The Ottumwa Courier

November 7, 2012

Gaskill retains seat in state house

Local Option Sales Tax passes Ottumwa, Wapello County municipalities

CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier Staff Writer

OTTUMWA — The Democrats swept election night in Wapello County.

President Barack Obama took the majority of the votes, winning 8,616, while Republican candidate Mitt Romney took 6,777 votes. Out of the 24,009 registered voters in the county, 15,778 ballots were cast, according to the unofficial results Tuesday night.

State Rep. Mary Gaskill also retained her position, winning 7,668 votes over her Republican opponent, Blake Smith, who won 5,144 votes.

Gaskill’s new district, House District 81, covers the eastern half of Wapello County, including Ottumwa, Agency and Eldon.

“I’d been hearing a lot of good reports prior to [the election],” Gaskill said. “Even when I’ve gone grocery shopping, or wherever, four to five people would come up and say they’d voted for me.”

Gaskill said it was her experience — she will enter her sixth term in office in January — and her work with constituents that got her re-elected.

“Education. We’ve got to do something with education,” Gaskill said. “We’ve got to the point where we need more competition, where we bring up educational standards.”

Gaskill said she will also tackle jobs — “of course,” she said — as well as property tax relief.

She said she welcomes ideas for her next term and constituents can contact her at mary.gaskill@legis.state.ia.us.

Local Option Sales Tax was extended in Ottumwa and all municipalities in Wapello County except Eldon.

Ottumwa City Administrator said he was happy with the results.

“We’re sorry it didn’t pass in Eldon, though,” Helfenberger said. “We feel it’s been a big help to all cities in Wapello County.”

Helfenberger said he hadn’t heard a lot of negativity surrounding the 1 percent tax.

“I talked to lots of people in the community, in the county, and it seemed for the most part that they understand the need for it,” he said. “Even the people who came out initially against it, some told me they support it, they were just concerned that it would keep the same amount of street projects we were doing in the past.”

Of the millions of dollars Ottumwa will receive from the tax, 10 percent will go toward property tax relief and 90 percent will go toward streets and sewers.

“Based on an estimate by our finance director [Bob Jay], he’s estimating roughly 52 to 53 percent will go toward streets of the 90 percent,” Helfenberger said.

Helfenberger said the success of the tax extension was thanks to local organizations who got the word out and provided voters with information, including the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation and the Ottumwa Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re looking to continue work on rebuilding our streets, which are in very much need of having improvements,” he said.

County attorney Lisa Holl, county auditor Kelly Spurgeon and county supervisor Steve Siegel all retained their positions. Mark Miller was elected county sheriff.