Although she's only been a citizen of this country for a three years, political newcomer Sara Monroy-Huddleston was able to garner the greatest number of votes in Tuesday's city election and claimed one of three contested seats on the Storm Lake city council. Incumbents Julie Egland and Wally Burns were reelected.
Monroy-Huddleston is a counselor at the Council Against Domestic Abuse and the new leader of the Storm Lake Diversity Task Force. She claimed 557 votes or 21.89 percent of ballots cast; Burns had 479 votes or 18.83 percent and Egland received 448 or 17.61 percent.
Jeannie Iordanou had 379 votes, Tom McClinton had 354, and Al White 326. The turnout in the city was just 17 percent.
After the voting, an excited Monroy-Huddleston admitted that she had never dreamed she would be elected.
"Thank you! Gracias! Kup-chye, lye-lye! That is my thanks in English, Spanish and Lao. I want to thank the people for giving me a chance to be part of this city. I will try to do the best for the city with the knowledge and skills that I possess... I will work as hard as I can for all of our people."
The town has been good to her in 13 years here, she said. "Now you have given me an honor so great it is hard for me to put into words just how it makes me feel. You have elected me, someone who came from another country, Mexico, and who has been a U.S. citizen for only three-and-a-half years to a public office to serve you. This could only happen in America!"
Monroy-Huddleston said one of her goals in the next term would be to "get members of the Hispanic community more involved in the city and the community as a whole."
She thanked the others in the race, saying she had learned a lot from them. "I now have much to learn about city government. I hope the other council members and the city staff will show me the way. But my best teachers will be the members of the public. We'll learn about government together, and we'll figure out ways to make it work better for all of us," she said.
"Meanwhile, I will tell our town's unique story all over Iowa. I am proud to be a Storm Laker."
She won't have long to wait. According to Mayor Jon Kruse, she will be sworn in as soon as possible, perhaps before the next council meeting later this month. She will fill the seat left open by Hector Velez, who as the first Hispanic elected to the council also preceded her as chairperson of the Diversity Task Force.
She will complete the Velez term that ends December 31, then will begin her own full elected term. The candidate with the most votes was pegged to take over the vacant seat immediately.
Wally Burns, looking at his third term on the council, said he looked to continuing the good work the council has been doing for the last eight years. "I think it was an indication we're doing a good job that Julie and I were reelected," Burns said. "There didn't seem to be any big controversies in the city."
Burns added that he was "kind of disappointed by the low voter turnout. He attributed that to an off-year election and the lack of controversy at city hall.
Julie Egland, who is serving out her first term, said she was looking forward "to working with with the other two who were elected."
"I am excited to be serving another term and am looking forward to the council's goal-setting this month in anticipation of next year."
The new city council will begin its term on the first Monday of January 2004.