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Special election candidates share different philosophies for Cedar Falls

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CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) -- After Tuesday, July 7th, Cedar Falls will have a new council member at-large following a special election.

The election, which was pushed back twice due to the pandemic, will fill a vacant seat on city council left by now Mayor Rob Green.

Citizens forced the special election for the seat after council had already appointed former councilman Nick Taiber, who did not run in the special election. The petition started after controversial and contentious meetings regarding the city's Public Safety Model, which cross trains police in fire operations. Those discussions causing many of the candidates to join the race.

"I had always been told that we would always have full time firefighters who would supplement police, the PSOs, and when that changed last January and February, I decided to run," said LeaAnn Saul, a candidate in the race.

Saul refers to the decision by Cedar Falls City Council to "fully implement" the model which eliminated the position of firefighter within the city. This action replaced career firefighters with PSOs with the exception of a handful of fire supervisors who are considered career firefighters.

Saul announced her run in February. She has worked in insurance since the 1980s and previously served as board chair of Cedar Falls Community Main Street. Saul also currently sits on the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission.

"I support separate police and fire," said Fred Perryman, a candidate and local retail manager. "When you mix the two you don't always get the results you want."

Licensed practical nurse Kelly Dunn also hopes to take the seat on Tuesday's special election. Dunn is the least critical of the candidates regarding the PSO program, questioning the thought by many that the city isn't listening to their concerns about public safety.

"I think sometimes people take not getting the answer they want as a person not listening and I don't think that's true," Dunn said, adding that she hears the same complaints getting the same answers.

While Dunn is happy with the idea of an officer being readily available to put out a fire, she still thinks there is room for growth. She suggests considering partial fire staffing in North Cedar or to the west of town.

Also, Dunn says she'll always stand up for environmental issues and lessening the city's carbon footprint. In her eyes, improvements are needed for the city's infrastructure, adding that she's curious about regionalizing the city's wastewater plant with that of Waterloo and Evansdale.

"If we have 3 different cities invovled in it, how would it work if for some reason something goes bad on somebody's budget?" Dunn said.

Other issues came forth in candidate interviews like the city's economy.

"We need to also make sure that we are bringing jobs to our area," Saul said. "COVID has really hit the downtown a little bit and our smaller businesses. So, I'm very focused on what are we going to do do help our smaller businesses and to bring more business to our area."

Saul's solution is marketing the city's strengths. She also added that, if elected, her on on council would focus on listening more to citizen ideas than that of city staff, which she believes is done too much.

For Perryman, his philosophy is less government involvement in the lives of its citizens.

"Trying to make sure that people can free live their lives without the government getting in their way. Whether its economically, socially, any kind of issue as long as you're allowed to live on your own terms."

Perryman said he'd use that philosophy for a number of different policies, from backyard chickens to city requirements to repave a residential driveway.

All in-person voting will be held at UNI's Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center. So far, more than 5,000 absentee ballots have been cast.

You can watch our profile of the 2 more candidates for the Cedar Falls City Council seat here.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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