The next mayor of Peosta will be decided via a special election after residents acted quickly to keep City Council members from appointing someone to the role.
City officials received a petition Nov. 18 with 138 signatures on it calling for the matter to go to the voters. A special election will be held Jan. 14.
The valid signatures of only 45 Peosta voting-age residents were needed for the special election to be ordered.
The petition was received by the city six days after a contentious meeting in which council members voted, 3-2, to appoint someone to fill a vacancy created by Larry Mescher’s departure in late October. Mescher’s tenure with the city ended after council members refused to let him rescind an emailed resignation.
During last week’s meeting, Council Member Kathy Orr nominated fellow Council Member Karen Lyons to be appointed to fill the mayoral seat. However, Council Members John Kraft and Gerry Hess expressed their opposition to the council making an appointment, demanding that the seat be filled through a special election.
“There is no reason not to go to an election,” Kraft told the Telegraph Herald on Nov. 18.
Kraft personally submitted the petition to the city and is among those who signed it, as was Mescher.
Jim Merten was among the city residents who collected signatures for the petition. He said he felt it was important for residents to have a voice in selecting the new mayor.
“I felt like the mayor needs to serve at the pleasure of the people,” Merten said. “If he is appointed by the council, I don’t know that we would have that.”
The proposed election day of Jan. 14 will be considered by council members at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 26. However, City Administrator Whitney Baethke told the TH on Nov. 18 that even if council members do not formally approve that measure, the county still would override the council’s decision to ensure that the election is held on that date.
Jenny Hillary, deputy commissioner of elections for Dubuque County, said the filing period for mayoral candidates will start once the council approves the election and will run through Dec. 20.
Whoever is elected to the position will serve the remainder of Mescher’s term, which ends in November 2021.
Lyons said Monday that she is glad that a special election will be held.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “What I really wanted to do was to make it at a later date. Now, there are more people that know that there is going to be an election.”
Lyons added that she has no intention of running for the position.
“Being mayor is not something I aspire to,” she said.
Orr said that she feels the intentions of the council members who voted in favor of the appointment have been misunderstood. In recommending Lyons to the position, she said, her intention was to point out that Lyons was qualified to be mayor.
“I have no problem whatsoever with the election,” Orr said. “I was trying to show that Karen fit the qualifications that were put forward for a mayor.”
Kraft said he is glad that residents will be given the opportunity to decide who leads the city. He noted that he has no intention of running for the mayoral position.
“I just wanted to give the people this decision,” he said. “It’s the people who will come to vote and pick our mayor. Then, we can move on.”