MOVILLE, Iowa (AP) — For more than two decades, Bret Hayworth covered the actions of local, state and national politicians across Siouxland.
Now he’s joined their ranks.
Hayworth, who for 19 years covered politics and government at the Journal, was elected to the Moville City Council on Nov. 2, winning the seat after a low-key, write-in campaign.
After sitting in on hundreds of city council, county board and school board meetings during a 25-year journalism career with the Journal and the Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa, he’ll now be on the other side of the table, the eyes of the public and the press on him.
“I know the process, and I take it seriously,” Hayworth told the Sioux City Journal. “I think it will be fun and it will be interesting. This presented itself. A year ago I never would have done it.”
A year ago, Hayworth was still a journalist, writing follow-up stories about the 2020 election and covering the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors and Sioux City school board. In February, he left the Journal for a job at Briar Cliff University.
There were no plans to get into politics, though he’d given running for office a passing thought before.
“In the back of my mind, I always thought if I’d run for something it would be school board,” he said.
A story about the upcoming city and school elections in a late September issue of The Record newspaper in Moville piqued his interest. Moville’s city council had two seats up for election, but just one candidate had filed to run.
“I read it and it was like, I think I could do well on city council,” Hayworth said. “I thought about it in the following days and weeks and kept it in the back of my mind.”
Rather than recycling that week’s newspaper, he circled the election story and kept it near the TV so he’d see it often and keep mulling over a decision.
About 10 days before the election, he took the plunge, informing Record editor Blake Stubbs he was running as a write-in candidate so that his name would be included in the paper’s election preview. He contacted about 20 people and asked them to write his name in on the ballot. Everyone he contacted said yes, and a few said they’d spread the word to vote for him.
“I’d written so many articles on write-in elections, I thought 25 or so (votes) would get it,” he said.
When Election Day arrived, he went to work, voting afterward with daughters, Greta and Molly, the latter voting for the first time since turning 18. At least three votes in the bag.
“It’s a secret ballot, so I don’t know 100 percent they voted for me, but they said they did,” Hayworth quipped.
Then, instead of spending the night in a newsroom tracking election results, calling winning candidates and writing stories, Hayworth relaxed. He attended parent-teacher conferences, watched the World Series and checked briefly on national election coverage. At about 10 p.m., Moville mayor Jim Fisher called him, telling him it looked as though he’d be the winner.
Knowing write-in races need extra time for a winner to be declared, Hayworth went to bed, figuring he’d call the Woodbury County Auditor’s Office in a day or two to find out how the race turned out. He learned the official result when contacted for an interview for this story.
Not someone who gets overly excited, Hayworth voiced a quiet pleasure to hear he’d won the seat with 26 votes, nipping another write-in candidate who received 23 votes.
He believes his years of experience observing government will shorten the learning curve once he takes office in January. Like many small towns, Moville continues to seek ways to grow new businesses and add amenities to attract families and keep current residents from leaving. Hayworth is eager to tackle those issues and others that will come before the council.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I like the concept I can help make the town grow and make crucial decisions to move the town forward.”
Hayworth laughed when asked if his election to the city council was a stepping stone to a higher political office. He resisted the urge to say, “You never say never,” the same cliched non answer he’d heard countless times from politicians over the years.
No, he said, he won’t be challenging Randy Feenstra for Iowa’s 4th District seat in the U.S. House someday. The Moville City Council will suit him just fine.
“It’s public service,” he said. “It’s something worth doing.”
It’s a story he’s familiar with, one that he wrote hundreds of times himself.