Republican JoCo supervisor candidate Phil Hemingway holds meet and greet in Iowa City neighborhood.

Hemingway, a business owner and lifelong resident of the county, is running for the fourth time for supervisor in a majority Democratic county.


Joseph Cress

School board member Phil Hemingway speaks during Iowa City school board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

Natalie Dunlap, News Editor

Phil Hemingway met with a small group of Johnson County residents on an Iowa City porch and discussed the upcoming special election for Johnson County Board of Supervisors, his platform, and the role of the board itself on Wednesday evening. 

Hemingway was born in Johnson County and his parents met at Iowa City High School, located just a few blocks down from the house where he spoke with his supporters. Hemingway has lived in the county for all his life, except for five years he spent in Belize managing a ranch, though he still maintained residency in the county. In 1997 he opened Phil’s Repair in Iowa City.

When his daughter was in school, Hemingway started attending board meetings and raised concerns about how the Iowa City Community School District was spending its money. Not seeing change, Hemingway ran unsuccessfully in 2011, 2013, and secured a term in 2015 as a school board member, where he worked on the inclusive playground committee, integrated pest management group, and the agriculture steering committee. 

Hemingway was the Republican nominee for the Board of Supervisors in the 2018 special election, general election, and the 2020 general election. 

“I see real big issues with the county in the urban-rural divide,” he said. “The county doesn’t recognize or provide services equally for all residents in my opinion and my fiscal oversight, which I demonstrated with the school district.” 

According to the Iowa Secretary of State’s May 2021 voter registration totals, Democrats are 50.87 percent of Johnson County’s registered voters, no party voters are 30.01 percent, and Republicans are 18.13 percent. 

“I know it’s a challenge,” Hemingway said. “But I haven’t shied away from it. I got sick and tired of a Democratic primary being essentially the basis of an election with Johnson County. An election should be an election, it shouldn’t be a coronation, and that’s why I put myself on the ballot now.” 

The special election on June 8 will fill the supervisor seat vacated by Janelle Rettig, who resigned after a decade of service. Hemingway is running against Democratic nominee Jon Green and another Democrat running as an Independent, Brian Campbell.

RELATED: Johnson County Supervisor Candidate Jon Green holds campaign rally

He said there is a lack of diversity of opinion on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors and that his voice could create more discussion. 

“You don’t learn a lot in the discussion when you’re talking with people that agree 100 percent with you, there’s just a lot of head-nodding,” Hemingway said. “But when you’re in a discussion with someone who challenges you, and you have to defend your views, that’s when you really can hone in on a better decision.” 

The group discussed why Johnson County Supervisor races are all at-large, with some in attendance suggesting there should be a rural district because Iowa City elected officials don’t understand rural issues, they said. 

Hemingway and attendants also discussed how they have witnessed new business being discouraged by what Hemingway calls, “the over regulatory nature of the county.” 

“They want to micromanage how many chickens and goats are on a farm,” he said. “They should be micromanaging, where is that money going? What’s it doing? Are we getting the best of the best results for it?  Are the county services that people are getting the best, top-of-the-line services? So that’s my focus, I’m not interested in going after issues that I don’t have any real say in.”

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