By one-vote margin: Peter Iversen chosen to fill Monroe County’s council vacancy left by Shelli Yoder

On Thursday night, a caucus of the Monroe County Democratic Party (MCDP) chose Peter Iversen over Richard Martin to fill the vacancy left when Shelli Yoder resigned her District 1 seat on the county council, effective Nov. 1. Yoder served through the end of October.

Iversen prevailed by a 7–6 margin among the 13 precinct chairs from District 1 who attended the caucus. District 1 covers the eastern third of the county. Voting was by secret ballot.

Right after his winning tally was announced, Iversen was sworn into office by Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne.

Among the gathering of the roughly 70 people in the Nat U. Hill room at the Monroe County courthouse, the one-vote margin appeared  to be unexpectedly close, even if the outcome was not.

Martin was at somewhat of a disadvantage, because was he not able to attend the caucus.  Current county councilor, Geoff McKim, served as Martin’s proxy. Martin was traveling in connection with his responsibilities as a working group leader with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), according to McKim.

McKim read opening and closing statements on Martin’s behalf.  McKim and Iversen fielded a handful of queries from assembled precinct chairs from across Monroe County. Except for factual questions like one about their volunteer service, McKim said he was not able to answer on Martin’s behalf.

Iversen is associate director of development for Indiana University’s School of Public Health. His candidate statement highlighted the opioid crisis and climate change as issues that require the county’s attention.

Two others areas that Iversen mentioned in his statement are the criminal justice system and recruitment and retention of of county employees. His statement also mentioned his past service as president of Monroe County’s environmental commission and the vice chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party.

Martin has served in the past on both the county’s and Bloomington’s plan commissions. He’s also served on the county’s economic development authority, board of zoning appeals. He currently serves on Monroe County’s redevelopment commission. Martin earns his livelihood as a systems analyst and systems integrator with the Tinwisle Corporation.

Martin was also a candidate at the party’s caucus in January 2019, almost a year ago, when the MCDP chose Trent Deckard to fill the vacancy for one of the at-large county council seats.

At Thursday night’s caucus Deckard was treated to an efficient rendition of “Happy Birthday.” The vacancy filled by Deckard was left by Lee Jones, when she was elected to a seat on the county’s board of commissioners.

The salary next year for county councilors approved recently as a part of the 2020 budget is $16,972—a figure that includes an extra 27th payroll period, which happens every 11 years or so.

The county council is the seven-member member fiscal body of the county. Four seats represent geographic districts. The other three seats are elected countywide—they are not tied to a geographic district. On the county council Iversen is joining Kate Wiltz (District 2), Marty Hawk (District 3) and Eric Spoonmore (District 4) and at-large councilors Geoff McKim, Trent Deckard, and Cheryl Munson.

All Monroe County councilors are Democrats except for Marty Hawk, who is a Republican.

Under state statute, it’s the party to which the resigning councilmember belongs that has the responsibility to find a replacement. The statute says the party chair has ten days after a vacancy occurs to give notice to the precinct “committeemen” that a caucus will be held. The caucus itself has to be held no later than 30 days after the vacancy occurs.

The state statute lays out the rules of the caucus procedures for selecting replacement, which include a provision that if more than one person wants to fill the vacancy the voting has to be by secret ballot. And if there’s a tie vote, it’s the chair (or their designee) who breaks the tie.

Yoder, whose vacant seat Iversen is filling, first took a seat on the county council when she was selected six years ago, in January 2013, by a Democratic Party caucus as the replacement for Vic Kelson, who resigned.

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