Deadline passes for local filings

The opportunity to file for the April 1 local election in Marion County ended Jan. 25.

The only contested races are in the city of Marion with a three-way race for mayor, and five candidates vying for two council seats.

Challenging incumbent Mary Olson are Todd Heitschmidt, who is a city council member, and Steve Unruh, who said he is a concerned citizen interested in city government.

Unruh is no stranger at city council meetings or with many residents, but he could not be reached by telephone prior to press time.

In recent months, Unruh has attended council meetings to learn more about the council?s work and to address other issues.

One such issue focused on his unique yard fountain on the west side of Main Street, prompting him to talk to the council about it.

Unruh said he wanted them to know he wasn?t trying to make any statement using his fixtures, but instead was wanting to make his yard look better.

He said he also wanted to introduce himself, adding that he was considering running for mayor.

?I will be dropping in now and then because if I don?t know what is going on, I have no right to complain,? he said.

Defining leadership

Heitschmidt said he is running for mayor to help lead the city in addressing its infrastructure needs and planning for a more vibrant economic future for youth and seniors alike.

?I have been serving as vice mayor since elected to the council (11?2 years),? he said. ?While running a council meeting is one thing, leading a council meeting and our community is another.?

He said being in 4-H, high school and college, as well as his current roles at work, church and in the community, have taught him that leadership involves several factors.

?Leadership requires being able to make tough decisions that are legal and ethical,? he said. ?It is thinking and deciding for the long-term, when it is easier and often more popular to make short-term decisions, gathering input from all parties and stakeholders and communicating with stakeholders.?

The stakeholders, he said, include residents of all ages and income levels, business owners, county government, schools and the hospital.

Leadership, he said, is also about organization and thoughtful planning, being honest and fair, respectful, continually earning the public?s trust, leading efficient, open and productive council meetings and being able to get things done for the betterment of the community.

?I am committed to providing this leadership as mayor of Marion,? he said.

More still to do

Olson, the incumbent, is seeking her third term.

?The first (term as mayor) was a three-year term,? she said, ?and after changing over to a five-person council, it became a four-year term.?

Olson said she is still working toward an open government with decisions made openly in public.

?Todd (Heitschmidt) said I am not for economic development, but that is not true,? she said. ?I am certainly for economic development in our town.?

Comprehensive planning is another service needed in the city, Olson said.

?I think our planning board is in a situation that we can do that.?

Olson said she welcomes competition.

?I think Mr. Unruh did what he said he was going to do, and that was put his hat in the ring and get people out to vote.

?I know he has been working that way, and all I ask is just that he make sure his facts are right because he didn?t even know I lived in town,? she said.

Olson said she hopes to get the city?s plan completed, but added that she is only one of five people on the council.

?I go along with the majority, so not everything has been accomplished,? she said. ?I am glad if I have a another term to do that, I will. I still have some thoughts on what needs to be done.?

Other contested race

Two positions are open on the Marion City Council, but five people are vying for them. The incumbent in one of those two at-large positions, Chris Meierhoff, decided not to rerun.

The other incumbent, Jerry Kline, will seek to hold his council seat with competition from Duane McCarty, Melissa Mermis, Chad Adkins and David Mayfield.

In addition to the city of Marion election, two other communities have council seats open, but nobody has filed against the incumbents.

?In Burns, there are three open council positions,? said Tina Spencer, county clerk and election officer. ?Hillsboro has two council positions open in wards I and II.?

The incumbents include Jim Scott, Ryan Johnson and the vacant seat left by Angie Brenzikofer. Scott, Johnson and Tim Rogers are seeking the three open seats.

In Hillsboro, Shelby Dirks, Ward I, and Byron McCarty, Ward 2, are running unopposed.

Spencer said a primary wouldn?t be necessary because none of the positions have more than three candidates running for the same seat.

At-large positions, Spencer said, require a primary when there are more than three people filing for one position.

For example, had there been two open at-large seats and more than six people filing, a primary would be required.

This election is non-partisan, Spencer said. Advance voting will begin March 25. Spencer said voters can cast their ballot at the courthouse.

The general election will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 1.

For more information, call 620-382-2185 or stop by the Marion County Clerk?s office at 200 S. Third St., Suite 104, in Marion.

Written By
More from Patty Decker
Decker speaks to time with Free Press
After reading the Free Press editorial last week, I sat back and...
Read More