[Masthead] Overcast and Windy ~ 45°F  
High: 46°F ~ Low: 41°F
Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Newell election turns hot

Tuesday, November 6, 2001

City elections for Newell are shaping up to be anything but ordinary, with the potential to see almost an entirely new city council and mayor take office.

There are three city council positions open and the mayor's seat. Currently there are three names on the ballot for city council and one for mayor, but in the last week two people have staged write-in campaigns.

The only incumbent in Tuesday's election is Mayor Rod Johnson, seeking another term. However, current council member Mark Puhrman is conducting a last-minute write-in campaign for mayor.

A major issue in Newell's city elections is the recent firing of Phil Queen as police officer. Police Chief Roger Hakeman has come under fire for his decision, and it has been a major focus for council meetings.

Johnson said the debate on the police firing is a factor in the election, but hopes voters keep Newell's future in mind.

"The decisions have been made. Whether they were right or wrong, they've been made and are final. We need to move on and try to get past this," Johnson said. "It's just a minor thing that 50 years down the road not going to be of major importance. What is are the streets, the sewers and the housing and the business we can hopefully draw."

Calls to Puhrman were not immediately returned yesterday.

In the city council race, Ethel Crowley, James Martindale and Steve Samelson are on the ballot. Like Puhrman, Barry Pommerville has started campaigning as a write-in candidate in the last week.

Pommerville said one reason for his last minute write-in campaign is due to the firing of the assistant police chief and how upset some residents have been regarding it.

"A lot of us don't feel the council did what they should have done," he said. "One councilman abstained (at a vote to reinstate the fired officer) - why did he abstain? You're suppose to vote.

"We do need to get this police issue resolved," he added.

Regardless of the recent police matter, most agree a focus needs to be put on the future of Newell.

"We need to get some new business in here for one, need more activities in town," Pommerville said.

He feels Newell could be a spot for people to live, but business would be good too.

Steve Samelson is another candidate for city council. Crowley and Martindale did not immediately return calls.

Samelson said he feels he can provide assistance in efforts by Newell to improve its sewer system. He is a native of Newell, but until recently had been working in Des Moines and is familiar with engineering projects.

An upcoming sewer project will be a focal point, with 18 scheduled to be put online. Samelson said sewer hookups are also needed on Newell's northwest sign.

"Newell is a very good community with very good people and everything else. That's the thing we have to build on," Samelson said. "We've been kind of letting it go for a long time, and have to play catch up all at once. It will take some time to get things going again."

"Somehow I'd like to have businesses back in Main Street - I don't know exactly what to do - we've lost several buildings in the last few years," he said. "I'd like to do something now to get businesses back - I don't know if we can ever go back to 25-30 years ago, but I would like to get back to where we can at least survive.

"I think things can turn around, but I don't think so all at once. It will take some time before we get things addressed that need to be addressed," Samelson.

Those projects are a factor influencing Johnson's decision to run again. "I want to try to follow through on the improvements that we've been working on with the sewer and the streets, and also want to examine a way to fill the holes on Main Street," he said.

Engineering is currently being done on the sewer project to hook 18 homes into the city's system. "There will also be a little bit of extension for a new area for development on the east side of town, and we're also working on plans for the northwest side of town," he said.

He said if sewer lines are extended the possibility of a subdivisions could take off.

There are several ideas floating around for the downtown area.

"One possibility is building a spec building where a couple of city-owned buildings were torn down," Johnson said. "That spec building could hold three or four small offices - we're just trying to get some possibilities for new businesses. There's a very viable expansion of the allee building."

Johnson said he is excited about Newell's role in county-wide tourism possibilities, especially with the recently formed Newell tourism committee and Newell-area resident Marilyn Monson selected to head up chamber activities in Storm Lake. "We do have some attractions in Newell along with other towns in the county. The whole community would benefit for trying to expand that," he said.

Newell is working on applying for some housing rehabilitation grants for several units in town. Funding could help make the city more attractive, he said. With sewer improvements and housing improvements, Johnson feels Newell could draw people from larger communities who want a smaller way of life.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: