MARION — Grant Harper, who ran against Paul Draper for a Marion City Council seat last fall, was appointed to the council Thursday evening to fill the vacancy created by Draper’s death.
Harper, 65, ran against Draper for an at-large seat in the November 2019 municipal election. Draper, a longtime council member, won, but died Feb. 6 at age 85.
Marion council members on Thursday interviewed in person the six people who applied for the job before appointing Harper.
The council took two votes, with the first vote narrowing the field to three. Harper prevailed in the second vote, 4-2.
Voting for Harper were council members Will Brandt, Rene Gadelha, Collette Atkins and Randy Strnad. Mayor Nic AbouAssaly and council member Steve Jensen supported Dale Monroe.
During his interview, Harper, who is retired, said applying for the vacant seat was a natural extension of his campaign last year.
“I will serve the Marion citizens with integrity,” Harper said, abiding by the council’s code of ethics “without question.”
Among the challenges facing the city, he said, is its ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Harper said he has concerns with the proposal the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency is bringing to the Marion City Council next month. The agency is asking the city to amend a 2006 agreement and allow the landfill, on County Home Road, to expand and operate an additional 25 years.
“I have concerns about that because of the (potential) water quality impact and maintaining a balance between growth and development versus improvements to existing infrastructure,” he said. “I think it’s a difficult balance.”
When asked what “legacy project” — a project like the new YMCA, public library or fire station — Harper would like to city to take on next, harper said he would like to see a fourth fire station and more recreational opportunities.
Harper said it was a “pretty substantial risk” to run against Draper, “a community icon,” last November.
But the campaign was a learning experience, too, and he was impressed with the similarity of thought and concern he and Draper had for the city and its future.
Harper said he regrets not having more opportunities to discuss the future and past of Marion with Draper.
Harper will serve until the next municipal election in November 2021 and said he would seek election to the at-large seat at that time. Council members receive a $5,018 annual stipend.
The council originally planned to interview and appoint a new council member March 26 but delayed the interviews because of coronavirus restrictions, receiving an extension from the governor’s office for the appointment.
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AbouAssaly said he appreciated the people who applied for the council appointment — Harper, Destiny Hastings, Michael Kibler, Monroe, Steven Moshier and Philip Seidl.
“It takes a lot of courage, and it’s a risk to put yourself out there,” AbouAssaly said. “It’s a testament to the community we have such qualified people who want to serve and are willing to contribute their talents in this way.”
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