2019 City Election

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No candidates for two open seats
As the November 5 city election approaches, Elkader finds itself in a unique position: No one has filed to run for two open positions.

 

 

      As the November 5 city election approaches, Elkader finds itself in a unique position: No one has filed to run for two open positions.

      “In recent memory, this is the first time we have not had anyone run for a regular Council seat,” said Elkader City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert. “I don’t know if it’s apathy or the fact that we haven’t done anything controversial lately that would get people interested in being part of the city’s decision-making process. Whatever the reason, we don’t have the candidates.

      The Elkader City Council is comprised for five members elected to four-year terms. Peggy Lane and Kevin Lau, who have served since 2012 and 2016, respectively, decided not to seek re-election. 

     “The decision was a tough one,” said Lane. “I have enjoyed the time I’ve spent on council, but I also firmly believe that everyone should have a shot at holding that office.”

      Lau had earlier served on the Central School Board. The sense of accomplishment he felt about his tenure there didn’t translate to his time on city council. “I have realized that I just don’t have the same enthusiasm for being on the council or feel the same accomplishment as I did while on the school board for whatever reason,” Lau said. “I had hoped that my not running would open the door for multiple residents of all ages who would have much more enthusiasm and better ideas than I do at this time. I am surprised that it has not resulted in that happening.

      Lane and Lau’s vacancies could now be filled by write-in votes.

      “It seems strange but if one person is written in one time and no one else is, that person wins,” Cowsert explained. “Of course, a write-in candidate doesn’t have to accept the position. If they don’t it’s considered vacant and the council appoints someone.”

      At least one candidate, Clark Chancellor, has launched a write-in campaign. In addition, Lane said she might give consideration to returning to council if she receives write-in votes.

      Two unexpired terms formerly held by Roger Buchholz and Curtis Ruhser also need filling. Three people—Robert Hendrickson, Ed Josten and Janita Doeppke—are on the ballot to fill those terms. In addition, there are two candidates for mayor. Incumbent Josh Pope is seeking re-election and former Elkader Mayor Bob Garms has also filed. Council member Daryl Koehn is not up for re-election.

     If the two open positions aren’t filled, the other three Council members will need to attend every meeting to make a quorum. Even then, city business could get stalled since three affirmative votes are needed to move most issues forward.

     Anyone considering a write-in campaign needs to meet two criteria: They must live within the Elkader city limits and they must be eligible to register to vote although they needn’t be a registered voter. City Council meets twice a month.

      “Traditionally, there’s not been a lot of outside time spent on city matters,” Cowsert said. “There are no sub-committees, for example. Some cities have them but we don’t.” Cowsert adds that serving on City Council is a great way to give back to the town and to make sure everybody’s viewpoint is represented.

      “Voters may be disenfranchised by politics on the state or federal level but participating in local government is different,” Cowsert said. She also urges anyone interested in knowing more about local government to contact her with their questions.

      Elkader’s situation might be unique for the town but unfortunately it’s a common occurrence across the county. In Elkport and Osterdock, for example, there are no mayoral or council candidates. Nobody filed for Garnavillo’s two open council seats or for the mayor’s seats in Monona and North Buena Vista. Farmersburg and Strawberry Point have council candidates but not enough to fill all open seats. And in several towns, including Garber, Luana, St. Olaf, Strawberry Point and Volga, candidates will win by default because there are just as many candidates as there are open positions.

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