The resignation of councilwoman at-large Missy Cline in January found the Osceola City Council in need of someone to fill her position; Cline resigned due relocation with her husband’s job. At the council meeting on Jan. 17, it was decided to fill Cline’s position by appointment, as permitted in Section 372.13 (2) of the Iowa Code.
The reason for an appointment rather than holding a special election was due mostly to timing. To hold a special election, the county auditor would have to go through the same process as she would for a regular election, leaving a special election not likely to happen until late spring or early summer. With this year being a regular city election year, the person who won Cline’s seat at a special election would then have to turn around and file paperwork to run again in November, if they so desired.
Council had 60 days, which would be Mar. 17, to fill the vacancy. If the vacancy was not filled, then a special election would be required.
At the Feb. 7 council meeting, Mayor Thomas Kedley brought three names to the council as contenders for the open position - Sonya Hicks, Miles Murphy and Jose Vargas. At the meeting on Mar. 7, the three had a chance to address the council before a final decision was made.
Vargas spoke of his desire to be more engaged, give his time to the community and work as a team.
“We have seen a lot of growth…within our community, we have a lot of struggles out there, and I want to be part of [this] change,” said Vargas.
Murphy shared that he regularly attends and participates in city council meetings, having first started coming to learn how to address concerns to the council before his attendance transformed into more.
“...[it] grew into a desire to be involved in an official capacity…I’m committed to continuing my service to the public, and ensuring the future of our community to good stewardship and fiscal responsibility,” said Murphy.
Hicks said that she feels that being on city council would fit well with her personality, and she wanted to bring citizen’s concerns to light and work on finding solutions.
“I want to work to move change, and make big things happen for the betterment of all,” said Hicks.
Current council members thanked the three candidates for their willingness to step forward to potentially fill a spot on the council.
“What fantastic candidates…I hope the two that aren’t [appointed], please keep engaged,” said councilman Tom Bahls.
“Usually we have to really search to find somebody who’s willing. This is a positive for our community,” said councilman Doug Gay, who attended the meeting via phone.
As the council had already opted to fill the vacancy by appointment, a straw poll took place by way of cards for each council member and the mayor to mark their choice for the appointment. Each card had the three candidates listed in alphabetical order by first name, as well as a fourth option to not appoint and instead have a special election.
“I titled this ‘informal poll.’ There still has to be a motion and a second to appoint somebody,” explained city administrator Ty Wheeler.
The purpose of the straw poll as opposed to a verbal vote was to avoid having a series of motions that died due to not enough majority votes for a particular person. Kedley added that a poll was also out of respect to the three candidates who had put their names forward.
Following Vargas, Murphy and Hicks’ council addresses, the informal, non-binding poll was held; Gay gave his selection via phone to Wheeler.
The results of the first informal, non-binding poll had two votes apiece for Vargas and Hicks, one for Murphy and zero for a special election. A second poll was held, with informal, non-binding results of four for Vargas, one for Hicks and zero for Murphy or a special election.
Dr. George Fotiadis made a motion with a second by Dan Hooper to appoint Vargas to the vacant city council seat; the motion passed 4-0.
Vargas was immediately sworn in by Kedley, and took his seat at the dias.
Vargas lives in Osceola with wife, Maria, their four children and a dog. He works at DHL Supply Chain. He moved to Osceola with his family in 2003, and graduated from Clarke Community Schools the following year; he previously attended Central Decatur. Vargas had been appointed by Kedley to the library board in Dec. 2022, but will step down now that he is on city council.
In a phone interview with the Osceola Sentinel-Tribune, Vargas reiterated that he was most looking forward to serving the community and the people of Osceola.
“Definitely get to a personal level, get to listen to [people],” said Vargas, noting that it will be difficult to change or address everyone’s concerns, but wants to hear them nonetheless and do what he can.
Vargas will have to run in November if he wishes to be elected to his seat; if he does run and is elected, he will finish the remainder of Cline’s term, which ends Dec. 31, 2025.