Bloomfield voters will begin voting absentee on Wednesday, Oct. 13. They will find four candidates on the ballot for Bloomfield City Council but only three vacancies.
Darin Garrett and Don Walton are running against each other to fill a four-year at-large council position. Garrett is the incumbent and Walton is currently serving in the other at-large position that was vacated by Matt Cronin this past summer.
Jeffrie Anderson is running unopposed for the Ward 3 council seat to replace Scott Moore, who chose not to run for a second term.
Josh Husted is running to fill the remaining two years of Cronin’s at-large council position.
The Bloomfield Democrat conducted interviews with the four candidates last week. The candidates’ goals and viewpoints on city issues follow:
Darin Garrett first ran for an at-large seat on the Bloomfield City Council in 2017 because he thought the public needed better representation.
Now, four years later, he feels the council has accomplished a lot, and he wants to continue working toward his unfinished goals as outlined below.
“We created an actual street plan, assessed our needs, conducted an inventory of what we have done and what needs to be done,” he said. “By the time Norris’ contract for asphalt is completed this fall and next spring, the city will have between 75% and 80% of its streets resurfaced.
“We chose to go with asphalt versus concrete to be able to do more streets,” he said.
Garrett seems especially proud that the city was able to lower taxes $1 per thousand of assessed valuation while implementing the streets plan.
Garrett also said the council has implemented an equipment and vehicle replacement and maintenance schedule and the city has obtained grants to fix up the pool and courts at the city park.
He is also pleased that the new wastewater treatment plant is fully functional. “This could have been done a lot cheaper if the council had acted several years earlier,” he said.
The next step is getting the storm water out of the sewer system after checking to see where the infiltration is coming from, he added.
“The city still needs to do more work on its sewer lines,” Garrett said. “We have grants for water and sewer and we’re always applying for more.”
As far as the city’s electrical system goes, Garrett says there are some lines and poles that need to be replaced, especially in the northwest quadrant of the city.
Garrett gives credit to Mayor Dan Wiegand, who is an electrician; the city’s electrical department; and SIEC for getting the city through the major power outage that occurred in September of 2019.
“That was the storm that threw a curveball on the electrical grid,” he said. “At the time a Cedar Rapids firm diagnosed the problem and also found deeper issues that needed to be corrected.”
Garrett is also proud of the housing incentives and the recent rental inspections that have been implemented by the city to encourage new housing and create safer, more desirable living conditions for the city’s residents.
The next big project on Garrett’s list of wants is a “pretty square.” He would like to get new sidewalks around the square, and the administration has gone to French-Reneker Associates to get cost estimates.
The city is looking at installing sidewalks along three sides of the square while the Iowa DOT will be responsible for sidewalks on the east side of the square adjacent to Highway 63.
“I would also like to see three midblock crosswalks and handicap parking spaces on three sides of the square,” he said. “The DOT will work with us on compatible designs.
“I would like to see beautiful sidewalks and a vibrant downtown,” he said, “but I didn’t want to have heavy equipment come in as planned (several years ago during streetscape) and potentially damage fragile buildings.
Though he admits the relationships among the council members, city administration, and departments were at first chaotic, he now feels the city has a good administration that is “in tune” with the public and the council.
He credits Mayor Dan Wiegand for the city’s recent successes. “I’m 51, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mayor jump in and learn as much and get involved. It’s staggering what he does for this city for nothing,” Garrett said.
“About twice a month, Dan and I check on street issues and housing issues that need to be addressed. He does so much work people don’t even realize.”
Don Walton has never run for office, but in August of this year, he was appointed to fill the at-large council position vacated by Matt Cronin. Now he is running against Garrett to fill a full, four-year at-large council position.
“I’ve attended a lot of council meetings in two years,” he said. “The more I attended the more interested I became. After Matt Cronin resigned, I tried to get someone to fill his seat, but they convinced me I should accept the position.”
Walton moved to Bloomfield in 1976, and while he says he is interested in many things, there are two major issues he feels the city must focus on in the near future.
• Housing stock. Walton supports the incentive program that is in place for building new homes and supports improving rental properties through upgrades and safety improvements. “There are lots of rental properties that need to be upgraded and made safe for tenants,” he said, pointing out that good housing is needed for community development and growth.
• Daycare situation. Walton is especially concerned with Bloomfield’s need for good, affordable daycare. “I know of one individual who spends 50% of her paycheck for childcare,” he said. “We need the entire community to do something to help these people stay in the workforce and help make daycare affordable.”
Walton would like to explore possibilities for the city, county, and major employers to team up and help solve this situation. “I think the Davis County Schools, the city, the county, and Davis County Hospital and Clinics probably employ around 350 people, and many of them need childcare,” he said.
“I don’t know the solution, but I’m willing to work with anyone who wants to get involved,” he said, emphasizing the need for quality daycare if the community wants to grow and develop.
Walton is also interested in downtown improvements. “I have visited with several business owners in the city and asked what they wanted to happen,” he said. “It came through loud and clear that we need to dress up the downtown if we want to attract people to come here and do business.
“I think we can offer good service and good pricing, but if the city is not attractive, people won’t visit and shop.”
Walton said the number one thing business owners want is new sidewalks. “One business spent $4,500 to improve its sidewalk and the Iowa Theatre spent $8,000,” he said.
Walton pointed out the efforts of other business owners to improve their properties and make the downtown more attractive: Upholstery and Sew Forth has a new awning, Lynch Realty is being repainted, and East Franklin Street one block off the square is becoming a very attractive part of town with Essential Massage’s façade improvement and other improvements being made on the buildings in that block
He is also pleased by the addition of a 24/7 laundromat in the downtown. “It was absolutely needed,” he said.
Pointing out the correlation between downtown attractiveness and a vibrant community, Walton commented, “People go to Pella to see the town and always end up spending money.”
Walton pointed out several community strengths. “We have strong law enforcement and a good fire department,” he said. “We have good modern facilities staffed with good people.”
Walton feels the city has “crossed a bridge into the future” with its new wastewater facility with enough capacity to handle significant future expansion. He is also pleased with the recent and upcoming street improvements.
Walton also commends Development Director Tammy Roberts for her work with a Strategic Planning Group (SPG) that is collecting data the community needs such as labor force information, educational levels, and housing needs.
“This will be really important to determine what we have to offer before we commit to projects not appropriate to the community,” he said. “SPG is a group that is just starting and other groups in the community will be brought in as the need arises.”
Walton understands the need for festivals and other activities to create a vibrant downtown. He is pleased that several events were scheduled on Sept. 25 to bring many visitors to Davis County: The Giant Pumpkin Bash, Fall Festival, Midwest Classic Antique and Flea market, and the Red Shed’s Family Fun Day with Lunch on the Porch.
“I would like to see Bloomfield’s businesses add to the activities with sidewalk sales and other activities on that day,” he said.
Walton is looking forward to opening up the tree dump this month and hopes the public will abide by the rule of disposing only yard and tree waste in the facility. “If the public abuses this again, it could be very expensive for the city to install security cameras and card readers for access,” he said, “and this could result in user fees being implemented.”
Walton has served as treasurer of the Davis County Trails Council since its creation, and he is looking forward to a significant expansion in the trail system in the next 10-15 years. “I hope the West Sports Complex and Lake Fisher will become points along that expanded system,” he said/
Walton said he does share one concern with several of the city’s business owners: the need for better cooperation among major community entities — the school, the county, and the city.
In closing, Walton said his primary goal as a councilman is to make Bloomfield a better place to live and work. “We have a lot of good things that are going to happen in this community in the next 5-10 years. I wish I was 20 years younger to see those happen,” he said.
Jeffrie Anderson is running unopposed for the position of Bloomfield’s Third Ward councilman. Anderson has served as a councilman for 15 years — three full terms plus filling out one term when Jerry Kincart moved out of state a few years ago.
After a break of four years, Anderson said he has had a lot of people asking him to run again in November. “People feel that when something comes up, I research what we should do,” he said. “Several people like that. I’m fully retired and have a lot of time to do the work that needs to be done to be on the council.
“I have had a desire to come back. I miss the work that goes with the job. Every year you learn more,” he added.
Anderson said his habit of researching has, in the past, reduced the number of hours the city has needed the city attorney. “I’ve contacted the Secretary of State’s office a lot in the past, and they’ve been very helpful in suggesting what we can and what we can’t do.”
Anderson said he’s proud of the street project that took place last year and the further progress that will be made with asphalt overlays this fall and next spring. “This is something that’s needed to be done for years,” he said.
Anderson is also pleased that the sewer project is nearly completed, but he is afraid the city will have to do more. “Our biggest problem is there is so much extra storm water getting into the system,” he said.
Anderson has always wanted to keep the cost of utilities down, but realizes “you have to charge for what you’re providing.”
He commented that he did appreciate the assistance of SIEC in helping the city fire up its generators to help cover the power shortage during last February’s cold spell.
When it comes to the city’s water department, Anderson said he’s always wanted to know how much water the city was buying and how much was being billed out. “We need to know how much water we’re losing in the small underground leaks,” he said.
Anderson said it’s important that the city work with other entities. “I always tried to work with the school system and thought when I was on the council we had a good relationship with them,” he said. “Any of the entities in the county, I’m willing to work with them. They’re all good people.”
Anderson has a vision for developing the grounds of Lake Fisher. “I would like to put in a good bath and shower house, make several nice campground spots and have people come in and spend a week or weekend there,” he said. “We could charge per night and even have a nice walking concrete trail out there.”
Speaking of trails, Anderson recognizes a growing trend for people to use trails due to the health consciousness that is arising in the country — especially after the onset of COVID.
He is also pleased to see the development of the new West Sports Complex as recreational facilities are improved in the county.
Anderson continues to be pleased with Bloomfield’s large solar tracking array. “I think solar is something that is growing more popular. You go to Germany and just about every house has solar panels,” he said.
With the addition of wind generation, Anderson believes the City of Bloomfield could become energy independent. “I honestly believe we’re going to be forced into working toward energy independence,” he said. “There is a high demand on the coasts for renewable energy.”
Josh Husted is running unopposed to fill out the remaining two years of an at-large position on Bloomfield’s City Council.
Matt Cronin was originally elected to the position in 2019, but resigned when he moved out of the community this summer. Don Walton temporarily filled the seat, but is now seeking election to a full four-year, at-large council position.
Husted is a social studies teacher and cross country coach in the Davis County Schools and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and a Master’s Degree in School Administration.
“I’ve always thought about running for office,” he said. “I’m coming in without a personal agenda, and I’m basically interested in serving for the public good.”
Husted said he aims to be progressive in his approach and his main focus will be on increased communication — especially regarding utility charges and taxes.
“I want people to know where their tax dollars are going and make sure that city spending is in the best interest of the city and the taxpayers,” he said.
Speaking of the police department, Husted says it is important that the department maintain consistent ordinance enforcement and ticketing.
“I also think the department should document extra patrol when it is requested,” he said.
Husted would like to see additional officer training in specific areas of police jobs so the department can better serve the community. For example, he suggests OWI training and the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in the local schools should be reinstated and taught by officers on the local police force.
“We live in an area of the state that struggles with substance abuse,” he added.
Husted would also like to see the department offer defense tactics training.
Being a new candidate, Husted says he plans on learning a lot as a councilman.
“I’m a very open-minded individual and want to be progressive, but the money has to be there for things,” he said.
Husted admits he has concerns about the downtown. “The buildings are in bad shape,” he said,” and it’s a community responsibility to take care of this.”
Husted said after teaching and coaching for over 20 years, he’s learned that success comes when people work together. “Even if we disagree, we need to come together and find common ground to stand on,” he said.
Husted has been impressed with the way the city has cooperated with the school in preparing the Lake Fisher property for home cross country meets.