116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
It’s not easy being Jon Green.
Green took his seat last week as the newest member of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, another Democrat joining a body historically dominated by Democrats. But in his first week on the job, Green made clear he won’t just fall in line with his fellow partisans.
During a work session last week, the board discussed the mine-resistant vehicle maintained by the Sheriff’s Office, which activists are calling on the county to dispose of. Sheriff Brad Kunkel, another fellow Democrat, pitched a compromise — replace the military surplus vehicle with a privately manufactured alternative, with a price tag upward of $200,000.
With relatively little debate, the four senior supervisors coalesced around the sheriff’s plan. Green was the odd man out, asking for more time to consider.
That’s a preview of what’s to come under Green’s tenure. The freshman supervisor has committed to some radical positions, especially when it comes to justice and law enforcement. He’s setting himself up to defy the progressive orthodoxy inside the county administration building.
“I understand I’m going to be one member on a five-member board and the tools available to the supervisors are going to be blunt instruments,” Green told me in a phone interview shortly before he was sworn in.
Green is a peculiar politician. He is rarely seen without a cowboy hat and he’s not afraid to be photographed drinking and smoking. As a state Democratic Party delegate in 2016, he helped get “legalize all drugs” into the Iowa Democratic Party platform and later served one term as mayor of Lone Tree, population 1,300.
Ahead of the special election Green won this month, he earned U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ endorsement and channeled left-wing activism for the campaign. Now the challenge for Green and his allies is to meld the confrontational politics they’re honing with the reality of needing buy-in from other elected officials.
In addition to questioning the need for a military vehicle in residential neighborhoods, Green opposes drug enforcement and would resist another attempt to expand the county jail. If it were up to him, he’d do away with the sheriff as an elected position and instead put the county’s top cop under civilian oversight, like cities do with their police chiefs.
“I understand people wanting to take it slow but we’ve been taking it slow for 50 years,” Green said.
Green is a prolific Twitter user, frequently posting about state and local issues and occasionally getting into heated disagreements. Every once in a while he recirculates a tweet from a few years ago, when he published his home address for those who “harbor serious disagreement with me.”
“I need something with less confrontational language now that I represent the county, but I've never shied from folks who want to argue,” Green wrote last week on Twitter, re-upping his home address once again.
Quarrelsome social media personalities are easy to come by these days, but what’s interesting about Green is that he’s willing and eager to criticize members of his own party when they deserve it. In an environment of blind partisanship, he brings a set of fresh eyes.
“Activist groups need to keep up the pressure all the time, year-round. My winning election is just the beginning, not the end,” Green told me.
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