The front side of a Dubuque County general election ballot gives voters an opportunity to select a president, senator, U.S. representative and other lawmakers.

Although it contains less-familiar names, the back side of the ballot gives voters an opportunity to set the course for local water quality efforts, agricultural programming and decisions of law.

“The interesting side of the ballot is the back side of the ballot,” said Paul Mariman, regional director for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “This side features so many organizations that help the folks we normally don’t think of.”

The back side of the Dubuque County ballot includes candidates for the council that oversees Mariman’s Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Dubuque County, as well as candidates for the board of trustees for the county-owned Sunnycrest Manor long-term-care center and commissioners for the Dubuque County Soil & Water Conservation District.

“They’re the ones who do the yeoman’s work, that nobody ever hears about,” Mariman said of the those candidates.

Voters on the ballot’s back side also vote on the retention of judges and can weigh in on a constitutional convention question that appears on Iowa ballots every 10 years.

Here is a guide to the back side of the Dubuque County ballot:


Information on the Sunnycrest Manor Board of Trustees can be found online at

“They’re responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the buildings, grounds and equipment of Sunnycrest Manor,” said Jenny Hillary, Dubuque County’s deputy commissioner of elections.

There are three positions available on the board and three nonpartisan candidates: Jean Becker, Sheila Frank and Sally Frick.

All three are current board members whose terms expire Dec. 31.


The Dubuque County Soil & Water Conservation District helps guide soil and water conservation programs in the county.

“District commissioners are volunteer conservation promoters,” said Colleen Siefken, conservation assistant for the district. “They are charged with the restoration and conservation of the soil, water and related natural resources of the county.”

The commissioners are elected at general elections on a nonpartisan basis for four-year terms.

Three positions are up for election this year. Two sitting commissioners, Jeffrey Schmitt and Melvin Wilgenbusch, are the only candidates listed on the ballots.

Information on the district and its board can be found at


“Commissioners have an interest in Extension,” Mariman said. “They oversee the Extension programs. These folks make sure that there are good accounting practices in place.”

The Extension service provides an array of programs in areas of community economic development, agriculture and natural resources, human sciences and 4-H and K-12 programming.

There are four positions available on the council.

Current Council Members Cindy Kohlmann-Prestley, Lou Ann Krapfl, Matt Simon and William Watters are running, as are challengers Christopher Puetz and Jennifer Vaske.

Information about the council can be found online at


Retention elections of state and local judges appear on the back side of Dubuque County ballots.

Iowa voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1962 that replaced the elections of judges with merit selection and retention elections.

The move was an effort to curb the influence of political parties and special interest groups, according to the Iowa Judicial Branch.

The branch has published an Iowa Voter’s Judicial Directory for the 2020 election. The directory includes information on the judicial retention process and biographical information on the judges on the Iowa ballot.

The Iowa State Bar Association similarly published a 2020 Judicial Performance Review. This guide to the judges up for retention election includes the results of evaluations of the judges on the ballot based upon their professionalism and demeanor, as determined by attorneys who appeared before them.

Both the directory and the guide can be viewed at

Judges appearing on Dubuque County ballots include Iowa Supreme Court Justices Susan Kay Christensen, Edward Mansfield, Christopher McDonald and Thomas Waterman; Court of Appeals Judges Thomas Bower, Sharon Soorholtz Greer, David May and Julie Schumacher; District 1A Judge Alan Heavens; District 1A Associate Judges Mark Hostager and Stephanie Rattenborg; and District 1A Associate Juvenile Judge Thomas Straka.

Information about the judicial retention questions can be found online at


Recognize this ballot question? Every 10 years, by statute, Iowa voters are asked if they favor establishing a constitutional convention.

“The question is asking if the public wants for there to be a constitutional convention to be held in order to propose amendments to the state constitution,” Hillary said. “This is the alternate way for a proposed amendment or amendments to be placed before the public. The other way is for an amendment to be approved by two consecutive legislatures.”