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Polk County Commissioners Lyle Mordhorst and Craig Pope interview the three finalists to replace a retiring Mike Ainsworth June 2.

Itemizer-Observer

DALLAS — A “pretty overwhelmed” Jeremy Gordon was selected June 9 to replace a retiring Mike Ainsworth in Position No. 3 for the Polk County Commissioners.

Lyle Mordhorst and Chair Craig Pope unanimously picked Gordon over the two other finalists, businessman Joe Rivera and Independence City Councilor Marilyn Morton. Ainsworth, who abstained from the vote, nonetheless touted the process.

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Falls City Mayor Jeremy Gordon answers questions during the public interview June 2 to replace a retiring Commissioner Mike Ainsworth.

“I would also like to mention, when we’re going through this process, that Craig and Lyle can’t talk to each other about any of this,” Ainsworth said. “So, this is just boom. You’re going to find out who it is. Nobody has any idea who it is. And I appreciate that fact. They’re not talking behind closed doors.”

Mordhorst gave his nomination first, reading from written comments. After extolling the virtues of Rivera and Morton, he gave his reasons for selecting Gordon.

“Serving as the mayor of Falls City you took it upon yourself to bring your community together and make a difference. Then you started reaching out creating partnerships with different communities and government entities to successful collaborate to meet the needs and goals that you’ve seen outreach for a small community,” Mordhorst said. “It’s been very impressive what you’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time period. That tenacity, those relationships you’ve established, the ability to work with others, the willingness to put yourself out there to make things happen, will serve you well as the Polk County Commissioner No. 3.”

Pope said he, too, had the same appreciation of the candidates as outlined by Mordhorst. He then said he selected Gordon for not only the things he said in the public interview on June 2, but how Gordon articulated his interest and commitment to community and family in his letter that accompanied his application.

“He touched on quality of life first in his letter, which resonates with me, always,” Pope said. “He touched on his ambitions to work on housing, homelessness, economic development, tourism, law enforcement, and just general community participation.

“His statement was trust in government is at historic lows and he truly believes that elected leaders need to build and maintain trust above all else,” Pope added. “This requires listening, the willingness to be educated, to educate others, recruit people into service. Jeremy Gordon will apply these values as Polk County Commissioner and I congratulate him in him nomination for Polk County Commissioner.”

Gordon and his family moved to Falls City in 2015, from Wisconsin where he worked from home for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as program manager in academic affairs. Gordon said Falls City became their permanent home in Polk County.

He then became mayor of Falls City in 2017 after some urging from community folks he admires.

“Once you enter into that community service arena, as many of you know, opportunities continue to present themselves and you find yourself in the center of all kinds of conversations and initiatives,” Gordon said during the candidate interviews on June 2. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than that.”

After he learned of his nomination to the position, Gordon said he was “pretty overwhelmed” by the commissioners’ decision.

“The process was simple, transparent, but it’s heavy. It’s a lot to consider,” Gordon said in between all the congratulatory handshakes from county staff. “It’s a lot to get the trust of commissioners. Going from serving 1,000 people to 87,000 people. The same principals will apply, but I think the work will be same.”

During the interviews, Gordon outlined the top issues facing Polk County he was looking forward to addressing, including recovering post pandemic and properly investing $16.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars locally, emergency preparedness in the wake of last year’s wildfires and maximizing tourism and recreation in Polk County.

During the interview, the candidates were asked if they supported Polk County considering placing on the May 23 ballot the reauthorization of the Public Safety Levy. Gordon was unequivocal.

“I am absolutely in favor of renewing this levy,” Gordon said. “In fact, I volunteered on the campaign to organize letter writing, editorials for newspapers and did a lot of campaigning for it in my community. One of the great things about living in Polk County is the low taxes. But sometimes we ask voters to pay for certain services. I think that is the most just way to do this, that they get to choose. Without the levy we could lose 24-hour patrol, we could lose mobile crisis response team, which I’ve seen work firsthand in my community with great success. So absolutely we need to keep funding the sheriff’s office and those public safety services.”

Gordon informed the Falls City City Council about his appointment during their regular meeting on Monday (June 14), discussing the timeline for his resignation as mayor and appointment process to fill the vacancy. He plans to continue to serve Falls City through July and will continue his involvement in all things Falls City afterwards.

As for the commissioner seat, he does not plan to fill it temporarily to the end of 2022. Rather, by getting out and better acquainting himself with the county residents he hopes will ingratiate him for when he runs for re-election.

“I didn’t come to this decision lightly. It took a lot of conversation with my wife and family. I’m mid-career. This would be a big career shift for me, but one I’m incredibly excited about. I’m hoping that optimism and public service will translate to earning the trust of voters of Polk County,” Gordon said.

Pope said Gordon’s swearing in process will be sometime in late July with a “torch passing” on Aug. 2.

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