The Courier’s editorial board has reservations about this year’s candidates for city council. While the board commended the candidates for stepping forward, none was a clear-cut match for both the office and the situation Ottumwa currently finds itself in.
This year’s vote is unusually important. The city is currently without a professional city administrator and lacks a permanent finance director. Those are crucial offices, and filling them will have long-term effects on the city. Voters have one chance to determine who gets to make those decisions, and they have to get it right.
Board members decided to endorse Bob Meyers and Marc Roe for the council. Despite the board’s reservations, those were the clear choices.
Meyers was the board’s top choice. He has experience on the council, having served three terms, and has maintained a clear familiarity with issues despite his absence from the council these past several years.
Marc Roe, the lone incumbent on the ballot, received the second-highest rating from the Courier’s editorial board. Roe was, as might be expected, the most knowledgeable candidate on current issues before the city.
In both cases, though, there were points that gave our editorial board pause. Roe, one of only a few people in the room when Mayor Tom Lazio placed former City Administrator Andy Morris on leave, came across to members as evasive about that event and the discussions that preceded it. And Meyers’ emphasis on the council as a team led members to wonder whether he would speak up if the actions of the mayor or other council members raised questions about propriety or adherence to the law.
The remaining two candidates, Mark Peters and Wes Crowder, didn’t quite convince board members to shift away from the experience Meyers and Roe offer. In Peters’ case, he seemed to lack information we would hope a council candidate would have taken the time to learn. He deserves credit for admitting he didn’t know some things — an answer far too many people are afraid to give — but opportunities to learn how the council works and how the city approaches issues are clearly available.
Crowder is undeniably the most passionate candidate in the race. We liked his willingness to challenge the council’s tendency to vote as a pack and we share his skepticism about how the city handled Morris’ ouster. But there’s a way to present such concerns without coming across as unduly combative, and Crowder missed that mark. Board members were not convinced he would play the role of constructive critic, something the council sorely needs.
We would like to see both Peters and Crowder become involved in city government at the board or committee level. In Peters’ case, that experience would fill in gaps and better prepare him for a potential second run for the council. For Crowder, such a role would offer the opportunity to show he can act as a passionate advocate while still being constructive.
There’s always a tendency for candidates to claim the current election is the most important one. Most of the time it’s more hype than substance. We’re hard-pressed to think of another council election in recent years with the pressing needs present in this one, though. This is a genuinely critical moment for the city.
Bob Meyers and Marc Roe are the candidates who should be elected to meet it.