November 7 City/School Election yields mixed results for incumbents seeking to retain office

Waukon City Council At-Large race requires run-off election

Voters throughout Allamakee County were making decisions on a combination of nearly two dozen ballot items when they went to the polls Tuesday, November 7 for the biennial City/School Election. Within that list of ballot items between all Allamakee County communities, there were eight contested races for either city government or local school board positions, and half those races saw an incumbent candidate denied re-election to his or her seat - at least for the time-being, in one case.

In one of those contested races, the City of Waukon At-Large City Council seat up for election this year, voters will have to return to the polls to decide a winner, as none of the three candidates vying for that seat in this year’s election was able to obtain the 50%-plus one vote majority required by Waukon City Code. With 667 votes cast in that At-Large election, each of the three candidates hovered around receiving one-third of the votes, forcing a run-off election between the two top vote-getters in that race to fill a single seat.

At-Large incumbent candidate Andy Sires received 225 (33.73%) of those votes, with challenger Nicholas Engrav garnering 245 (36.73%) votes and fellow challenger Jean Brink collecting 196 votes (29.39%). With Engrav and Sires ending up as the top two vote recipients in that November 7 election, they will now square off in a run-off election to determine the outright winner, with that run-off election scheduled for Tuesday, December 5 and additional details of that run-off event to be highlighted in a future edition of The Standard as they become finalized.

The Allamakee County Auditor’s office reports a voter turnout of 22.44% of eligible voters in the county for this year’s election, which equated to just over eight percent higher turnout than the previous City/School Election in 2021, with 2,173 voters taking part in this year’s election, including 242 absentee ballots. The City of Postville garnered the highest voter turnout at 37.46% of its registered voters, with the City of Lansing having nearly one-fourth of its registered voters participating in this year’s election. All results currently being reported are considered unofficial until the canvassing of the results by the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors to take place this week.

Four Allamakee County communities had contested races for their respective city council seats up for election this year, where the number of candidates on the ballot was more than the actual seats up for election. Just one of those four communities immediately returned all of its incumbent candidates, with Waukon’s aforementioned contest yet to be determined in that December 5 run-off.

The City of Lansing had one incumbent candidate and two challengers vying for two At-Large seats in this year’s election. Ian Zahren had been appointed to his current seat on the council nearly a year ago following the resignation of Bruce ReVoir for health reasons. Zahren garnered 142 votes (23.09%) in his bid for re-election, but his vote total was surpassed by two challengers in the race, Benjamin Ghelf (219 votes, 35.61%) and Corey Richards (192 votes, 31.22%).

Another incumbent in a multi-seat race was also denied re-election to the New Albin City Council, as Alexie Grotegut ended up with the fourth lowest vote total (54 votes, 18.06%) out of the four candidates vying for three At-Large council positions this year. Fellow incumbents Dale Mauss (97 votes, 32.44%) and Maria Stahl (69 votes, 23.08%) were returned to the council by voters, with challenger Nathan Darling being voted on to the council with his 70 votes (23.41%).

The City of Postville had the most involved race in this year’s election with eight candidates vying for three council seats, with that election involving voters in both Allamakee and Clayton counties in covering Postville’s entire city limits. The two incumbent candidates seeking re-election, Larry Moore (330 votes, 25.23% in Allamakee County; 371 votes, 25.02% overall) and Devora Klein-Mahr (318 votes, 24.31% in Allamakee County; 358 votes, 24.14% overall), were both returned to their seats, with newcomer Laurie Moody (320 votes, 24.46% in Allamakee County; 357 votes, 24.07% overall) claiming the third open seat in that mix.

Rounding out that list of candidates but falling shy of election to that Postville City Council were Rachel Sugar (107 votes, 8.18% in Allamakee County; 125 votes, 8.43% overall), Giora Bass (99 votes, 7.57% in Allamakee County; 117 votes, 7.89% overall), Nechama Yehuda (91 votes, 6.96% in Allamakee County; 109 votes, 7.35% overall), James Johnson (35 votes, 2.68% in Allamakee County; 35 votes, 2.36% overall) and Jennifer Valdez (8 votes, 0.61% in Allamakee County; 11 votes, 0.74% overall).

All three school districts in Allamakee County had at least one contested race, with all but one of five incumbent candidates being returned to their respective seats. That incumbent re-election denial came in the At-Large Director position in the Eastern Allamakee Community School District, where challenger Joseph Manning gathered 303 votes (54.01%) to surpass incumbent Kelli Mudderman’s 258 votes (45.99%).

A second contested race on that Eastern Allamakee Community School Board produced a different result for its incumbent candidate. In District 1, incumbent Bobbie Goetzinger received 317 votes (59.03%) to fend off a challenge from Tom Martin (219 votes, 40.78%). There was also one other board seat race in that Eastern Allamakee Community School District, where uncontested incumbent Tony Becker received 483 votes, 95.45% of the vote total to return as District 2 Director.

The Allamakee Community School District also had a trio of school board races on this year’s ballot, with just one of them being contested. District 3 incumbent Beth Shafer received 733 votes (70.28%) to fend off a challenge from Cristina Smith (307 votes, 29.43%) and retain her board seat.

District 4 would end up with a new representative, as incumbent Brent Beyer was not seeking re-election, with Kelly Deeney running unopposed in taking over that seat with the 905 votes (99.12%) she received. District 2 Director Erik Helgerson ran unopposed in seeking re-election to his seat, receiving 906 votes (98.59%) to continue his tenure on the board.

Postville had three At-Large school board seats up for election on this year’s ballot, with four candidates vying for those positions and voters from the four counties of Allamakee, Clayton, Fayette and Winneshiek all having to cast decisions as part of that Postville School District. Incumbents Travis Koenig (301 votes, 27.87% in Allamakee County; 407 votes, 28.07% overall) and Eric Meyer (292 votes, 27.04% in Allamakee County; 392 votes, 27.03% overall) were each returned to their respective seats as the top two vote-getters in that race, with Teresa Berg (269 votes, 24.91% in Allamakee County; 363 votes, 25.03% overall) claiming the third open seat on that board. Maria Vazquez (213 votes, 19.72% in Allamakee County; 283 votes, 19.52% overall) was the other candidate on the ballot in that race.

All five mayor seats up for election this year within Allamakee County had just a single unopposed candidate listed on the November 2 ballot. Only two of those five mayors were actually seeking re-election, as Jerry Valley was returned to his Harpers Ferry mayorship with 64 votes (92.75%) and Waterville Mayor Dave Monserud also retained his seat after receiving every one of the 20 votes cast in his unopposed bid.

Even though Waukon Mayor Arvid Hatlan was returned to that seat with 536 votes (92.25%), it was his first time being elected to the position, as he was appointed to that office earlier this year when former mayor Pat Stone resigned. Both Lansing and New Albin elected new mayors this year, as neither Melissa Hammell nor Alberto Whitlatch, respectively, were seeking re-election to those offices. Instead, New Albin voters elected the lone candidate on the ballot, Thomas Feuerhelm, with 98 votes (96.08%), and Lansing voters did the same, as Mike Verdon received 246 votes (84.25%) - with Verdon having previously served as Lansing Mayor in 2013.

The City of Waukon also had a pair of other city council seats up for election on this year’s ballot, both featuring incumbent candidates running unopposed. Ward 2 councilman John Lydon received 164 votes (92.13%) to retain his seat and Ward 3 councilman Dave Blocker claimed 204 votes (99.03%) to win his first election to that seat, as he had been appointed to that position just three months ago after previous Ward 3 councilman Arvid Hatlan took over the vacated office of Waukon Mayor.

The City of Harpers Ferry had an equal number of candidates running for three city council seats on this year’s ballot, as Russ Walker (61 votes, 32.11%), Daren Kaeppel (58 votes, 30.53%) and Thomas Diggins (43 votes, 22.63%) were elected to fill those seats. The City of New Albin also had an unopposed race for its city treasurer position, with Jill Mathis receiving all 109 votes cast in that race to fill that position.

The City of Waterville had five at-large seats on this year’s election ballot, but only had four candidates vying for those seats and had all four declared candidates receive nearly the same number of votes. Jaclyn Hilleshiem received 20 votes (21.74%) and Robbie Burrett, Jodi Van Iten and Bethany Dundee each received 19 votes. Incumbent David Christianson was not an officially declared candidate on the ballot but did end up with 15 write-in votes to earn re-election.

In addition to its city government races on the ballot, the City of Waterville also had a public measure on this year’s ballot, which received 100% support with all 20 voters casting a ‘yes’ decision. That measure called for a change in the City’s Code of Ordinances regarding the Library Board of Trustees, which has now been approved to consist of four members to be appointed by the mayor and approved by the city council and one member residing at an unincorporated Allamakee County address outside of Waterville, appointed by the mayor and approved by the Allamakee County Board of Supervisors.