Just one week after Republican candidates drew a crowd at the Dysart City Park shelter house, the Democrats had their turn. This time, Tama County voters converged on the Dysart Community Building to hear several of the area candidates speak on their views and take questions on the upcoming election.
Among those present was Brian Ellenbecker (D-Toledo), running for Tama County Sheriff. Ellenbecker, who has been campaigning across the county feverishly over the past few months, was eager to talk to voters about his plans for 24-hour coverage.
Currently, deputies are scheduled for certain shifts and during off-peak hours, including late at night, deputies are "on call" for coverage. This means they are available for duty, but not dispatched until a call for service is received.
Above, Brian Ellenbecker (D-Toledo), candidate for Tama County Sheriff, meets with a voter and answers her questions during last week’s event in Dysart. Democratic candidates were on hand to meet voters and talk about issues facing them in the upcoming election. At left, voters take the time to mingle before the candidates speak.
Ellenbecker would like to see the county have at least one deputy available, already patrolling, during all times of day and night. He also sees a way of doing this using the current resources, which means the department would not require additional funding, but simply schedule the shifts of deputies more effectively.
"The biggest issue I'm pushing for is 24-hour coverage," Ellenbecker said. "We don't have to raise taxes, and we can do this with our current staff."
"It would simply involve scheduling more effectively by staggering the start time of deputies," Ellenbecker said. "Rather than have them all start at 8 a.m., for example, you can have one start at 8, one at 9, one at 10, and so on."
The 24-hour coverage is something Ellenbecker sees as a benefit to all county residents. Another thing Ellenbecker would like to see is the county start an animal control unit, which would allow the department to transport stray animals if a call comes in, as well as the formation of a S.W.A.T. team, which would focus on using the already available resources to better coordinate with neighboring agencies in the case of a major event.
Ellenbecker again stressed that these would both be attainable goals using the department's current resources.
"If it turns out that it's too expensive and the voters don't want it, we won't do it, plain and simple," Ellenbecker said in reference to the S.W.A.T. team.
Following his speech, Ellenbecker took questions and handed off to his fellow Democratic candidate, Nathan Wrage. Wrage (D-Gladbrook), who is running for the Iowa House of Representatives District 72 seat, took the time to address several issues regarding employment, education and much more.
Of particular interest to Wrage is helping ensure that employment opportunities are available for Iowa kids heading into the workforce.
"I'd like to see better employment opportunties for us in Iowa," Wrage said. "We need to continue to provide good education so that we have our kids prepared for good jobs."
Wrage stressed the need to train graduates for the right kind of jobs so they can be competitive in the workforce. He brought up the example of his daughter, who is studying Chemisty and Biology in college, to stress that kids need to be prepared for an increasingly technical and scientific workforce.
Capping off the evening was Steve Sodders (D-State Center), the incumbent running to retain his Iowa State Senate seat from District 36. Sodders is new to Tama County, as the district was expanded to include territory all the way to La Porte City.
Sodders has been busy during his time in the state legislature, and took the opportunity to explain to voters some of the important issues he's undertaken while in office.
One of Sodders' biggest contributions has been in funding programs to get Iowa working again, none bigger than the $15 million that aided in developing a more up-to-date and nimble workforce.
"We helped get over $15 million for skilled workforce development," Sodders said. "This has helped get people through community college and into good jobs."
He pointed out that graduates who benefited from these programs will begin entering the workforce in the coming year, providing a bump for both the employment numbers and the economy as a whole.
Sodders also stressed the need for Iowa to invest in attracting and keeping companies at home, along with the continued funding of our educational system, something his opponent has discussed cutting.
"We have to fund pre-K through college," Sodders said. "It is our responsibility."
Sodders' other major legislative accomplishment has been the funding needed to provide a place for Iowa veterans to return to when they find themselves falling on hard times.
"We helped secure funding for a new veterans home in Marshalltown, it takes out vets out of barrack-style housing and into a family atmosphere," Sodders said.
After taking questions from the audience, Sodders made the rounds with the other candidates and mingled with voters one-on-one before the night was finished.