2021 Election: Meet area Cedar County candidates

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The 2021 area city-school elections are coming Tuesday, Nov. 2. The Advocate News presents the results from questionnaires that were sent to all candidates running for city and school elections in the Muscatine County towns of Wilton and Stockton, and the Cedar County towns of Durant and Bennett. Muscatine County responses were printed last week. This week the AN provides Cedar County responses.

In Durant city races, incumbent Scott Spengler will run against challenger Jamie Giltner for mayor.

There are three open seats on Durant’s city council. Incumbents Dan Sterner and Diane Quiram are running again, while council member Dave Schulz will not seek re-election. Four additional candidates are running, including Mendim Alimoski, Tom Daufeldt, Jason Mier and Kenneth Elshoff.

Bennett’s current Mayor Joe Sparks will run unopposed this year.

There are three open Bennett council seats. Incumbents JoAnn Schneekloth, Chad Giebelstein and Christina Eicher will run, along with William Kreinbring.

There are two open seats on the Durant school board, and two incumbent candidates, Julie Rivera and Katy Oberlander, are running for re-election.

Bennett school board has three open seats this year. Incumbent Greg Reynolds will run, along with Chris Eicher Sr., Spencer Hicks, Denise McGhee and Teresa Bjurstrom.

What follows are responses turned into the AN by the candidates. The same questionnaire was sent to all with a deadline of Oct. 14. There are 20 candidates running for office in Durant and Bennett. Of the 20 questionnaires sent, only 11 were returned.

In Bennett races, only one form (of 10 total) was returned.

Durant city races

Jamie Giltner

Jamie Giltner owns a retail consulting company and is a full time mother. She is running for mayor. Jamie has a bachelor’s of science degree in education.

Giltner and her husband Zach have two children, Adaleigh and Remington.

She is a member of the Tri County Community Club.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Leadership, communication, demeanor, transparency and money. There are countless, wonderful attributes that Durant possesses; however, along with the positives there are also jaded aspects. Based on my experience, as well as talking with residents, I feel as though Durant has been told what to do and managed instead of being led and given the opportunity to be heard and understood. There is a “left in the dark” ambience that has created the feeling of uncertainty and fear due to lack of communication and transparency between city officials and residents. Citizens have voiced their concern over money. Utility rates are on the rise and taxes are not cheap, and what residents have observed while living here leaves them unsatisfied with the return on their investment. Whether this is true is merely based on perspective; however, in the right environment this could be discussed for better awareness. So, the main issue that is concerning boils down to the overall mindset of elected officials that would benefit to shifting from a management viewpoint to a leadership role within the community to create a friendly, welcoming and accepting environment to encourage Durant to be a successful and prosperous community together.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

I will support and promote Durant as a safe, fun and inviting community to both live and raise a family, as well as cultivate economic growth through creative strategies and networking. With a background in education and a business in budgeting, I will work to eliminate careless spending to better utilize our community’s hard-earned dollars. I will also collaborate hand-in-hand with our citizens by listening to ideas and initiatives and, in return, work directly with city officials to navigate and strategize how to bring these proposals to fruition. I will be the cohesive voice for you and our community. I plan to put my small-town roots and values to work for us.

Why are you seeking public office?

To have the opportunity to empower and be a positive role model for future leaders. Seeing is believing, and I feel it is extremely important to show my two daughters that they are capable of accomplishing any dream through hard work and determination. Durant is where our family calls home, and it would be an honor to contribute to the success and vitality of our lovely community.

Scott Spengler

Scott Spengler, 61, is running for mayor of Durant. He is a self-employed mechanic who graduated from high school with a year of post-secondary education. Spengler has completed three terms as Durant’s mayor.

He has two children, daughter Kiley Van Slaten and son Kale Spengler.

Spengler was a member of Durant Jaycees for 16 years, on the board of adjustment 14 years, on the Durant Fire Department for 25 years, and city council for five years.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

More housing, better streets and sidewalks, and to improve the main street area.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

Continue to work on getting new businesses in town, improve streets and sidewalks, and work on getting a new housing addition started.

Why are you seeking public office?

I want to help make our town a better place to live.

Mendim Alimoski

Mendim Alimoski, 36, is a cook and is running for city council. He has attended Muscatine Community College.

Alimoski is married to wife Dita; together they have three sons, Albi, 10, Dorian, 7 and Nikko, 1.

He is currently a member of the park board committee for the city of Durant.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

I believe that some of the issues with my constituents are lack of growth with our community. Other issues/concerns are keeping taxes and cost of living in Durant low. There are issues with traffic signs, and lack of them in many intersections, and with keeping roads clean during winter.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

If I am elected for city council, I plan to work with fellow council members to tackle any obstacles that the board is presented with, and help improve parks and roads. I plan to work alongside the police department, fire department and public works department to keep our town safe, clean and updated.

Why are you seeking public office?

I am seeking public office to give back to the community, get more involved, and to make sure that the people of Durant have a voice.

Tom Daufeldt

Tom Daufeldt, 69, is running for Durant city council. He is retired from Bandag/Bridgestone, and graduated from Durant High School in 1970. He has degrees from Muscatine Community College and the University of Iowa.

His is married to wife Coni. Their children are Ben Daufeldt of Iowa City, and Katy Oberlander of Durant.

Daufeldt was in the U.S. Army, and belongs to American Legion Post No. 430 and the Wilton Lodge No. 167. He serves as treasurer for the Melpine Union Cemetery Association, and is a member of the Durant revitalization taskforce, U.S. Chess Federation and the German American Heritage Center and Museum.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Identifying and addressing the needs of this town; streets, water, security, safety, sanitation, etc., and determining how we pay for them.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

Initially, learn how this town operates and establishes priorities. Then use my knowledge and business experience to identify issues and help make decisions that will have a favorable impact, while making the best use of budgeted funds. Continue to work to revitalize the downtown and other projects. Research and taking advantage of funds when and if available from state departments for resource restoration and enhancement.

Why are you seeking public office?

I was born and raised in Durant, married here, raised my kids here and, except for being relocated a few times, have lived my whole life here. I spent time in Georgia and Wisconsin while with Bandag. While in the Army, I spent my service time in Missouri and Kentucky. After each move, when opportunities arose, I returned to Durant. I feel I owe a lot of the good in my life to this town, and am in a position now that I can dedicate time and energy to repaying my debt.

Kenneth Elshoff

Kenneth Elshoff, 42, is running for Durant city council. He is a federal human resource specialist. Elshoff has a master’s degree in organizational leadership from St. Ambrose, and has almost completed an additional master’s degree in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh.

He and wife Sara Fuller have three children, Kenny Salemi, Jada Elshoff and Jagger Elshoff.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Golf cart, ATV and UTV ordinances should be eliminated, or reduced, to allow them on all Durant roads. Better/open communication between the city council and residents. Live-streaming of city council meetings; eliminate fines for snow removal until city removes snow from all public areas.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

I hope to accomplish the items listed above, along with reducing, eliminating and voting “No” on any and all new permits or fines. Citizens are paying enough, and don’t need charged more.

Why are you seeking public office?

Durant has been very warm and welcoming to me and my family. I want to give back to the city by participating in its government. American government is designed to be a participatory event, not a spectator sport. Time to step up.

Jason Mier

Jason Mier, 37, is running for Durant city council. He is a mechanic technician with an associate’s degree from Indian Hills Technical College in Ottumwa.

Jason and his wife Katie have three teenage children.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Bringing more families into the school district, and keep the city government open and approachable.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

I’d like to understand the issues surrounding new housing additions and, if possible, get the city meetings on a webcast like YouTube or Facebook Live.

Why are you seeking public office?

I’m finally in a position in my life where I can do something worthwhile. I might as well start at home.

Diane Quiram

Diane Quiram, 62, is running for another city council term. She is a graduate of Durant High School and the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in business. She has resided in the Durant area her entire life. Quiram worked for 25 years in management at Bridgestone/Bandag in Muscatine and 10 years at M.A. Ford Mfg. in Davenport prior to retiring four years ago.

She has been married to her husband Tom for 41 years. Together they have two daughters, Heidi Wulf and Dr. Melissa Kelling; and three grandchildren. In her spare time she enjoys hunting, fishing, reading, shopping and spending time with family.

Quiram is currently on the board of commissioners for the Eastern Iowa Regional Housing Authority (EIRHA) and the Eastern Iowa Regional Housing Corp. (EIRHC). Additionally, she serves on the admin., finance and public works committees for city council. She was involved with the 2018 housing rehabilitation program, the 2019 community visioning process, the city’s current tax abatement program and the downtown revitalization program.

In addition to being on the city council, Quiram is active with her church, where she is on the altar guild and has served on the vestry numerous times. As a member, as well as past president, of the Tri County Community Club, she is a blood drive coordinator, does deliveries for Meals on Wheels and assists with fundraising.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

I feel our most important need right now is for more residential housing. We also need to continue our work on bringing new businesses into Durant as well as improving our streets, sewer and sidewalks.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

I have gained substantial knowledge in how our city operates and pride myself in listening to those that approach me or the council with their needs and wants. I strive to make the best decisions with the data I’m provided, keeping in mind our city code, budget, long-range plans and the safety of our residents.

Why are you seeking public office?

I have served on the city council for the past seven years, with the last two being mayor pro tem. I would like to continue to serve the community in this capacity to further the growth of Durant, and aid in the decision making that happens to make sure our city runs well.

Dan Sterner

Dan Sterner, 33, is seeking re-election for his third term on city council. Sterner is a regional director of emergency services for UnityPoint Health Trinity. He has a master of nursing leadership degree from Mount Mercy University; and University of Iowa EMSLRC – paramedic.

Sterner is married to wife Audra, and they are expecting their first child soon.

Along with being on city council for two terms, he has been a member of the Durant Ambulance Service (DAS) since 2006 and Durant Fire Department since 2009, where he currently serves as the third assistant chief. Since 2020, he has been serving as president of the DAS. Sterner has served on various boards related to city council, including but not limited to: public safety committee, Durant Development Corporation and streets, alleys and sidewalks committee. In addition to these committees, he is a current board member for MEDIC EMS.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Durant is a great community and forward progress is being made on many initiatives. As a current member of city council, we exhibit fiscal responsibility, invest in the city’s infrastructure, a housing tax abatement program has been implemented, and we continue seeking unique ways to attract and retain businesses. Some of these successes have led to one of the city’s current challenges: housing. Durant must continue to explore residential development in collaboration with developers to execute the city’s vision. In addition, Durant has been blessed with significant commercial development, which has left the city with minimal space to offer any prospective businesses. The city sits in a unique location with quick access to I-80 and railway. The community must continue to partner with the Durant Development Corporation and collectively determine how to navigate commercial development moving forward. Furthermore, Durant needs to continue to invest in infrastructure to set future generations up for success.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

Based on the issues outlined above, my goal is to explore all avenues to create additional residential and commercial development areas that allow Durant future growth. Because of Durant’s unique location and the topography surrounding the city, the council must collaborate with engineers, developers and citizens to determine an expansion plan. I intend to continue supporting public safety measures to make the town we raise our families in safe, and I will also continue to support preventative maintenance and future development to put Durant in a position to be successful for generations to come.

Why are you seeking public office?

Altruism was bestowed upon me at an early age. While growing up as a kid, my grandfather and dad always looked for ways to give back to the community through the fire service, community center board, the church and the Durant ambulance. This has inspired me to follow in their footsteps, and continue to try and make Durant a place where families want to move to, raise their families and retire in.

Durant school board

Katy Oberlander

Katy Oberlander, 43, is running for her second term on the Durant school board. She is a sales operations specialist with Thinkspace Office Inc., and also an administrative assistant at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. Oberlander is a graduate of Durant High School. She also attended Muscatine Community College, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa in 2000.

Her family includes husband Joe, and two children, Kenzie and Gibson. They also have a dog, Porter.

She is a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, and currently serves as vice president for the school board.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Currently at the top of the list of issues I believe is always safety. If students and staff do not feel safe within our walls, they cannot function at their highest ability. It is a constant work in progress. Secondly, would be the ideas, opinions and questions regarding the potential bond that may come about. We have done a lot of great things to try and update our facilities. We will need help if we are to move forward with projects at the school. Not only big projects, but items that currently need to be polished up, updated and upgraded in a more timely manner than our current budget may allow.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

This role is an ongoing learning experience that I want to continue. I believe our school is great, but there is always room for improvement. Whether that be looking at policy, procedures, facilities or the future. To do this, I will be trying to make the best decisions on items that come across to the board. I will be striving for improvement in all areas as much as I am able. I want to be able to help drive a complete education for our students.

Why are you seeking public office?

I want to give back to my community. I grew up in Durant, and truly have wonderful memories of my years in the halls of DCSD. I feel a responsibility to help the school continue to do this, as much as I can, for current students and beyond. Being on the school board is one way that I hope to achieve that. I want to be a positive influence in our school to both students and staff. I want to make DCSD a school that other schools look to as an example. I’ve been a part of that for four years and I am eager for the opportunity to be a part of it for at least four more. I believe in our school and our ability to change, adapt and grow. I believe as a board member I will take into account where we have been and where we want to be. Go Cats!

Julie Rivera

Julie Rivera, 54, is running for Durant school board. She is an incumbent who has served two terms, and is currently president of the board. Her occupation is listed as administrative, and she is a graduate of Durant Community School and Muscatine Community College.

She has one son, Payton Rivera, daughter-in-law Anna and a granddaughter, Nellie.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

I feel there are still some concerns that our students are not transitioning to college courses easily. Another issue is making sure that everyone is being held accountable for their actions.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

I want to continue to build on the facility improvements we have already made. I want to provide a safe and friendly environment for anyone who steps on the school grounds; continue to manage the financial well-being of the school.

Why are you seeking public office?

I am seeking re-election for a third term on the board because I feel my work here is not yet done. We have a lot of good things happening in our district (and some areas that still need improvement). I want to keep the momentum going for our students, staff and community.

Bennett races

Of the 10 candidates on Bennett city and school ballots, Denise McGhee, a candidate for Bennett school board, was the only person to respond to questionnaires that were sent. Her response is below:

Bennett school board

Denise McGhee

Denise McGhee, 38, is running for Bennett school board. She is an office assistant, and graduate of Muscatine High School.

Her family includes two daughters in the Bennett school system, one son (graduated in 2020), and two pets.

She is treasurer of PILOTS (Bennett PTA), and the Inland firefighters.

What do you feel are the main issues concerning your constituents?

Supporting students’ social and emotional behaviors, in current time, is of utmost importance. Taking a practical approach to the well being of our students is extremely important. Additionally of concern is identifying creative ways to combat the shortage of personnel in the education field.

What do you hope to accomplish during your term in office?

During my tenure on the Bennett school board, I hope to take a proactive approach to school improvements and continue to do the school’s work to provide 1-to-1 technology. It is also personally important for me, as a mother of young girls, to showcase opportunities to volunteer, give back and make a difference.

Why are you seeking public office?

Having my son in school 10-plus years ago is significantly different than having my daughters in school now. As rules and regulations, and times, change, as a parent looking from the outside in, there is always room for improvement and different viewpoints in education. I think the more people that are involved, the better for our children.

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