Candidates file for Johnson County Board of Supervisors election

Four Democrats and two Republicans are in the race for two open seats on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.


Ryan Adams

A sign marking a polling location is seen outside the North Liberty Community Center in North Liberty on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. In 2016, Johnson County was one of six Iowa counties to vote for a democratic presidential candidate, according to the New York Times.

Cooper Worth, News Reporter

Four Democrats and two Republicans are running for two open seats on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors.

Democrats V Fixmer-Oraiz, Mallory Hellman, and Seth Zimmermann announced their candidacies this month for a position on the board. The primary election is on June 7.

Phil Hemingway and Jammie Bradshaw announced their candidacies at the Johnson County Republicans of Iowa convention on March 12.

They join Democratic incumbent Supervisor Jon Green, who also announced he would seek reelection.

The second open position on the board became available when Supervisor Pat Heiden announced last November that she would not run for reelection.

The period for candidates to file for county office positions in Johnson County started March 7 and ended March 25.

Jon Green

Green, 39, was first elected to the board in a June 2021 special election to fill the position of Janelle Rettig, who resigned after a decade on the board.

Johnson County Supervisor Candidate Jon Green poses for a portrait on Saturday, May 1, 2021. (Jeff Sigmund)

Born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Green has lived most of his life in Johnson County and currently resides in Lone Tree. After graduating from Morningside University in Sioux City, in 2001, he was a journalist for several years, before working as Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s press secretary from 2009-10.

Green later served one term as mayor of Lone Tree from 2018-19. He was also a delegate for independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign for president and sat on the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee from 2018-19.

Green said his experience covering local government as a journalist and serving as mayor prepared him for his past year as a supervisor. His time as a board member has been an informative experience, he said.

“There’s a lot of important stuff that the county is responsible for, and it’s really been a wonderful opportunity to get to look into all the nooks and crannies of Johnson County,” he said. “Getting to see a three-dimensional view of what the county is responsible for has been a valuable education.”

Green said he doesn’t mind that the dispersal of the American Rescue Plan Act funds has been a long process because it shows citizens are invested in their local government.

“I’m happy that it has been a tumultuous process because that means that people are involved,” he said.  “There are things that I wished had turned out differently, but I’m very happy that the community and the other staff have been so involved in this because it’s really a historic opportunity.”

Green said he has fought for progressive causes for many years, and even if conservative residents don’t agree with him politically, he is still willing to work with them.

“If you go back to last year’s special election, I did not do the best in rural parts [of the county],” Green said. “But, at the same time, even if folks there don’t necessarily appreciate my politics, I hope that they understand that I appreciate what’s going on there, in a way that the other supervisors do not.”

V Fixmer-Oraiz 

Fixmer-Oraiz, 43, graduated from the University of Iowa in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in urban and regional planning and has worked in planning in Johnson County for the past seven years, working at engineering firm in the private sector and then for nonprofit dealing in watershed planning and community development.

They founded Astig Planning, a firm dedicated to environmental and community planning with a focus on climate change and social justice, in 2019.

Contributed photo of Johnson County Board of Supervisors candidate V Fixmer-Oraiz.

Fixmer-Oraiz lives in Iowa City with their partner, Natalie Fixmer-Oraiz, a professor at the University of Iowa. The couple has two children, ages 3 and 6.

Fixmer-Oraiz said Johnson County is at a critical moment in regard to addressing the concerns of residents as the severity of COVID-19 pandemic has momentarily subsided.

“We need to be thinking about, how are we going to be healing from [the pandemic]? How are we going to be planning for a resilient future?” they said. “I think that we have an opportunity to embrace the future that we want to be a part of, instead of just business as usual.”

Fixmer-Oraiz said their work running a business can translate nicely to a position as a supervisor due to their experience of managing budgets. Both jobs connect people to opportunities, they said.

“In the work I do, I’m about connecting people and building bridges, so as a supervisor, building those bridges and looking at plans long term is where a lot of the work gets done when looking at fringe area agreements and local food policy,” they said. “Those are the things that I’m doing now, and I would like to continue doing it at a much higher level.”

Fixmer-Oraiz said creating a more inclusive economic development to Johnson County is not only beneficial economically, but would also serve unrepresented members of the community.

“I think anybody that has felt left out [are] the people that we need to make sure are being heard, and that we’re creating plans and policies that uplift their voices, because they have that knowledge,” they said. “It’s not just the policy experts — it’s the people that are being impacted on the ground.”

Fixmer-Oraiz said an inclusive economic development culture that values the experiences of everyone will help the county and the state thrive.

“We understand that in Iowa, people are leaving. If we can have a more diverse and inclusive economic area, then people are going to want to move here,” they said.  “Let’s diversify and get people out [in the community] that really can make a difference.”

Mallory Hellman 

Hellman, 36, came to Johnson County in 2010 to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop after graduating from Harvard University with a degree in English and American literature in 2008.

Hellman started volunteering at organizations around Iowa City, including at the Iowa Juvenile Home and the Iowa Youth Writing Project.

Contributed photo of Johnson County Board of Supervisors candidate Mallory Hellman.

Hellman has been the director of the Iowa Youth Writing Project since 2015, and said working with kids both in and out of the juvenile system opened her eyes to the disparities in childcare.

“It was in noticing these disparities and realizing that they were a microcosm of the disparities in the county at large that I started thinking, ‘What can we do about this? How can we go about closing these gaps?’” Hellman said.

Hellman said she started paying close attention to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in summer 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests.

“I saw there was unrest in the City Council, there was unrest at the county level, and I realized that I didn’t have a clear idea of where those differentiations were in terms of which group was in charge of what,” she said. “I quickly realized that the county is about so much more than land allotment [and] bidding for construction projects.”

Hellman said that, while attending several City Council and supervisors’ meetings for the last year-and-a-half, she found herself questioning the decisions of the supervisors.

She said she would approach projects differently.

“I found myself kind of backseat driving in these debates that were happening at the Board of Supervisor meetings and saying, ‘Well, I would have answered that differently,’ and ‘Hasn’t this person looked at this thing?’” Hellman said.

Hellman said she was strongly against the county’s proposed purchase of a Lenco BearCat G2  armored vehicle earlier this year. If elected, she said she would revisit the conversation of the need for military vehicles in Johnson County.

“I think that we need to get rid of the MRAP that we do have,” Hellman said. “I think we have absolutely no business with a militarized vehicle here in the county, and I’d like to see a motion to get rid of it.”

Hellman said she supports Supervisors Green and Rod Sullivan in voting against the lottery system in disrupting funds for the Direct Assistance Program, and wished the funding was going directly to excluded workers.

“I really think we could have, in a more concerted way, put these funds toward excluded workers and that the current eligibility requirements for the lottery system still leave a lot of excluded people unserved and untouched by this aid that was ostensibly meant for them,” Hellman said.

Seth Zimmermann

Zimmermann, 48, is running for the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, which would be his first elected position.

Born in New Jersey, Zimmermann moved to Johnson County when he was seven months old and has lived there ever since.

Contributed photo of Johnson County Board of Supervisors candidate Seth Zimmermann.

The Solon resident obtained his bachelor of science in fisheries and wildlife biology from Iowa State University in 1996. Zimmermann said he has been involved in multiple conservation programs throughout his life.

“I have worked in air quality, I have worked in water quality, and I’ve worked to better my community for my entire life,” he said. “I’ve been involved in volunteer organizations to help clean up rivers and streams around Iowa. I’ve also been involved in conservation programs, conserving lands around the state, and I have a real passion for bringing people together.”

Currently, he works for Linn County Public Health as an environmental chemist. If he wins a seat in the election, Zimmermann said he hopes to build the community.

“I have a real passion for bringing people together,” he said. “I have a passion and an ability to build bridges or cross lines to bring people together to work for a common cause and achieve goals.”

He added the frequency of natural disasters has made building community all the more important in recent years.

“We’ve had a lot of natural disasters,” he said. “We’ve had the floods, we are constantly kind of reacting to situations, and I think building community and building a more robust response system to what we’re going to do and how we’re going to deal with the emergency response stuff, I think is going to be critical to moving forward.”

Phil Hemingway

Hemingway, 62, is running for a seat on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors for his fifth time, recently finishing second to Jon Green in last year’s special election.

Hemingway grew up in Johnson County on a farm. He said he has been involved in agriculture since graduating high school. He currently owns an auto repair shop in Iowa City.

Phil Hemingway, a candidate running for a seat on the Johnson County Board of Supervisors, speaks during the Ronald Reagan Dinner hosted by the Johnson County Republicans of Iowa on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Coralville. (Hannah Kinson)

Hemingway served on the Iowa City Community School District Board from 2015-19.

He said he is proud of the accomplishments the board made while he was a member, including implementing an inclusive playground policy, getting pesticides off school grounds, and getting better education for a career in trades in schools.

Hemingway said having rural representation on the board was one of the original reasons he sought to run and that it’s still important to him.

“We’ve had supervisors in the past that have given the rural community a semblance of representation, but years of late we don’t have that,” he said. “You can put on a cowboy hat but that doesn’t make you understand what’s going on in rural Johnson County.”

Hemingway said he thinks the all Democrat-led board doesn’t accurately represent rural residents, and he believes some members of the board are trying to implement regulations on and micromanage agriculture in the county.

“I don’t know if they’re talking to a lot of rural people, because the consensus is that they don’t listen to them.  They don’t share their same dreams,” he said. “It’s an adversarial relationship, instead of being an ally.”

A Republican hasn’t been elected to the Board of Supervisors since 2013, when Republican John Etheredge won by less than 200 votes in a special election. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county more than two to one.

Hemingway said he thinks it’s important to have supervisors that approach issues from a different perspective and hopes voters can look beyond him being a Republican.

“You can only have a better decision if you’re looking at it from every possible angle and viewpoint, and to have five people that are in pretty much agreement, making decisions for a county that’s made up of a lot of different constituencies, I don’t think that you get the best decisions being made,” Hemingway said.

Jammie Bradshaw 

Bradshaw, 35, is a retired U.S. Air Force veteran of 10 years. She served from 2010-20, and was deployed during Operations Iraqi Freedom (Iraq War) and Enduring Freedom (war in Afghanistan).

Contributed photo of Johnson County Board of Supervisors candidate Jammie Bradshaw.

Bradshaw, originally from North Carolina, came to Iowa in 2018. She currently works for a local company in Johnson County as a drone technician. Bradshaw lives with her husband and four children in Lone Tree.

Bradshaw said she wants to put service back into public service, and a spot on the board is the best way she can have a positive effect on the community.

“I found out that Johnson County’s Board of Supervisors had two seats that were coming open,  so I decided this was a good time for me to go ahead and run,” she said.  “I spent nearly 10 years in the military, so serving my fellow man is what I do, and this just seemed like the next logical step.”

Bradshaw said the biggest reason she chose to run is is out of a desire to lower taxes, specifically property taxes, in Johnson County.

“I feel that, if we lower the property taxes, we can put more money in the pockets of the residents,  and that will actually increase the income in Johnson County, and make it so that we’re able to build a better community and prosper as a whole.”

Bradshaw said that if elected to the board, she will collaborate with other members to provide tax breaks to property and business owners.

“I think that we need to look at some of the tax breaks that we can give to property owners and also business owners,” she said. “Small businesses and local businesses have suffered a lot through the pandemic, and I really think we need to make it so that local business owners are able to prosper.”

Bradshaw said she is proud that she hasn’t been a career politician and believes she can provide a voice for residents that she thinks is lost on the current board.

“The fact that I haven’t held political office, I think, brings a different perspective, so I do like that,” she said. “I think we need to make it so that the people of the county actually have a voice and can have an effect on what is done in the county, and not just a group of supervisors.”

Anthony Neri contributed to this report.

Editors note: A previous version of this story did not include candidate Seth Zimmermann. The story has been updated to include Zimmermann. The Daily Iowan regrets this error. 

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