A political newcomer with an extensive business background is Dubuque County’s newest supervisor.
A special committee this morning appointed Democrat Jay Wickham, of Peosta, to fill the position on the county Board of Supervisors left open with Tom Hancock’s death Jan. 31. Wickham was sworn in this afternoon.
But he wasn’t the first person to be nominated for the position. Motions to appoint two other people, including a former county supervisor, died for a lack of a second before Wickham was unanimously approved.
Wickham was a co-founder of Dubuque-based software company Cartegraph. He manages StartUp Dubuque and is the executive director of the Northeast Iowa Small Business Development Center in Dubuque.
He will serve on the board until the November election, when the position will be on the ballot. Wickham said he has not decided whether he will run to complete the remainder of Hancock’s term.
“Today is a day to figure out how to serve,” he said. “I’ve been appointed not to run, but to serve, and my first priority is to get together with my peers and figure out how best to serve Dubuque County.”
The three-person committee comprised of Democrats County Auditor Denise Dolan, County Treasurer Eric Stierman, and County Recorder John Murphy interviewed 25 candidates last week. Twenty-seven people initially applied for the opening.
Today, Stierman first made a motion to appoint former County Supervisor Eric Manternach, a Democrat, to the seat, but neither Murphy nor Dolan seconded the motion.
Murphy then made a motion to appoint former county supervisor candidate and longtime local union leader Dave Baker, but it failed to gain a second from Stierman or Dolan.
Murphy then made his motion to appoint Wickham.
Supervisor Daryl Klein, a Republican, said today marked the first time he met Wickham.
“I guess time will tell how things will work out, but I am optimistic,” he said.
Klein added that he was disappointed that Manternach was not selected for the spot. Klein, Manternach and current Supervisor Wayne Demmer, a Democrat, were the county’s three supervisors from 2011 to 2015.
“I thought Eric was the best choice because of the fact that he could have moved right in and didn’t have the learning curve that someone else was going to have to have for us to be effective,” Klein said. “That’s not saying Jay won’t do a great job.”
Wickham acknowledged the work ahead of him to get up to speed. Asked about his goals for the next eight months, he said a top priority will be settling into the position.
“I think the first goal is to understand the role,” he said. “I’ve never been a supervisor before, so I think I can look to my peers to help understand that role. Secondly, I want to keep the momentum going with a lot of the good things that have occurred (in the county).”
He acknowledged that keeping up with his current roles while adding his duties as a county supervisor will require some extra hours.
“I’ve always tried to stay active and be as efficient as I can,” Wickham said. “I realize there is going to be more to do and my workload will increase in the months ahead. But I’ve worked in the past for fast-growing companies and have really spent my whole life adapting, innovating and learning new things. So I am excited for this challenge.”
Murphy cited Wickham’s business background as a quality that set him apart from other candidates, noting that many of Cartegraph’s clients are governmental entities seeking solutions for a wide range of needs.
“Having that successful business background is great and especially the fact that he has worked with local governments for years,” Murphy said. “I think he has a unique perspective on how to put forth the best government to serve the people.”
The current salary for a county supervisor is just more than $48,600. With Monday’s appointment, Wickham is in line to earn nearly $32,500 for holding the seat through the November election. In addition, he is eligible for fully paid health insurance.