HIAWATHA — Let the race begin.
Three of four Democrats competing in the June 3 primary to represent the party in the race for the District 1 seat on the Linn County Board of Supervisors met at an initial public forum last night and agreed on a hot-button issue in county government.
That is, the job of supervisor is a full-time one that should be paid as a full-time one, they said.
A year ago, the five-member Board of Supervisors provoked some public criticism when they voted to go from 80-percent time to full-time after they had moved to 80-percent time when the board expanded from three members to five in recent years.
However, candidates Jim Houser, Andrea Jackson and Kim Taylor last night all agreed that a supervisor’s job is a full-time one.
Houser, 60, who served as a supervisor for 19 years before being defeated in a close race in 2010, said the Linn supervisor job was three-quarters time when he started, but the job has grown over the years and still needed to be full-time, he said. He said supervisors belong to an assortment of local, state and national committees and need to be there to make sure Linn County interests are protected.
The supervisor candidates also were asked if they would be open to studying the county’s form of government with the possibility of having it run by a professional county manager with a part-time board of supervisors.
Jackson, 45, a teacher at Regis Middle School in Cedar Rapids, said she wasn’t opposed to looking at options, but she said five diverse members of the board are better than one person running the county as a manager.
Houser, a sheet-metal worker and Realtor, said the city of Cedar Rapids has found that having a full-time city manager and part-time council is more expensive than the city’s former full-time council.
Taylor, 45, a senior constituent advocate in Sen. Tom Harkin’s Cedar Rapids office, and Jackson showed that they have spent some time talking to the county’s professional staff, working to get their hands around county government, while Houser talked about what he had accomplished as supervisor.
The forum at the Hiawatha Community Center followed the Linn County Democrats Central Committee meeting.
A fourth candidate, former Robins Mayor Ian Cullis, 65, was out of town. Incumbent Lu Barron is not seeking re-election.
Houser, Jackson and Taylor all said that changes will be coming to Options of Linn County’s sheltered workshop for the developmentally disabled because of federal regulations and financing.
Jackson said that some Options clients can’t work in the community and so it will be important to maintain a program so they can get out during the day and socialize.
Houser said the state of Iowa was working to lower the standards of Linn County’s programs, both mental-health services and Options, but he said Options "will be there in some shape or form."
Jackson said she hoped the state of Iowa’s redesign of mental health services will improve services, but she said a key was being able to provide "the right services at the right time."She and Taylor said poor mental health services result in people who need help landing in jail or on the street.