Government

4 vying for 3 Johnson County supervisors seats

Former school board member challenging incumbents

Phil Hemingway
Phil Hemingway
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IOWA CITY — Johnson County voters will have few local races to decide this fall.

Johnson County Auditor Travis Weipert and sheriff candidate Det. Sgt. Brad Kunkel are running unopposed.

Only the Johnson County Board of Supervisors will see a contest race with four people running for the three seats up for grabs. Rival Phil Hemingway is seeking to unseat one of three incumbents — Rod Sullivan, Lisa Green-Douglass or Royceann Porter. If Hemingway, a Republican, is successful, he’d be the first member of his party to win a supervisors seat in a general election since 1958.

Former supervisor John Etheredge, a Republican, joined the board in March 2013 after a special election, but did not win a second term.

Hemingway, of rural Johnson County, said he wants to bring another voice to the board and offer voters a choice.

“Far too many times in Johnson County, they’re coronations, not elections,” Hemingway said. “I think it’s important the county have a choice; that it’s not just the same people, they’re not being opposed and they get in without having to actually face an election.”

A lifelong Johnson County resident, Hemingway has operated Phil’s Repair since 1997. He served on the Iowa City Community School District school board from September 2015 to November 2019 and was in charge of the finance committee for three of those years.

This is Hemingway’s third time seeking a seat on the Board of Supervisors. He lost in the 2018 general election and the special election held that year after supervisor Kurt Friese died.

Hemingway said he felt compelled to seek a seat on the board when he didn’t see any county leaders condemn damage done to property during this summer’s Black Lives Matter movement protests.

As a mechanic with a background in farming, Hemingway said the Board of Supervisors could benefit from more “intellectual diversity.” He said farmers, residents in rural areas and those from a blue-collar background don’t trust the board.

“My goal would be to give a voice to all people in the county,” Hemingway said.

Sullivan, who has served on the board for 16 years, agrees that representation on the board is important. He believes the current makeup of the board achieves that. Sullivan notes the board currently has four women, when historically it has had one or fewer; and one of those women, Royceann Porter, is the first Black person to serve on the board.

“There are a million different kinds of diversity and I think he’s being a little selective about what kinds he thinks are important,” Sullivan said.

Porter said she believes the board does a good job of representing county residents. And, if there’s knowledge of a segment of the community to be gained, efforts are made, she said. Porter pointed to attending a county planning and zoning meeting to learn more about proposed changes to the county’s comprehensive plan and how farmers felt about them. Porter said she met with farmers at that meeting.

“Next thing you know, I was out on their farms,” she said. “I feel I was representing them, as well.”

In-person voting will be available starting Monday at the parking ramp north of the county’s Health and Human Services Building, 855 S. Dubuque St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 or returned to the auditor’s office by the Nov. 3 Election Day. The final day of drive-up early voting is Nov. 2.

More details about voting are available atjohnsoncountyiowa.gov.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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