Dec. 30—Former county supervisor Denny Stevenson is temporarily back in action.
During a special meeting on Dec. 27, the county auditor, recorder and treasurer unanimously voted in favor of appointing Stevenson to the vacant seat on the Jasper County Board of Supervisors. The seat was to be filled by incumbent supervisor Denny Carpenter, whose death on Dec. 10 forced an appointment.
County elected officials decided at a past meeting that appointing someone to the vacant seat would be the best option. At that time, they agreed they wanted a person who could hit the ground running and had neutral political affiliations. If citizens disagreed with their choice, they could collect signatures for petition.
Which was a point repeated once again by Jasper County Auditor Dennis Parrott before recommending Stevenson serve on the board.
"We need to remind the public that if they do not agree with our choice or want something different, they have the option of getting signatures and calling for a special election," Parrott said. "They have 14 days in which to do that. Obviously we'll abide by that and support that decision if that's what the public wants to do."
Stevenson was regarded by Parrott as "one of the best supervisors" he has worked with in his 18 years serving as auditor of Jasper County, even going so far to say he is one of the best supervisors to serve the region in the past 25 to 50 years. Parrott also said Stevenson was well respected by Carpenter, too.
"He idolized this gentleman," Parrott said of the departed Carpenter, who served four terms on the board. "He thought if he could just have the — and I can't say it — what this guy had, he would love to. So I know pretty much what he thinks about what I'm thinking, or at least have a pretty good idea."
Jasper County Recorder Denise Allan echoed Parrott's sentiments of Stevenson, calling him an "excellent supervisor," who went "above and beyond" his duties.
"He made it his business to know what everybody in this building did, what part they played in county government. Which, at that time, was something we hadn't experienced," Allan said of Stevenson. "So I have a lot of respect for him and I think he'd do a great job for us."
TREASURER CONDEMNS THE POLITICS
Jasper County Treasurer Doug Bishop was in full agreement with Allan and Parrott that Stevenson was the right choice, but he also took the time to air his feelings about the process of appointing a person to the board. In particular, the politics that had come into play.
Bishop said it is spelled out in Iowa Code as to what kind of process transpires when a supervisor dies. It is a very unfortunate what happened to Carpenter, he said.
"He was pushed through a primary and made it through the general election," Bishop said. "There are some people, myself included, that aren't totally happy as to how that all transpired at the end. Matter of fact there are some folks that are very upset with what took place at the end of Denny's life."
Although that might be a subject for another day, he added. Bishop lamented the politics that have taken place since then to determine who should fill the seat. Should it go to a Democratic runner-up candidate? Should it go to a Republican since that was the party Carpenter sided with? Which is right?
"I'm so tired of the national politics, and it's drifting itself down into our county. We get along great with everybody who works here," Bishop said, motioning to the supervisors. "I'm tired of people that think they have to play a team game. We're all trying to do the best for team Jasper County."
By appointing Stevenson, Bishop said the officials would be doing just that. The elected officials' decision needs to be based on what's best for Jasper County, Allan added. She, too, condemned party politics, saying it is "time to set aside this 'R' and 'D' and go back to working for the people."
The retiring Parrott shared similar feelings and said one of the reasons he is retiring at the end of the year is because of politics. He then recalled a question asked at a League of Women Voters forum in which a moderator asked the Democratic supervisors candidates how it would be serving with Republicans.
"What is the Democratic policy on gravel roads? What's the Republican policy on gravel roads? What's the Democratic policy on conservation? What's the Republican policy on conservation?" Parrott asked before answering his own questions. "...There isn't one."
STEVENSON IS EXCITED TO BE BACK
Although he knows his stay will be brief, Stevenson is excited to be back on the board of supervisors. He will be serving on the board of supervisors until the next countywide election cycle. Stevenson told Newton News this could include special elections for a bond issue or following a petition.
Voters in Jasper County could petition the upcoming appointment for county auditor, which would automatically trigger a special election for supervisor, too. Or they could petition Stevenson's appointment. If citizens decide to do so, they would need more than 1,500 signatures turned in to the auditor's office.
The chairperson of the Jasper County Republican Party told Newton News the party intends to collect signatures. The chairperson of the Jasper County Democratic Party is awaiting the appointment of the new auditor to make a final decision and would likely petition that seat as opposed to the supervisor seat.
A bond issue this spring could also trigger a special election for the supervisor race.
Stevenson served on the board of supervisors for about eight years, eventually stepping down by the New Year of 2017.
Looking back to when he first ran for supervisor, Stevenson said he wanted to serve in the same way he served on the Kellogg City Council: to do his best and make the best decisions possible. Being a county supervisor is an interesting position, he said, and it is oftentimes a challenging position at that.
Back then, Stevenson ran for election as a Democrat. These days Stevenson considers himself more independent from the two major political parties.
"I always said when I ran I felt like I was a decent supervisor but a terrible politician," Stevenson said.
Which fits well into Carpenter's seat. So often Carpenter would tell voters at forums or in-person that he is not a politician. The county supervisor position, Stevenson added, should not be partisan. The board rarely upholds party platforms. Instead, it tries to run the county and serve the public.
"Realistically I'm more independent than anything," Stevenson said. "I'm more middle-of-the-road ... We need to be fiscally conservative and I think that's important. Every tax dollar matters. You gotta be willing to spend what it takes but not any more than that. That's my view on it."