When it comes to the open seat representing Ward 4 on the Dubuque City Council, voters can’t go wrong. Brad Cavanagh and Jay Schiesl are viable candidates with the temperament, credentials and track records to do a good job.
However, in our view, the better of the two candidates is Cavanagh. Voters in the ward apparently agree, as they supported him with a dominating 79% of the vote in a three-candidate primary election earlier this month. Schiesl placed second to earn a place on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Cavanagh’s name should be familiar to Dubuquers. In the first half of 2018, he sought the Democratic nomination for Iowa House from District 99. In a three-candidate race, he finished a distant second to Lindsay James, who ran a strong campaign and went on to handily win the general election. He’s proud of how he sought the office, saying it showed a candidate can campaign and keep it positive. After licking his primary election wounds and reflecting on how else he could fulfill his “serious desire to serve,” he entered the city council race for the seat of Jake Rios, who is not seeking re-election after a single term.
A Dubuque native who for the past nine years has been an associate professor of social work at Loras College, his alma mater, Cavanagh expresses a desire to be an elected official who advocates communication, collaboration and compromise rather than line-in-the sand divisions. Granted, few office-seekers ever sit down with editorial boards and promise divisiveness, but Cavanagh appears more committed than most candidates to studying and talking through issues with constituents and stakeholders before taking votes.
For his part, Schiesl points out that he, not Cavanagh, is the candidate who has held elective office. While that’s true, it’s also true that Schiesl’s service ended 17 years ago after three years on the local school board. At some point, there must be an expiration date on such service. However, Schiesl, who lived in California for a few years (2008-12), has freshened his resume. He was a co-founder of the Dream Center and currently serves on the city’s Human Rights Commission.
Though they are not elected offices, Cavanagh is serving in appointed positions, including Dubuque County’s Food Policy Council and the city Housing Commission. In the non-profit world, he is a board member of local non-profit agency Fountain of Youth, which promotes initiatives to provide a “hand up, not a hand out” to intervene in and overcome generational poverty. (His wife, Jennifer, is board treasurer.)
Schiesel, a sales representative for Welu Printing Co., resides in downtown Dubuque, where his family’s experience runs contrary to the “perception issue” that its neighborhoods are unsafe. It’s a negative perception that he thinks city government and civic organizations should work harder to tamp down. However, he does believe that downtown suffers from a “lost sense of community,” which needs to be restored, and that police in patrol cars are a poor substitute for having more officers on foot and engaging neighborhood residents.
Schiesel’s comments to the TH Editorial Board, and possible remedies, so often came around to the schools — granted, a major influence in our community — that we started to wonder whether he would have been a better fit on the school board ballot.
Through his education and profession, Cavanagh is familiar with the challenges and issues that confront economically challenged individuals and neighborhoods, including those in Ward 4. That experience would be beneficial at the council table.
Offered two qualified candidates to succeed Rios as their city council representative, Ward 4 voters should, as they did in the primary, recognize Brad Cavanagh as the better choice.