North Liberty voters to choose new City Council member, meet the six candidates

Hear from the six candidates in the special election on Tuesday

Traffic passes the North Liberty Sign on Penn Street Wednesday July 13, 2005 near the Interstate 380 interchange. (Gazet
Traffic passes the North Liberty Sign on Penn Street Wednesday July 13, 2005 near the Interstate 380 interchange. (Gazette file photo)

NORTH LIBERTY — Six candidates are vying for a spot on the North Liberty City Council in Tuesday’s special election.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the North Liberty Community Library, 520 W. Cherry St., for all voters.

On the ballot is a council seat lasting through the end of the year. The vacancy was created when Jim Sayre resigned to take a new job at the University of Arizona.

Here are their responses to questions from The Gazette. Answers have been edited for space. Read their full responses online at

Josey Bathke

• Age: 44

• Occupation: Risk manager and adjunct assistant professor

• Years in North Liberty: Six

• Education: BA in business and political science with a minor in economics from William Penn College, MBA and JD from University of Iowa


• What are the biggest challenges facing North Liberty?

The biggest challenge facing North Liberty right now is maintaining the community and the feeling of community that we know and love through the continued rapid growth. As our community keeps growing so quickly we need to continue the thoughtful planning of infrastructure and city services while also making sure that the needs of our families (of all incomes, races, education), the population of kids under 18, small local businesses and our environment aren’t ignored.

If I am elected to the NL City Council I will continue to reach out to these groups to listen to their needs and challenges, and then I will bring those issues to the council and make decisions with their needs in mind.

• What sets you apart from the other candidates?

First, I am here to listen. Second, my business and legal education combined with my experience volunteering for city governments... and nonprofits ... makes me uniquely qualified to be a city council member.

Also, my work experience at the University of Iowa as an attorney, a director in human resources and now as director of risk Management has given me great experience in leading diverse teams, analyzing and addressing complicated issues and encouraging creative collaboration to solve problems.

• If elected, what do you hope to accomplish?

My plan is to listen and learn and then add my voice to issues. Anyone who has experience in city government knows that there are a lot of things already going on and in the works. So to charge into a council member position without taking the time to learn what is already planned or in process is not only a waste of time and energy but also slightly arrogant.

So I want to go in and talk with the mayor, council members and city staff. I want to continue talking with members of the community. I want to learn as much as I can as fast as I can so that I can begin adding my voice to the issues that come before the council.


Also, as I learn what is going on I also will be able to add my ideas and the ideas/needs of the (North Liberty) residents to the list of issues that need to come before the council.

To make promises about hiring staff, single-handedly bringing in a business or pushing through a major initiative in nine months is simply not realistic of how city government works. So I won’t make those promises for this short term. What I will promise is that if I’m elected this will be the busiest nine months of listening, learning and helping out where I can.

Abdouramane Bila

• Age: 38

• Occupation: Radio Frequency Test Engineer

• Years in North Liberty: Six-and-half years

• Education: Associate of applied science in electronics engineering technology, BS in electronics engineering technology

• What are the biggest challenges facing North Liberty?

For fiscal year 2020, our City Council and city staff held the tax levy unchanged for the eighth straight year. According to our city administrator, our community finances are holding on their own but there is a slowdown in tax collection, putting pressure on the city budget.

I will be working with the current council and city administrator to come up with creative ways to confront the slow down through a mix of business growth ideas.

Availability of affordable senior independent housing is also a must-address for our community, helping our school districts with their growth needs to serve our expanding student population, those are few challenges I hope to help address and provide a new voice to move us forward.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?


If elected, I will be bringing a new perspective to the council, As an electronics engineer, I will be using my analytical and critical thinking skills to approach issues brought forth to the council.

I will bring a new voice to the council, be a champion for all residents regardless of social status. I will ensure that all issues, big or small are to be addressed by the council when raised by residents.

• What do you hope to accomplish?

If elected, my hope would be to see that progress is made in the building of the police station, help our residents navigate through the busy upcoming construction season that is going to affect many residents, especially those living around North Front Street and Penn Street, be part of the discussion in helping recruit new businesses to our commercial developments throughout the city and keep up the great work that the current council is doing.

RaQuishia Harrington

• Age: 37

• Occupation: Iowa City Recreation program supervisor of special and underserved populations

• Years in North Liberty: 11

• Education: BS with emphasis in therapeutic recreation from the University of Iowa

• What are the biggest challenges facing North Liberty?

The biggest challenges that North Liberty is currently facing is keeping up with the demands of the growth of the city. North Liberty needs thoughtful development that will include attracting opportunities that our residents currently seek in other areas.


Our needs for businesses, affordable housing and transportation in addition to recreational and leisure opportunities must keep pace with our residential growth. As we define our community, while preserving the small-town feel, we will need great vision and continued strategic planning that is inclusive and beneficial for many years to come.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

What sets me apart from the other candidates is my unique perspective of community. As an avid youth and family professional, wife and mother, I have had the opportunity to work with and in part with very diverse groups to provide opportunities for all to thrive.

My experience in program development for underserved populations, families and those with special needs in the non-profit realm and now currently through my position in city government has provided me the skill set to serve the community in a greater capacity.

I understand the need for multi-generational opportunities and making modifications that will ensure we are inclusive and responsive to the needs of all. My ability to be transparent, relatable, fiscally responsible and committed to serving community has been proven time and time throughout the years.

• What do you hope to accomplish?

If elected, with only an initial nine-month term, I hope to immediately be able to work on improving the sense of community. I would like to look at ways to promote and maintain continued coordination between neighborhoods and neighboring communities.

I plan to form a committee dedicated to working with local residents, businesses and social service organizations that would identify current gaps in basic amenities, housing trends and professional services. I think this will serve as an opportunity to gain further insight while working on a comprehensive plan that truly represents our growing and diverse community.

Steve Sherman

• Age: 48

• Occupation: Realtor

• Years in North Liberty: 25


• Education: Communications studies degree from the University of Iowa

• What are the biggest challenges facing North Liberty?

(It is) successfully managing the continued growth boom that is only going to continue.

• What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I will not raise property taxes. I will endeavor to bring in new businesses to North Liberty and help form a plan to handle the continued growth. In my time in North Liberty it has gone from 2000 to more than 20,000 people. That has been amazing and difficult at the same time. I look forward to giving my guidance to the town I love as it continues to be the best place to live in Iowa.

What do you hope to accomplish?

I plan to immediately research the water situation at the city. I have been overwhelmed by residents unhappy about the water bill increases, the way billing is being done and quality of water. Something must be figured out and explained as it is on the minds of many unhappy residents.

Brent Smith

Age: 39

Occupation: Battalion chief with Cedar Rapids Fire Department

Years in North Liberty: 15

Education: BA in communication studies and a minor in childhood psychology from University of Northern Iowa, paramedic training at the University of Iowa, fire science certificate from Kirkwood


What are the biggest challenges facing North Liberty?

With the expansion of Forevergreen Road to the interchange of Interstate 380 and our continued business development along Penn Street, now more than ever we need a developmental strategic plan, a long-term strategic plan that gives us a blueprint for the next five and 10 years.

My plan will take input from residents on what they need to keep their spending dollars here. Input also will come from the business community on what synergistic partnerships will help them expand. Once we can draw on a map what we need and want in these areas, we will then be able to go recruit developers to build out our vision.

We must be more responsive to our rising population of seniors. We need to better our services to them, which they need and deserve, better access to transportation, affordable housing and senior programming.

Sure, we have lots of young families in North Liberty and we have focused much of our recent attention to building the new high school and new grade schools. My family is one of those young families enjoying our new community identity as Lightning Bolts. Go Bolts!

All of this is important, but our seniors, those who have come before us, are the ones who have made this community what it is today. Let’s be sure we create an inclusive community that meets their needs and gives back to those who have worked hard to make this town our home.

We must change the way in which we work with new businesses that come to North Liberty. In my meeting with local business owners, I have heard some frustrations with the amount of red tape they have had to endure to open here in North Liberty.

The first face our new business owners see from our city staff should be one that is welcoming, resourceful, helpful and conveys an attitude of wanting to see them be successful here.


Right now, I believe some businesses shy away from North Liberty because we do not have that inviting and servant attitude. By changing our approach, North Liberty will be the only choice for those wanting to build a successful business.

• What sets you apart from the other candidates?

Having a unique firefighter work schedule allowed me to work as a seasonal employee on my off days for the North Liberty Parks Department. I was able to see city services from the inside. I experienced the support and successes of projects like the Quail Ridge playground and the start of Centennial Park.

I also saw the challenges departments have doing more with less. I saw the dedication from employees of all departments put into their work.

From working with street crews clearing brush from storm culverts during flooding, to planting sod after the library expansion to hold an open house, to setting up equipment for the communications division in the early days of Blues and BBQ, I have that unique perspective that no other candidate will have. I have built relationships with many of our hard-working city employees and will have incite that will help me make those tough decisions.

I also make critical decisions every day in my fire service career. When I am in command of a fire scene, I take in information and make decisions that affect the livelihood of businesses, the lives of my firefighters and the citizens we are serving. I will be able to hit the ground running in making those tough decisions and helping promote progress.

What do you hope to accomplish?

The new council member needs to be realistic in what can be accomplished by one person in this time frame. I believe I will be able to step right in and assist current council members in making decisions that are already in queue to come to council chambers.

I make decisions as a battalion chief every day that shapes our department’s offerings and the safety and welfare of my employees. Coming to council meetings having done my homework on the issues coming to vote is something you can count on.


Talk to anyone who knows me and they will tell you that I work tirelessly to find the answers, include all who are affected by the issue and work to build progress in solving problems.

I do plan to run again in November for the full four-year term. In order to make the next full term successful, I will spend my time talking with citizens and businesses, as I already have, and get additional input on our developmental plan.

Building this ground work with the planning office and current staff leadership will be important to creating this vision. I will work hard in this short time to prove to the citizens who elect me that they can trust me as their neighbor and their council member.

Matt Zacek

Age: 52

Occupation: Chef and owner of Z’s Catering and BBQ, director of Worth our Weight 2 and substitute teacher

Years in North Liberty: Since 2007, but with a few years off to rehab a house in Swisher.

Education: Business degree, some culinary school

What are the biggest challenges facing North Liberty?

Logical growth, by logical I mean you can’t build a ton of housing without jobs and you can’t bring in a bunch of business without employees to fill those jobs. With that challenge to bring in new business, we need to look at the businesses we attract to build a shop-local culture here.


Lastly, we cannot bring in business with incentives that risk the future fiscal health of the city.

• What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I do not come into this with an agenda based on my neighborhood or the demographic I belong to. The purpose of a city council member is to listen to the voices in the community and if what they are asking for makes sense for the whole community then by all means make it happen.

A city council member’s job is not just to sit in meetings. It is to be out there as the face of the city, asking each new business “what can North Liberty do to help you succeed?,” to be at the school’s ice cream socials greeting the new families and asking them what they need or what do they have questions about as far as the city goes.

What do you hope to accomplish and how in only about nine months’ time?

To do the job I am elected to do and help the city of North Liberty continue to move forward.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.