PEOSTA, Iowa – Peosta's former mayor on Tuesday was emphatically denied an opportunity to fill the vacancy he created when he resigned last year.
Instead, James Merten received the most votes in a special election for thhe position of Peosta's mayor. He handily defeated Jack Kalb and former Mayor Larry Mescher, whose resignation made the special election necessary.
Merten, a manager at John Deere Dubuque Works, received 225 votes, while Kalb garnered 126. Mescher received just 20.
“We gave the citizens the opportunity to vote, and they made it clear what direction they wanted to go,” Merten said. “I made it clear what kind of direction I wanted for the City Council and what I think is the right kind of leadership.”
Mescher left his post in October, issuing a terse resignation statement. He quickly attempted to rescind his decision, but City Council members denied that request.
Council members initially decided to appoint someone to fill the vacancy and serve out the remainder of Mescher's term. However, more than 100 residents signed a petition demanding a special election.
As the victor Tuesday, Merten will serve as mayor through 2021.
Mescher said he was happy that Merten won. However, Mescher maintains that he would have been the best fit for Peosta.
"I think I had the experience that the city needed," Mescher said. "I think I had the communication with the people in town. I am glad that Jim won."
Tom Ingles, who voted Tuesday, said the path to choosing a new mayor was bizarre. But he believes the special election was the smart choice.
“It’s one of the more unusual things we have had here,” Ingles said. “I do think this is the better way to go.”
Merten said he was encouraged by the turnout and looks forward to assuming office. He said his first weeks will be centered on familiarizing himself with city issues and policies, noting that his campaign focused on making informed decisions.
“I’m certainly not going to do anything dramatic right away,” Merten said. “I’m going to get in and get acquainted. It’s going to be a lot of learning.”
It wasn't the only special election Tuesday. Farley residents also were asked to pick between two candidates for a City Council seat.
Corey Birkel garnered more votes than his opponent Nick Mescher, winning the seat previously held by Joyce Jarding, who resigned from her position.
Birkel received 102 votes, while Mescher garnered 37 votes.