Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — With no Democrats in the running, this year’s June 7 primary will select Washington County’s District 3 supervisor for the next four years.
The two candidates — incumbent Marcus Fedler and challenger Bill Poch — come from very different backgrounds. The first is the owner and manager of Custom Impressions in Washington, though he also has a nine-year history as a construction manager. The latter is the former mayor of Riverside and soon-to-retire employee at the University of Iowa.
Why they’re running
Incumbent Marcus Fedler said he was largely running again to ensure success for the county’s major planned construction project at Orchard Hill, which he oversees.
“I want to see that project through, that’s probably the main one,” he said. “The second is, I’ve got a few ideas about how government should function in Washington County and I’d like to pursue those. Like, are there ways we can reduce taxes in a way that helps the entire county? … and I think consolidating business offices, honestly, is going to be one of the biggest ones.”
Personally, Fedler said public office was his way to ensure he wasn’t stuck on the sidelines.
“I don’t like to be just a complainer, I don’t want to be part of the problem, I want to be part of the solution,” he said. “I can’t do that in a position where my voice doesn’t count other than to elect someone that maybe thinks the way I do.”
Challenger Bill Poch said he was running not on disagreements with Fedler, but on a wish to represent his part of District 3.
“I think overall, our supervisors have done a good job and have been incumbents on the board for a number of years,” he said. “I have no animosity and no ax to grind with the person that I’m competing against … the last supervisor that we had was Ed Brophy, and that was over 25 years ago. I think that the people here in this Riverside area … probably feel that they’re left out.”
Where their priorities are
While affordable housing and bike paths were on Poch’s “wish list,” the candidate said supporting the ag industry was a top priority.
“We should continue to improve upon the rural county that we are, Washington County is a farming community, and is a livestock community, hog county, agricultural county, and … we should embrace that and expand on it,” he said. “You’re either dying or you’re growing, you’re not staying static … so my goal would be to expand the businesses and the jobs and the industries that apply to our agriculture county.”
Still, Poch said he didn’t want to enter the office pushing to reinvent the wheel.
“I’m not going to come in as a supervisor with an agenda,” he said. “I’m going to come and listen and try to be … a team player. But I also want to be the ears and eyes and (spokesperson) for the people I represent.”
Fedler said the above-mentioned building project was top-of-mind for his campaign.
“In these next four years, my hope is to be done, or at least be at a point where we’re heading in that direction quite a bit,” he said. “I would expect two years to be able to build a project like that, consolidate the offices, et cetera. But the project may be bigger than we were anticipating, or than we have funds for and we may need to look for ways to fund that type of thing.”
Additionally, Fedler said balancing the county budget amid soaring inflation was another top concern.
“Just buying rock for the roads is going to be a significant expense for the county, diesel for the trucks, things like that,” he said. “The trouble, I think, is going to be trying to keep those expenses in line, especially considering some of the changes that we made for the employees over the past year … along with all the inflation going on, the cost of government is going to increase.”
How they’re handling challenges
For Fedler, this year’s election presents a once-in-a-decade hurdle after the redistricting process shook up his district. The changes dropped Brighton from District 3 and added Riverside in its place.
Fedler said he was not worried about staying connected to his constituents.
“Riverside and Brighton, yeah, they’re completely different, and Riverside would probably lean a little less conservative than I would be,” he said. “But I think overall our district is about the same in terms of the general consensus of the people.”
In some ways, Fedler said the change would make things easier for him, thanks to geographic factors.
“It’s a little easier to get to Riverside, Ainsworth and Crawfordsville, versus to get to Brighton,” he said. “I’m closer to Riverside than I am Brighton, so I would say I’m more connected with the people in Riverside. I love TrekFest, I did sound at TrekFest multiple times so yeah, I feel connected.”
For Poch, the campaign runs despite a flurry of problems during his tenure as Riverside’s Mayor.
In 2014, one council member said tensions between city officials were “like the Hatfields and McCoys,” while a state audit found $64,000 in improper spending and $274,000 in unauthorized disbursements from 2006 to 2012.
Much of that trouble was attributed to the city’s ballooning budget after the casino’s opening in 2006.
Poch said the casino’s benefits — both through tax revenue and the creation of the Riverboat Foundation — outweighed those challenges.
“I was very crucial and an important part of the casino coming to Riverside,” he said. “I supported the casino, I supported Dan Kehl, and that’s probably my number one accomplishment, being a part of bringing the casino to Washington County.”
Poch has not held a public office since declining to run in the 2015 city election. He said constituents could make their own judgments about his fitness to represent them again.
“If they don’t feel that I’m qualified, then they won’t vote for me,” he said. “From my standpoint, (it) might be beneficial that somebody’s gone for a period of time. It gives that person a time to refresh and kind of reboot.”
Why they’re the best pick for voters
Poch said his main appeal to constituents was his character and past experience in government.
“It’s my honesty, it’s my integrity, it’s my knowledge and connections with attending state meetings,” he said. “I’ve had the experience and I have knowledge that will benefit me greatly … and I’m willing to listen.”
That “willing to listen” clause is not something Poch takes lightly. He said his listening skills were a religious ideal.
“God gave us two ears and one mouth,” he said. “It’s best that we listen and garner information that’s beneficial, and the information that’s not beneficial, don’t use it.”
As for Fedler, the incumbent said his worldview was his main selling point.
“I have a different mentality when it comes to governance,” he said. “I think self-government is the intention of the American dream and I think we’ve gone away from that. I trust people to do the right thing and I think government should trust people to do the right thing.”
Fedler said his construction experience was also a boost, again citing the Orchard Hill project currently in the works.
“I think I’m uniquely qualified right now, where the county is, to best serve the community,” he said. “With what the county’s plans are in the next four years, if you have a $19 million budget and $4 million of it’s spent on a renovation project, that’s significant … that’s 20%, and I’m the one that’s uniquely qualified to make that happen in an efficient and effective way. It would tremendously benefit the county, I think, long term, if I was reelected.”