Two former candidates are again vying for a seat on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, but this time one of them will be elected.
John Etheredge, a Republican, and Democrat Terry Dahms are on the ballot for a March 5 special election to replace Sally Stutsman, who resigned her spot on the five-member board after being elected to the Legislature.
Etheredge, 28, who lives in the southwest part of the county and works in retail, ran unsuccessfully for county supervisor last fall.
Dahms, 67, who lives north of Iowa City and is retired from the University of Iowa’s Information Technology Services, had the same experience in 2008. In 2009 he applied for an open seat on the board that went to someone else.
Both said they learned from their past campaigns and chose to run again because they felt they had something to offer county residents. And in many cases, how they would represent their constituents differs greatly.
That includes the proposed criminal justice center, which has dominated the county political scene in recent months. It did not get enough support in November, and the county is putting a slightly smaller project before voters in May.
Dahms supports the scaled-down project, which would include a new jail and courthouse. While much of the attention has been on the jail, Dahms pointed to the space and security needs at the 112-year-old courtroom as a particular concern.
“That’s what we need to hammer away at,” he said of the campaign in support of the project.
Etheredge said while he believed the current jail and courthouse need to be upgraded, the $46.2 million price tag for the justice center and the $43.5 million bond voters are being asked to approve are too high.
“To me, we need to revisit this further before we spend this money,” he said.
The two also differ on a housing development proposed for the unincorporated area north of Iowa City. The issue has come before the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, which Dahms sits on, but he has recused himself while he runs for supervisor.
Etheredge said he is for personal property rights but believes the county’s “rural cluster” ordinance requires too many homes to be built in a development and this proposal, on 91 acres off Newport Road, is too dense for the surrounding rural area.
“It just doesn’t sound to me like common sense putting a housing development out in this road,” he said.
Dahms, who lives near the site, is favor of the housing proposal. He noted the county’s land-use plan, which he helped create, calls for development in the area. He also said the rural cluster ordinance helps prevent micro-developments from springing up around the county.
“That avoids conflicts, and it protects the better and best farm ground,” he said.
The issue touches on the question of whether there is enough rural representation on the Board of Supervisors. Both Etheredge and Dahms live in the unincorporated part of the county, so whoever is elected will join Supervisor Pat Harney and give rural residents two out of the five seats on the board.
Harney and Dahms live north of Iowa City, and Etheredge draws a distinction between that area and what is arguably the more traditionally rural southern half of the county.
“I live out in the country,” he said. “I do not live in a housing development out in the county.”
Dahms disagrees with that sentiment.
“Of course I am,” he said when asked if he would be a good advocate for rural residents.
Party affiliation also sets the two apart. Dahms is wrapping up a term as chairman of the Johnson County Democrats. Etheredge is trying to become the first Republican to serve on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors since 1962. Democrats have a more than two-to-one edge in registered voters Johnson County.
The winner March 5 will serve the rest of Stutsman’s term, which runs through 2014.
The special election will cost between $65,000 and $70,000, according to the Johnson County Auditor’s Office.