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Moore, Watters, Groetken win sound victories in council race

SIOUX CITY | For the first time in decades, Sioux City voters have returned three incumbents to their seats on the City Council.

Dan Moore, Alex Watters and Pete Groetken retained their seats with sound victories Tuesday during the city's municipal elections.  

According to unofficial results, Moore led all candidates with 3,412 votes, followed by Watters with 3,283 votes and Groetken with 2,940 votes. 

Challengers Denny Quinn, Doug Waples and Jake Jungers followed with 1,538, 1,341 and 1,218 votes, respectively. 

"I really appreciate the voters having the confidence and trust in me that they would ask me to serve another four years to serve with them," Moore said. "It's very humbling for me. It was a good campaign, a good race." 

Voters on Tuesday could select up to three candidates on their ballots, with the top three vote-getters winning the open seats on the council. The newly elected council members will take their oaths of office in January, joining current member Rhonda Capron and Mayor Bob Scott on the council. 

Moore, a longtime Sioux City attorney, and Groetken, a retired Sioux City Police captain, were running for their second terms on the council after receiving the highest vote totals during the 2013 election

"I'm kind of the 'elder statesman' in this group. ... I've got a lot of experience in city government, and I'm hopeful that I can be a big help over the next four years," Groetken said. "The city's got a lot of good things going on, and I'm very pleased to be able to be a part of it over the next four years."

Watters, an adviser at Morningside College, was seeking his first full term after the council appointed him in February to fill the remaining 10 months of the term held by Keith Radig, who left the council to serve on the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors. 

"To have their vote of confidence here and to have a resounding vote of support, I'm really happy for that and excited for the next four years," Watters said.  

Jungers, Quinn and Waples were all seeking their first term on the council. 

Voters have not typically favored incumbents in recent years. Until Oct. 10, an incumbent in one of the council's three-seat election years had not received the most votes in a primary or general election for more than a dozen years. The election follows one two years ago in which Scott and Capron were re-elected to their respective seats as mayor and council member.  

"There were several elections in a row where the incumbents didn't do very well," said Woodbury County Auditor Pat Gill. "This is a pretty good indication that people are pretty satisfied with the current City Council."

7,158 voters cast ballots in this year's election, about 16 percent of Sioux City's 44,063 registered voters, which Gill said is another sign of general voter satisfaction.  

The turnout was similar to the mid-teens turnouts in the 2013 election and 2009 elections, when about 14 percent of registered voters turned out. Voter turnout had been around 25 percent in 2005. 

The three incumbents also had the most funding to leverage during the 2017 election, according to reports filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure board Friday. 

Moore led all candidates in fundraising heading into Tuesday's election with more than $12,000. He, Watters and Groetken were the only candidates who filed reports prior to Friday's deadline, a requirement for candidates who raise more than $1,000. 

As of the report date, Moore had spent approximately $8,800 on his campaign, including approximately $530 on campaign signs and nearly $6,800 on advertising. 

Moore's largest donors were the Sioux City Professional Firefighters Association Local No. 7 and Ritch LeGrand, who both contributed $1,000. 

Watters raised the second-most, reporting $7,835 in contributions and $7,498.74 in spending: $5,627.98 on advertising, $1,541 on campaign signs and $100 to the Woodbury County Democratic Central Committee at a fundraiser he attended. 

Watters' top donors had included $1,000 donations from the Sioux City Professional Firefighters Association Local No. 7, Louis Weinberg and Dave Bernstein. 

Groetken didn't raise a dime during his campaign, according to the report, but used $415.05 of a total of $2,112.42 left over from his 2013 campaign to purchase campaign signs.  


County supervisors decline to fund 3 emergency personnel

SIOUX CITY | The Woodbury County Emergency Services Department director on Tuesday said the failure to add three paramedics in January will leave rural county residents without sufficient service and "would be setting the county back 35 years."

Director Gary Brown made that assertion as the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors, who hold the purse strings on all county spending, declined Brown's recommendation to add three jobs. Those paramedic jobs would have cost an estimated $97,555 for the first six months of 2018.

The supervisors defeated a motion to add the three jobs. Then on a 3-2 vote, they voted against adding one paramedic, something that would cost about $73,000 for a full year, with salary and benefits, Brown said.

He also framed the hiring request in the form of quality of life.

"If you don't have good EMS...who would want to live in our communities?" Brown asked.

Brown three weeks ago brought his proposal, noting the "necessity" for it, due to big changes ahead for a Sioux City-based ambulance agency.

Citing financial difficulties, the 35-year-old Siouxland Paramedics in August informed Sioux City officials that it would cease providing 911 services to Sioux City and North Sioux City by year's end. Sioux City Fire Rescue, a department of the city of Sioux City, will run a new emergency medical services division that will respond to 911 ambulance calls beginning Jan. 1.

Brown said with Sioux City Fire Rescue personnel taking on the new role in January, the trickle-down effect is that the changes "will not allow them to respond to rural paramedic assists."

Early in 2017, Brown sought to add two paramedics as part of setting the fiscal year 2017-18 budget, but that hiring was not approved. After another defeat on Tuesday, Brown is now seeking to decide if he should try to add more in the 2018-19 fiscal year. That proposal could be aired in early 2018 during budget-setting discussions.

If the Woodbury County supervisors agree to fund the changes for a full allotment into the 2018-19 fiscal year, the cost will be $195,110 annually.

Supervisors Rocky De Witt, Matthew Ung and Jeremy Taylor said they had qualms about being able to afford the new paramedics personnel, particularly in the middle of a fiscal year.

"We can't fund everything that comes down the pike," De Witt said.

De Witt added that he understands rural residents want good paramedic services, but "the fact remains that we can't be everywhere every time."

Brown proposed three jobs to be added by Jan. 1: two full-time operations officers/paramedics and a paramedic who would work three-fourths time.

He said those additions would allow the county to provide 24-7 paramedic service. Currently, there is no staffing in the late evenings and early morning overnights.

"EMS, it is time to look at it as an essential service, like fire and police," Brown said.

Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the supervisors in a second vote approved hiring one paramedic.

Winkel wins re-election for Sergeant Bluff mayor

SERGEANT BLUFF | Sergeant Bluff Mayor Jon Winkel cruised to victory Tuesday, beating back a challenge from Councilwoman Nicole Cleveland.

Winkel, a longtime businessman and community volunteer, outdistanced Cleveland, 388 to 236, according to unofficial results.

In Moville, incumbent Mayor Jim Fisher also won re-election, while voters in Danbury and Salix elected new mayors.

Winkel, 70, was first elected in 2013 after staging a write-in campaign. He served as CEO of Long Lines, a Sergeant Bluff-based telecommunications provider, for 32 years before retiring four years ago.

The 32-year-old Cleveland, a Sergeant Bluff native, won her seat on the City Council in 2011 and was re-elected in 2015. Her current term runs through 2020. A former intern for U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley's office, she is currently employed at First Financial Bank in Dakota Dunes.

As mayor in his second term, Winkel said he would like to help finish the progress the city has made with him at the helm, mentioning a more than $100 million increase in the city's assessed valuation and completion of the first certified industrial site on the western side of the state. Winkel also said he wants to continue expanding the city's commercial tax base and see businesses begin to move into the 130-acre site.

Winkel spoke to the Journal via phone from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he cheered on the Sergeant Bluff-Luton volleyball team as the Warriors won their opening match in the state tournament, defeating rival Bishop Heelan Catholic, 3-1. 

"(I'm) kind of on top of the world because it is two great wins for our community and most importantly our next generation of young people and their (record) of 41-3 in the volleyball season," Winkel exclaimed.

Three incumbent Sergeant Bluff City Council members -- Carol Clark, Ron Hanson and Bill Gaukel -- ran unopposed for new four-year terms.

"We have a very solid council; they have supported me as mayor and it gives us four more years to really put the icing on the cake on the things we have done the last four years," Winkel said. 

Winkel has also been a part of Sergeant Bluff Fire Rescue for 33 years and has been involved with the Woodbury County Sheriff's Department for about 15 years. He lives in Sergeant Bluff with his wife, Nan, who have two children and five grandchildren.

"I’m really looking forward to serving the community with the council and the staff. And I want to thank all the voters too because without them it wouldn’t happen," Winkel said. "I’m just feeling really good with our volleyball team and our community."

In Moville, Mayor Jim Fisher easily defeated Kirk Lubbers, 223 to 101. Paul E. Malm and Michael Ofert earned the two open council spots with 190 and 144 votes, respectively. The two beat out Jonathan Keselring, Ashley McCabe, Anessa Opsahl and Matt Wise.

Kelly Kreber won a two-year term as the mayor of Hinton. She beat Randy Roehrich 100-54. Katie Pierson and Jeff Felts won the two open council spots with 129 and 90 votes, respectively.  

In the Salix mayoral race, Stan Johnson beat Kevin Nelson, 48 to 23.

In Danbury, Michael Buth was elected mayor over JoLynn Wright, 95 to 10. 

Below are results from contested mayoral and council races in Woodbury County cities Tuesday.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

City Council (vote for no more than three): Barbara L. Benson, 88; Bradley A. Dose, 37; Lisa M. Petersen, 78; Tammy E. Reimer, 102.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

City Council (vote for no more than three): James D. Amick, 42; Jason Garnand, 43; Gordon E. Ingebritson, 15; Joshua I. Madsen, 23; Chad Merchant, 33, David West, 27.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

City Council (vote for no more than three): Robert Beazley, 99; Darin Byers, 18; Calvin McCrea, 89; Stacy Orndorff, 48; Ronald Sanderson, 82.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

Mayor: Michael Buth, 95; JoLynn Wright, 10.

City Council (vote for no more than two): Joseph Allen, 17; Darlene Fitzpatrick, 30; Steve N. Halbur, 48; Cris Melendez, 3; Richard Mills, 10; Kathy Scholl, 54; Randi Uhl, 13; Jason Weber, 22.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

City Council (vote for no more than two): Eric R. Bebee, 10; Dani Davidson, 18; Dale Ronfeldt, 14.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

City Council (vote for no more than two): Jeremy Baltushi, 154; Terry Johnson, 104; Terry Masching, 109; Patrick V. Saunders, 166.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

Mayor: James Fisher, 223; Kirk Lubbers, 101.

City Council (vote for no more than two): Jonathan Keselring, 69; Paul E. Malm, 190; Ashley McCabe, 115; Michael W. Ofert, 144; Anessa Opsahl, 23; Matt Wise, 54.


(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

Mayor: Stan Johnson, 48; Kevin Nelson, 23.

City Council (vote for no more than three): Russell Black, 62; Sharla Dicks, 51; Bryan Farris, 30; Jeremy Hansen, 51.

Sergeant Bluff

(2 of 2 precincts reporting)

Mayor: Jon Winkel, 388, Nicole Cleveland, 231




Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 


Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 



Ian Richardson / Provided 



Voters reject fire station, approve swimming pool measures in Northwest Iowa

LAWTON, Iowa | Voters in Lawton on Tuesday overwhelmingly defeated a $1.6 million bond issue that would have raised property taxes to build a new fire station and community center.

Of the 304 votes cast in Lawton, only 43 percent voted for the measure, which required a 60-percent super majority to pass under state law. The final count was 173 'no' votes and 131 'yes' votes.

Lawton City Council members put forth the plan replace the existing fire station, which is several decades old. The proposal was to build and equip a new fire station on Ash Street, near the water plant in the Woodbury County city of 908. More than 48 percent of the city's registered voters turned out for Tuesday's election.

Plans called for completion of the new fire station and community center in two years.


Elsewhere in Woodbury County, Salix voters overwhelmingly approved a shift in how the city's local option sales tax are used.

Sixty two of the 66 voters, of 93 percent, approved the measure to reallocate sales tax revenues to debt reduction and capital improvement projects.

Iowa law allows cities to set a 1-cent local sales tax, and then direct the proceeds to various purposes, including property tax relief.

Thirty-two percent of registered voters turned out for Tuesday's election.


Voters in Sibley strongly approved a bond issue of $1.6 million to improve the swimming pool, which is located on the southeast side of town adjacent to the golf course.

The measure passed by 85 percent affirmative vote. There were 447 'yes' votes and 78 'no' votes.

The project will expand, modernize and add more equipment at the pool. The measure required a super-majority 60 percent threshold, per Iowa law, since it impacts property taxes.

Sibley is the county seat of Osceola County, with a population of 2,800.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal 

De Witt

Dawn J. Sagert, Sioux City Journal