NORTH LIBERTY — Terry Donahue retained his position as North Liberty’s mayor and Sarah Madsen topped the race for an open City Council seat Tuesday in a special election that drew more than 1,000 voters, according to unofficial results from the Johnson County Auditor’s Office.
Donahue and Madsen are expected to take over their positions either May 1 or 2, after the official canvass of votes.
The ballot had 10 names in all, three for mayor and seven for council, and included past and current city council members, as well as first-time candidates.
Madsen’s term lasts through 2019 while Donahue’s position is going to be on the ballot during this November’s regular city election.
The new city officials are tasked with leading more than 18,000 residents through a period of expansion, including the opening of a new high school, discussion of a second Interstate 380 interchange and the potential construction of a new police station.
“What I believe that we will need to be looking at more and more is the highway and road construction that we’re facing, making sure that the transition for Liberty High School is OK in that we’re doing everything that we can to make that transition to the school easier for the students and the parents of the community ...,” said Donahue 70, adding he wants to meet residents and learn about their vision and needs for the community.
Madsen, 38, said she wants to work on engaging the community and called the election the “first sign” that people want to have a voice in making the community better. She said she also wants to ensure services like Parks and Recreation and those for senior citizens, among others, grow at the same pace as residential development.
“I think that it’s sort of like a teenager, you don’t know what (North Liberty’s) identity is going to be as it unfolds,” Madsen said. “What we have to do is sort of make our best guess based upon an active engagement with other residents and figuring out what we anticipate our needs will be and that will take a lot of open communication, not just among the council members and the mayor, but also among other residents.”
The election saw 1,016 votes cast for a turnout of 9.33 percent of the city’s 10,889 active registered voters, according to the Johnson County Auditor’s Office. The city’s election turnout record is 1,031, set in 2005, according to a tweets from Auditor Travis Weipert.
“Before the results even came in, it was just gratification that so many people were getting out to the polls and getting out the vote,” Madsen said. “I’m pleased to see that many people felt compelled to get out and vote so all seven candidates clearly did their job of mobilizing the electorate.”
Donahue earned 486 votes to defeat Chris Hoffman (390 votes) and Matthew Pollock (120 votes), according to unofficial results from the Johnson County Auditor’s Office.
Madsen was the top vote-getter among candidates seeking the City Council seat. She received 288 votes, narrowly defeating second-place finisher Gerry Kuhl, who got 255 votes.
Vote totals for the other city council candidates are as follows: Jennifer Goings (122), Jessica Beck (103), Faraz Shah (99), Mike Mbanza (69) and Nic Gulick (47).
The special election essentially ends a monthslong process for North Liberty city government, which began when former Mayor Amy Nielsen was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives last November. On Feb. 28, the council voted to appoint then Mayor Pro Tem Donahue as mayor and in order to accept, he had to forfeit his council seat.
On March 1, Pollock filed a valid petition to trigger a special election for the mayor position instead and the council later voted to place Donahue’s now-vacant council seat on the ballot as well.
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North Liberty’s mayor earns a salary of $5,000 per year while each council member earns $50 per meeting attended, according to city code.
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