116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Two candidates are vying for an open seat on the three-member Linn County Board of Supervisors to represent District 1 — southern Linn County, including western Cedar Rapids, Ely and Fairfax.
Republican business owner Mark Banowetz and Democratic state Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt are both seeking the seat left by the departing Supervisor Stacey Walker.
Occupation: Business owner
Former Political Offices: Ely City Council member
City: Cedar Rapids
Occupation: State legislator
Former political offices: State representative for 13 years
Banowetz, 64, is a former Ely City Council member and the owner of Cedar’s Edge Evergreen Market, a Christmas tree market in rural Ely. Running-Marquardt, 44, born and raised in southwest Cedar Rapids, is coming off 13 years in state government where she was a state representative.
Linn County supervisors, who are elected to a four-year terms, earn $124,967 a year.
Earlier this year, Linn County supervisors approved rezoning requests for utility-scale solar projects near Coggon and Palo. The decisions followed public meetings at which many residents of both communities spoke against the projects, saying in part that agriculture land should remain devoted to growing crops and raising concerns that the projects were not set far enough back from other property that was not part of the project.
The projects were approved 2-1, with Democrats Walker and Ben Rogers voting yes and Republican Louie Zumbach voting no.
All three supervisors recently approved a moratorium for up to one year on utility-scale solar projects, saying they want to review the current county ordinance.
Running-Marquardt said she supports the utility-scale solar plans.
“I support solar and I also support renewable fuels,” she said. “The solar projects did not include eminent domain and that was a positive for me. On the moratorium, I think it’s fair to pause and look at where we are after these two projects have moved forward.”
Banowetz said as for right now, he is not in support of the utility-scale solar projects.
“There is not enough protection for Linn County residents right now. Period,” Banowetz said. “I hope the moratorium represents the concerns of the majority of the property owners in the county. I’d like to see the setbacks addressed. That's the biggest one for me.”
When it comes to the county’s mental health initiatives, Running-Marquardt said she would like to further build on the Mental Health Access Center, which opened in March 2021.
“I want to be a part of that and support moving forward with a Children’s Mental Health Access Center,” she said. “We can help the schools, take some pressure off them. We can’t afford to leave children out of the mental health care delivery here in Linn County.”
Banowetz said when it comes to mental health in the county, he would like to look at what churches and nonprofits are doing and see where services are being duplicated and see where partnerships can be made.
“Mental health is a big thing happening right now with drug usage, relationships … mental wellness is something we have to take a look at very seriously and not just throw money at programs with temporary solutions,” Banowetz said. “We need to include our law enforcement. They’re the biggest one having to deal with it.”
How many supervisors?
Voters have changed the number of supervisors on Linn County’s board twice in recent years. The board increased from three to five board members in 2006, and was reduced back to three members in 2016 after voters expressed concern over supervisor salaries.
In both cases, the size of the board was put on the ballot by voter-led petitions — not the supervisors themselves.
Running-Marquardt said the number of supervisors representing the county should continue to be decided by voters.
“One issue I have is that when we flip-flop so often between the numbers,” Running-Marquardt said. “It ends up costing the county money for the elections. It is up to voters … but it’s something county residents should take into consideration.”
Banowetz said he thinks the county should have five supervisors.
“I still believe we should have five. It’s the only way to represent the people and not have people try to push their own agenda,” he said. “More representation in Linn County is so important.”
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