Jenna Jennings appointed to Jasper County Auditor

Jan. 3—Jenna Jennings, an 11-and-a-half-year employee of the Jasper County Auditor's Office, is now in charge of the department after the seat was left vacant following the retirement of Dennis Parrott. The board of supervisors voted 3-0 on Jan. 3 to appoint Jennings as the county auditor, and she was immediately sworn in.

Supervisors held closed session interviews with Jennings, a payroll clerk, and deputy auditor Tina Mulgrew prior to the appointment. Jennings and Mulgrew shared a hug after the decision was made. All three supervisors agreed the candidates met the qualifications and have years of experience under their belts.

After the interviews were finished and the board convened to open session, supervisor Denny Stevenson said it was a tough decision but he had to choose what was best for the office and for the county in general. Stevenson said Jennings would be a good fit and make the office her own.

"I got the opinion that Jenna would be willing to do what it takes, to make it her own, make some improvements, keep some stuff the same," Stevenson said.

Brandon Talsma, chair of the board of supervisors, agreed with Stevenson and said Jennings "can deal with some of the shortfalls that are currently in that office." Talsma also believed she could work well with the other elected officials and department heads but also keep supervisors in their place.

County supervisor Doug Cupples said both candidates had good qualities and at times excelled at one point over the other. Based on the other two supervisors leaning towards Jennings, Cupples said "it sounds like the decision is made" and he is "in agreement with the decision."

WHO IS JENNA JENNINGS?

Before she was a payroll clerk, Jennings started her career in the auditor's office working on the real estate side. After about seven months she moved over to the financial side of the office, where she has remained since. In addition to payroll duties, Jennings has helped with insurance and budgets.

Jennings was born and raised in Jasper County. She grew up on a family farm near Kellogg. In fact she bought the home she was raised in and her parents built. Jennings graduated from AIB College of Business in Des Moines with a bachelor's degree in accounting.

As the new county auditor, Jennings is looking forward to everyone working together and moving forward.

"Obviously, I have big shoes to fill with Dennis retiring," Jennings said, who also noted upon her swearing in that there would be big things to come and likely some changes. "Change is always good. (I'm looking forward to) all of us working together and moving forward and making our office better than what it already is."

SUPERVISORS REJECT SURPRISE INTERVIEW

Before the morning supervisors meeting entered into a prolonged recess, the board was approached by another individual interested in the county auditor position. Mark Hallam, a member of the Newton City Council, said he told Cupples of his interest in the office months ago.

However, Hallam was not one of the three people chosen to be interviewed. One of the individuals to be interviewed eventually withdrew themselves, leaving only two people to be interviewed. Hallam asked the supervisors to be considered for an interview that afternoon, essentially filling in that third candidate slot.

"In the past 10 years, community services has become very important to me," Hallam said. "Everything from being a trustee with the Newton Community Educational Foundation to a historic preservation commissioner. And of course serving on the Newton City Council and mayor pro-tem."

Hallam added his leadership philosophy has always been driven by vision and he would like to discuss it more with supervisors later that afternoon.

Talsma rejected the consideration, saying the agenda had already been posted with the two interview slots. Cupples mentioned the supervisors could amend the agenda, but Talsma did not like the idea and he did not want to get the county into any legal trouble. Cupples was fine with supervisors interviewing Hallam.

Stevenson sided with Talsma, noting the consideration may be too last-minute. Hallam accepted the board's decision.

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com