NL council chooses Moore
NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council has chosen Dave Moore to fill its vacant seat.
There were five applicants for the position of councilperson, a vacancy created June 24 when councilor Gerry Kuhl was appointed to the late Tom Salm’s mayoral post. The remaining four members voted unanimously to appoint someone to the empty council seat.
At a special session held July 29, the council invited the five applicants to offer comments and answer questions before it voted on the appointment. The five applicants were Jay Franklin of N. Juniper Court, Sara Langenberg of Penn Ridge Court, Moore of Oxford Drive, Amy Nielsen of Lockmoor Circle and Annie Obrecht of Pond View Drive.
Current council members asked general questions of the candidates, including queries about their opinions of the most pressing issues facing North Liberty, what new initiatives they might introduce and what strengths they bring to the current council team. They were also asked to give opinions on the Local Option Sales Tax referendum proposed by Iowa City; all five candidates said they believe the opportunity for a new revenue stream was a good thing, but would craft the related ballot language with great caution. For each question, applicants were allowed two minutes to respond.
All of the candidates brought diverse experiences and expertise to the table, but two candidates stood out among the five as having the most knowledge of the current issues facing North Liberty. Obrecht and Moore both serve on the current North Liberty Planning & Zoning Commission. That was important to each of the councilors, who were asked to name their top two candidates and explain their decisions.
Moore was the number one choice for three of the four council members, including Chris Hoffman.
“To make our lives easier is not the goal, but we do want someone who essentially has been following along (on the issues), and Annie and Dave have both been doing that,” Hoffman said. “They have been prepping us through their role on the commission, and they do a lot of good work for us. Their experience is what I want to have starting August 12.”
Council member Coleen Chipman was the only one who reversed her choices, putting Obrecht first because of her gender.
“Out of all the decisions we’ve had to make, this is one of the toughest because I see such potential in all of you. You all would be excellent,” Chipman said. “But I do think it is important for us to have more women on the council so Annie would be my number one and then Dave, particularly because of your experience on Planning & Zoning, and knowing how the process works.”
Though Salm’s term did not expire until December 2015, and Kuhl’s council seat was set to expire at the end of 2017, Iowa law required that both appointments would have been up for reelection in the next regularly scheduled city election of November 2015.
However, because the City of Iowa City has requested all of Johnson County’s municipalities and the county to place a LOST referendum on the November 2014 general election ballot, it triggered a requirement for North Liberty, as well as Solon and Oxford, to hold special elections for council and mayoral vacancies filled by appointment. (Solon Mayor Cami Rasmussen resigned her seat in March to become Solon’s city administrator, councilman Steve Stange was subsequently appointed to fill the mayor’s position, and resident Steve Duncan was appointed to Stange’s open council seat. In Oxford, council member Garry Wilkinson was elected mayor, leaving two years remaining in his council term.)
A new law went into effect July 1 that would have delayed those elections until the next regularly scheduled city election– in this case, November 2015– but because the vacancies occurred prior to the law’s effective July 1 date, the old statute applies.
North Liberty’s newest council member is a sales manager at Beisser Lumber Company, and has served as a co-chair for the North Liberty Blues & BBQ planning committee since that event’s inception nine years ago. Active in his church, Moore chaired the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church’s building committee and has served on the city’s Telecommunications Commission, as well as serving on the North Liberty Planning & Zoning Commission.
Moore said his first task as a new council member is to gain a deeper understanding of the financial aspects of city operation.
“I need to know more about how we do bonds, how to structure large scale funding for projects. Everything else I feel well-versed on,” said Moore. “Through Blues & BBQ and also through my job, I’ve worked with many local vendors, businesses and construction companies, and am familiar with the aspects of development. I think people know me as someone who is involved with the city.”
Moore said he does intend to run for the position this November, and he hopes the other applicants will do the same.
“I want them to run,” Moore said. “To have five very highly qualified, impressive people, I hope they will consider replacing me on P&Z and consider running for other commissions.”
Mayor Gerry Kuhl praised the applicants’ initiative.
“Your ideas were refreshing,” Kuhl said. “Thank you all for applying and for your ideas. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming years. We expect to see your names on the ballot or applying for a commission.”
Kuhl also said he intends to run for the mayoral seat in November.
“It is important we continue the plans laid out for us by Mayor Salm,” Kuhl said. “There are some new initiatives I may want to present to the council, such as support for our seniors. It’s well documented that a third of our population is over 60. It’s important that we take care of our seniors and also the youth of our community, the new school and the roads, so we don’t have any controversy. The new school will be a big boon to the community.”