There’s a lot of candidates vying for positions in city government this cycle. Decisions by voters could help move Ottumwa forward in a positive manner, or risk moving the city backward in a manner that will sow more division.
Today, the Ottumwa Courier Editorial Board is offering to you our endorsements for the mayor’s office and three council seats on the Nov. 2 ballot. We know up front our editorial today may upset some of our readers. But, we feel it’s an important part of our mission as a newspaper to offer our take on the election that comes in addition to the stories we’ve written about forums, questionnaires, and interviews we’ve conducted with the candidates.
We hope you find all this useful as you make your decision, and hope above all that you take the time to dig into all this information available to you and exercise your right to vote.
If you disagree with our stances today, that’s fine. We’ll continue to publish letters to the editor supporting candidates the editorial board did not support. We’ve already done so. We’ll continue running letters about the election until the Saturday, Oct. 30 newspaper. That means you must have them submitted by Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. to ensure publication.
With all that said, we offer today’s endorsements in line with the theme of improving Ottumwa’s diversity in its government. We need inclusive people governing our city, and we need these governing bodies to resemble our population as closely as possible.
For mayor, we endorse Rick Johnson. For council, we endorse Sandra Pope, Cara Galloway and Russ Hull.
The mayor’s position operates much like a chief executive officer of the city. That’s exactly what Johnson is, a retiring CEO of River Hills Community Health Center. In that role, he has overseen River Hills’ expansion efforts. He has also pledged to make sure the city embraces its diversity, and that those populations are fairly represented on city boards and are involved in city government however possible. Johnson also has great knowledge on the issues our community faces, will have had a few meetings under his belt as a temporary council member, and has demonstrated his ability to be an effective leader.
Rick Bick’s viewpoints on the LGBTQ community were reprehensible and in complete conflict with his supposed campaign mission to unify, and don’t align with our core values. Monday, Bick told listeners at a forum that he could not support mayoral proclamations or allow the LGBTQ citizens’ rights to assemble for events, as other groups do. In doing so, he quipped, “If you pick this group, what about the pedophile group? Are you going to give them special preference?” Acknowledging LGBTQ people is not a pathway toward giving the same rights to pedophiles. It seems Bick is campaigning on “unity in the community,” but only amongst straight people.
The race for Ottumwa City Council has more quality candidates than there are seats available. We think the three we endorse — Pope, Galloway and Hull — stand out the most.
Pope is a former educator and is clearly invested in learning and speaking to the citizens her decisions will impact. She wasn’t born here, but Ottumwa is, without a doubt, her home. Asked about the top issue facing Ottumwa, she identified inadequate access to affordable childcare and dependent adult care. Those are incredibly tough issues to address, but we hope she can spur positive movement on the issue, between her visionary talents and hopefully by using her charisma to spur public-private partnerships.
At 35 years old, Galloway is the youngest nominee for council. She knows the struggles many Ottumwans face every day through her role with the Southeast Iowa Court-Appointed Special Advocate program. She wants to increase the city’s idea-sharing with other communities to address various issues, such as recognizing diverse populations. As she told us, there’s no need to re-create the wheel.
Hull is a common working man, with deep roots in Ottumwa. Out of the candidates we interviewed, he rose to the top in terms of candidates who had a comfortable grasp of current issues and procedures of city government — likely a result of his engagement as a private citizen. Ottumwa has an engagement problem between government and its citizens, and we think Hull can help rebuild that bridge.
All three of these candidates will move Ottumwa in a positive, inclusive direction that will be good for all. All three are willing to challenge the status quo and find solutions.
We’ve endorsed each of the three candidates based on their qualifications, but we can’t ignore that this ballot would drastically change Ottumwa’s governing diversity in the right direction. As far as we can tell, Pope would be the city’s first person of color in an elected office. Only one other time have two women been elected to serve on the council at the same time.
Now, let’s talk about the rest of the field.
Ashley Noreuil is a qualified candidate, no doubt. She has served our country and community for most of her life, both in the U.S. Marine Corps and other arenas. She is data and information driven, and clearly has done her homework for this election. She knows the 2040 comprehensive plan, and she has command of the issues. If there were four seats open on the council, Noreuil would have gotten our endorsement.
Doug McAntire seems to be a friendly guy that has vowed to talk to people and try to bridge gaps. Compared with the other candidates, however, we didn’t feel he had as much of a grasp on the issues facing the city, and he lacked specific plans and goals.
Matt Pringle isn’t bashful about how he feels, and certainly lives by his pledge for honesty. Unfortunately, we find too many red flags. He told us he won’t make a decision that conflicts with his view of what the Bible says. He said he doesn’t acknowledge the LGBTQ community as a minority group, claiming those people chose their sexual preferences. Beyond that, Pringle essentially vowed to do his darndest to make Ottumwa a dry city. That’s prohibited by Iowa law. He has vowed to vote “no” to every single new or renewed liquor license that comes before the council.