Primary could decide Johnson County supervisor races

Three Democrats running for two open seats on the board

Pat Heiden, Mike Carberry, and Janelle Rettig
Pat Heiden, Mike Carberry, and Janelle Rettig

IOWA CITY — Issues like the rocky relationship with the Iowa Legislature and supporting low-income residents highlight this year’s Johnson County Board of Supervisors election.

Two supervisor seats are on the ballot this November, and two Democratic candidates will be nominated for the seats.

But with no Republicans or independents filing election papers, the June 5 Democratic primary between three candidates could serve as the de facto election.

Incumbents Mike Carberry and Janelle Rettig are running for re-election. Pat Heiden, former Oaknoll Retirement Residence executive director, also is running, after losing a bid for the office in 2016.

Since 2017, the Republican-controlled Legislature has taken a number of actions that undercut efforts of the al-Democratic Johnson County Board of Supervisors, including stripping the county of its ability to set and enforce a higher minimum wage.

“Building relationships, that certainly is part of the experience and leadership that I can bring to the board. It’s just really very, very important that we build those relationships on the state level and also reach out to our sister counties and work together,” Heiden said.

Heiden said that solving issues takes “a tapestry” of people and entities working together on increasing affordable housing, developing more efficient transportation and easing food insecurity, but the board will have to set priorities because there not enough resources to go around.


As state and federal support for various social services tighten, the county is faced with the question of how to best to provide programs and services to a growing population.

“We have a growing disparity in the haves and the have-nots,” Carberry said, adding the board is working with economic development officials to recruit higher-paying jobs. “We have to put the support on the other end. If people aren’t going to be making as much money, they’re going to need more help.”

Many residents face housing costs more expensive than they can afford, with the U.S. Census Bureau estimating average rent at $879. That contributes to the more than 14 percent of the population who are food insecure, according to a 2016 Johnson County Hunger Task Force report. Just over 80 percent of food pantry clients who responded to a survey in the report said they spend more than half their monthly income on housing.

“It’s a very sad time in Iowa for a lot of people, but people who are in need, it’s a very particularly troubling time,” Rettig said, adding that investing in hunger, mental health and affordable housing programs is important for the county. “I think you have to work on many different fronts and increase your funding to nonprofits that are out there doing really important work.”


Mike Carberry

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 57
  • Occupation: Johnson County supervisor, previously environmental advocate and lobbyist
  • Education: Degree in business administration at the University of Iowa
  • Website:

Pat Heiden

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age: 64
  • Occupation: Retired executive director at Oaknoll Retirement Residence
  • Education: Degree in general studies from the University of Iowa; master’s in health care administration from St. Joseph’s College in Maine
  • Website:

Janelle Rettig

  • Party: Democrat
  • Age 53
  • Occupation: Johnson County supervisor
  • Education: Degree political science and secondary education from Knox College
  • Website:

l Comments: (319) 339-3172;


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