Johnson County Board of Supervisors candidates hold public forum

The forum featured discussion between Republican Phil Hemingway and Democrat Royceann Porter, who will be running for election on Dec. 18.


Sid Peterson

Johnson County supervisor candidates Royceann Porter and Phil Hemingway debate in a forum at City Hall on Wednesday, December 5, 2018. The election will be held on December 18, 2018.

Caleb McCullough, News Reporter

Johnson County residents filled City Hall on Wednesday to attend a forum presenting the candidates for the Dec. 18 Johnson County Board of Supervisors’ election.

The forum, held by the Johnson County League of Women Voters, featured Democrat Royceann Porter and Republican Phil Hemingway.

The league is nonpartisan, voter-services coordinator Paula Vaughan said. Members provide information to voters but do not support any particular candidate.

“Basically, what we do is try to educate people so that when they go to the poll to vote, they know which candidate they want to vote for,” Vaughan said.

Hemingway, an Iowa City School Board member, is running for the second time for the Board of Supervisors. Pat Heiden and incumbent Supervisor Janelle Rettig defeated Hemingway in the Nov. 6 general election, in which he garnered 31 percent of the vote.

Porter is an Iowa City resident who serves on the Iowa City Community Police Review Board and works as an organizer for the Teamsters Union.

The special election is being held to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Supervisor Kurt Friese on Oct. 26.

Both candidates began the forum with a two-minute introduction, outlining their views and plans for the board.

Hemingway opened the forum by asking the audience to observe a moment of silence for Friese. He went on to outline his experience as a resident of rural Johnson County as well as his experience serving on the Iowa City School Board.

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“I look to bring fiscal responsibility and rural representation to the board,” he said.

Porter opened by drawing on her years of public service experience in Iowa City.

“I understand the change we need in our neighborhoods,” she said. “I have served on many executive boards, and one at a time, I have found ways to improve the quality of life.”

The forum featured questions from the audience on a number of topics, including diversity, immigration, and land preservation.

The issue of transportation was brought up, which has been a key focus of Porter’s campaign. She said she wants to make transportation for the elderly and expand nighttime transportation options. However, she said, the responsibility of transportation needs to start with the cities.

“The bottom line is, Iowa City, Coralville, and the university need to fix the bus routes,” Porter said. “They are the ones who need to take the lead.”

RELATED: Johnson County Supervisor Kurt Friese has died

Hemingway said he would be interested in expanding transportation, but he wants to make sure rural roads and bridges get the attention they need as well.

“I’m very interested in making sure existing roads and bridges are maintained in rural areas before embarking on new ones,” he said.

Both candidates discussed how they would address the diversity in the county.

“We need to make sure that we welcome and value and appreciate every resident in our community,” Hemingway said.

However, he also said it was important to have diversity of opinion in the county, and he contended that having a Republican on the board would contribute to that.

If Porter is elected, she would be the first African American elected to a county-wide position in Johnson County’s history.

“As a black woman, I see our community through a different set of experiences than anyone who has ever been on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors,” Porter said.