Letter to the Editor

Lessons learned

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Citizen misunderstandings exist by the average person as it relates to serving as a local county supervisor. The purpose of this letter is to clarify these misconceptions.

Misconception #1: When a person runs for election as county supervisor, they typically submit the needed signatures and file in the June primary listing a party affiliation.

Voters note this listed affiliation. They erroneously conclude that, if the candidate wins their election, the board decisions they make are dictated by their party affiliation.

Wrong! Once the five-member board begins service their party hats are figuratively removed and all decision making and voting is done by the entire board on a no-party basis.

Misconception #2: A county supervisor's job is not a full-time position. Supervisors typically have personal business duties. During their course of service as a supervisor, there are times when their personal interests or that of their relatives come in conflict with county issues. Voters erroneously conclude that the supervisors will vote on what is in their best personal interests.

Wrong! The supervisor must publicly announce to the board that he/she has a personal conflict of interest. They then must decline to participate on further discussions, and they are not allowed to vote on that issue or attempt to influence fellow board members.

Misconception #3: Many think serving as a county board of supervisor is a one- or two-year service commitment.

Wrong! It is a four-year commitment. Supervisors are expected to attend the normal weekly meetings. Attendance can be by live attendance or electronic attendance. Iowa Code states if the supervisor misses 60 consecutive days or more of participation, the board may declare the supervisor's seat vacant. Extenuating circumstances may prevail.

Misconception #4: Gender balancing back in 1857 an all male, three-member board of supervisors was created. For the ensuing 110 years, voters assumed women were not suitable to serve as a supervisor.

Wrong! In the mid-1970s Beverly Berquist was the first women elected supervisor. After she retired, June Goldman was elected to serve with two male associates. In 2001 the total board make up was changed. Voters wanted a new five-member board. Pam Jordan and Mardi Allen were elected to serve along with three men. The impact and citizen benefits these two women brought to this new board were profound. Over their succeeding 16 years terms of office, these two women contributed enormously. Among them were the roles played building our new courthouse and implementing strong tax saving budget management. The women supervisors provided strong verification that gender balancing on a county board of supervisors is a win-win!

Lessons Learned.

Paul C. Johnson

Former County Supervisor