our law enforcement or first responders to undue risk.
What do you see as next steps for mental health services in Johnson County? What should the county do to continue providing resources and encourage them to seek those services?
Hemingway: We must always provide for the ever expanding mental health needs of our community. The Guidelink center is a tremendous resource for those in our community seeking mental health services. Making sure it is fully funded and staffed is a priority that must be addressed. Making sure that all in our community are aware of the services provided will be an ongoing opportunity for those in Public Health and in public service. The pandemic has shown the needs for mental health services if expanding, not shrinking.