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Swisher special election set for February 4, 2014

Voters will elect new mayor, but implied controversy lingers

By Chris Umscheid
North Liberty Leader

SWISHER– A new chapter in the history of this small Johnson County community will be written Tuesday, Feb. 4, as residents go to the voting booth to elect a new mayor.
The vacancy was created when Tim Mason resigned suddenly during the regular monthly meeting on Nov. 11. City clerk Connie Meier also resigned.
At a special meeting following the resignations, Mayor pro tem Mary Gudenkauf reluctantly agreed to continue to serve in that role until a new mayor could be elected. Jim Halvorson of the HR Green Company assumed the role of interim city clerk while the search for a new clerk began.
On Monday, Dec. 9, the council unanimously voted to pass a resolution authorizing a special election for the mayor’s position. Potential candidates need to obrain a packet from Halvorson, which contains an affidavit of candidacy and a nomination petition. Candidates must obtain at least 10 signatures to be placed on the ballot, according to Kingsley Botchway II, the deputy auditor of elections for Johnson County. The deadline for filing the completed packet with the city clerk is 5 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 25 days from the election.
Voters will go to the Swisher Town Hall to cast their ballot with the facility open for voting between noon and 7 p.m.
While neither Mason nor Meier have responded to media requests as to why they resigned, council meetings have gotten tumultuous in recent months. During public comments at the Dec. 9 meeting, a citizen asked, “Have you considered putting in a vote of confidence for the rest of the council?” Gudenkauf asked if he was referring to a recall election. “Not necessarily a recall,” the man said. “Some of the things I’ve seen in the news, maybe the city council should reconsider trying to figure out where they stand.”
Councilman Larry Svec weighed in.
“You know, this is the problem. These people on this (council), me included, we’re doing our job,” Svec said. “We bring up something to somebody and they get offensive. We try to save this town money, and try to keep everything legal,” he said. Svec made reference to a situation earlier this year, which resulted in criminal charges– which have since been dropped– and the dismissal of a city employee.
“Right now, we do everything by the book. If we got a question, these people have every right to ask, and it’s not going to make everybody happy.
“I’m tired of hearing all the stuff on the news,” Svec continued, calling it, “a one-sided deal. I think these people (the council) are doing their job.” He emphasized the council’s duty to ask questions.
“We all live here, we associate with everybody, we ain’t trying to cause trouble. We had questions, they got asked, and somebody got upset.”
When former clerk Meier was contacted for comment, she released a statement via email last week.
“I have enjoyed working for the City of Swisher and getting to know the wonderful people in this town.  Unfortunately, a couple of council members had made working conditions detrimental to me, making me feel uncomfortable and unsafe.  Staying in my position would have enabled these two individuals to continue to treat me in an unacceptable manner,” Meier said.
She further offered this message to the residents of Swisher.
“I feel good about the things I have accomplished while working for the City of Swisher.  I wish everyone the best and encourage you to be active in your city government and be aware of what’s going on in your community.”