Two candidates run for two city council seats

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The election to fill two city council positions, as well as decide the next Mayor of West Liberty, is quickly approaching on Nov. 4.

So far, current council member Melody Russell and community member Felicie Simmons are running for the seats. While Russell's name will be on the ballot, Simmons is running a write-in campaign.

Russell has been on the council for a year and half due to a special election. She's running for her seat once again because she want's to see the projects started during her first term come to completion.

She's currently an Instructional Coach at the West Liberty middle and high schools where she works with teachers and staff to facilitate professional development. She believes her involvement with education helps her on the council.

"My career gives me the opportunity to interact with our youth and address ways our city can better serve our youngest members," said Russell.

She originally came to West Liberty as a teacher. Upon moving here she fell in love with the community and decided to live here permanently.

"Every day I am thankful for my community," she said. "The friendships and connections I have built here are some of the strongest I have ever felt. This is an extremely caring community and, even though I am a newcomer, I am proud to say I am from West Liberty."

Russell has a daughter and son-in-law living in St. Louis, a grandson was recently added to her family in August.

Simmons has lived in West Liberty for most of her life. A graduate of the school system, class of 1999, she is married to Stephen Simmons and has a nine-year-old daughter named Alyssa.

A graduate of the We Lead Leadership program, she owns Glow Airbrush Tanning and has worked as an office manager at the West Liberty Chiropractic Center for over eight years.

"I decided to become a write-in candidate for City Council because I don't want to look back 5, 10, 15 years down the line and wonder if I should have and what difference I could have made in our community," she said.

Currently a member of the Planning and Zoning Committee, Simmons is running to let her voice be heard.

"I don't want to reflect and see a woman who during some of the most critical time in West Liberty shrunk back and decided to watch others determine the fate and future quality of life of our city," she said.

For Council Member Russell, another term will give her an opportunity to act on the recent recycling debacle in West Liberty.

"We need to find a long-term solution to recycling that is both fiscally sound and environmentally responsible," she said. "We have already been researching and investigating different options which the council will take under consideration when reflecting on the current policy."

Simmons has similar beliefs. She feels that recycling needs to continue, but options to prevent future failures need to be thoroughly explored.

Come time to put together the yearly budget, Council Member Russell has a few ideas of her own.

"We need to revisit our vision for West Liberty and develop a timeline for improvements or repairs needed," she said. "I would like to see a more focused plan created for budgeting resources to the Dutton Complex so that it can be a hub for community activities."

She would also like to offer many of the same benefits and services a citizen of a large town would receive, while operating under the budget of a smaller community, an issue that will take some creativity.

Russell believes her experience on the council will help when it comes to city finances.

"I have a much better understanding of the way our community operates and how budgeting decisions are made. It is easier to look at ways to improve when you have a more complete understanding of the current procedures," she said.

Simmons wishes to encourage more community involvement when it comes to the budget. She wants it to reflect the best interests of the city.

"I would strongly encourage more of the public to attend the hearing and would like more input from our community members," she said.

In fact, Simmons wants to a foster a relationship between West Liberty and its people. She believes there's a lack of trust between the two.

"The biggest issue that I want to address and make a difference in is to restore the faith and trust that has been lost between the city government and the community over the past years," she said.

The election is Nov. 4 in the Activity Center in the Muscatine County Faigrounds.
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