Incumbent Harris of Palo faces Ely's Banowetz in Linn supervisor primary

Winner of the District 5 Republican primary will take on Becky Shoop

Rick Smith
Published: March 31 2014 | 5:48 pm - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:23 am in

Republicans in much of rural Linn County have two supervisor candidates to pick from in the June 3 Republican primary election.

One-term, District 5 Supervisor John Harris, former mayor and City Council member in Palo and a retired manager at Rockwell Collins, is being challenged by Mark Banowetz, a small-business owner and former City Council member in Ely.

Harris is 60, Banowetz, 56.

Harris, who has battled cancer during his first supervisor term but said he is now cancer free, is seeking re-election because he said he is pleased with what the supervisors have accomplished since he took office in 2011 and he is prepared to "tackle the challenges ahead."

He listed these accomplishments: rebuilding after the Flood of 2008; expanding and improving county parks and trails; aiding citizens "that need a hand up;" improving farm-to-market roads; using some of the revenue from the local-option sales tax to lower property taxes for those living in unincorporated Linn County; keeping property taxes in check for all county residents; and encouraging "fiscally sound and sustainable" economic growth.

"This board has accomplished a lot in the last four years, and I want to continue these efforts, making Linn County a better place and work and enjoy," Harris said.

Banowetz said he isn’t running against Harris, but instead is running for the supervisor post because he feels he has something to contribute.

"I like community service and especially love these small towns," Banowetz said. "These small towns have such opportunities for people and for people to raise families. Even when you have a place as big as Cedar Rapids, small towns still need to be recognized and helped with tax funds that come in."

Banowetz, who grew up in Cedar Rapids, said he has been an entrepreneur for 25 years.

He began his work career in Central City as assistant manager at the then-Farmers Cooperative Exchange, and was a volunteer firefighter in Central City for five years. After that, he worked in insurance and investments for four years, and also helped set up a K’s Merchandise store in Cedar Rapids. In 1987, he and his family moved to western Colorado, where they set up three pizza restaurants called Pizza to the Limit.

"I’ve been telling people all these years, ‘Push yourself to the limit.’ Well, we’re going to deal with pizzas, so let’s call it Pizza to the Limit," he said.

Banowetz and his family returned to the Cedar Rapids area and moved to Ely about a dozen years ago. He operated a Pizza to the Limit restaurant in Ely for about six years, still operates a nine-year-old shed-building company called Great American Shed Co. and now owns a coffee shop and bakery there.

Banowetz served on the Ely City Council for about nine years.

"I think I have the experience from business as far as reducing expenses and improving efficiency that I can bring to the table that can further what is going on right now," he said.

A year ago, the Linn supervisors voted to go from 80-percent time to full-time with an accompanying increase in pay to the criticism of some.

Banowetz said he thinks the supervisor job is a full-time one.

The winner of the District 5 Republican primary will take on Becky Shoop, 57, of rural Walker, first deputy in the Linn County Auditor’s Office. She is the lone Democrat competing for the seat.

District 5 is the largest rural area represented by the five-member Board of Supervisors with a geography that almost encircles the cities of Cedar Rapids and Marion. It includes the cities of Walford, Fairfax, Palo, Center Point, Toddville, Walker, Troy Mills, Coggon, Waubeek, Prairieburg, Viola, Springville, Lisbon, Mount Vernon and Ely as well as Hiawatha and Robins.

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