A Davenport school secretary wants to keep her Iowa state representative job, running for re-election against a commercial real estate appraiser and would-be newcomer to state office.
Rep. Phyllis Thede, D-Bettendorf, 58, is vying with Republican candidate Mark Nelson, 52, in a race for the Iowa District 93 seat.
Here is a look at both candidates:
Mark Nelson, Republican
Nelson’s experience as a commercial real estate appraiser, working 20 years at Roy. R. Fisher Inc., Davenport, is what led him to run for state office.
He could see how state lawmakers were “missing the boat” on property tax reform, and it was frustrating to watch from the sidelines and not be able to help fix the problem.
Nelson said he thinks Iowa is missing out on development opportunities by making property tax formulas too complicated and the rates too high.
“I felt they needed to have someone with some firsthand expertise to help solve it,” he said. “They really need to focus on simplification.”
“They also weren’t recognizing the real impact that property taxes have on decision-making, in terms of commercial property activity,” Nelson said. “We
routinely have companies look at the Quad-Cities and say, ‘Why would I be paying Chicago tax rates for Davenport demographics?’ We don’t have the population and income potential here.”
Nelson believes Iowa offers too many tax abatements.
As the father of two children, including one with special needs, Nelson said he would work to strengthen mental-health services in the state. He said his daughter lives in a group home in DeWitt, Iowa, and he is familiar with how the state’s existing mental-health system affects families.
“They need to have that system become more stable and functional for the families who seek those services,” he said.
Nelson also would push for action on statewide education reform, saying that legislators “dropped the ball” by failing to take action on several proposals last legislative session.
Although he doesn’t have experience as an elected official, Nelson said he has served on the Davenport park board for eight years, serving as chairman for five years. The position is appointed, not elected, he said.
“I’ve been involved in a number of different businesses for my work,” he said. “I have a pretty wide understanding about what goes on in the market place and the various needs of businesses. It really provides a well-rounded view of the regional market.”
Phyllis Thede, Democrat incumbent
Thede is running for her third term in state office in hope of continuing to serve her community, because “there are still so many things that need to be done,” she said.
As a school attendance secretary at Williams Intermediate School in Davenport, Thede said she gets to see firsthand how important education is in the lives of Iowans. She wants to continue her work on education improvements across the state, and is interested in studying the truancy problem, she said.
“We can have the best programs, but if the students aren’t here, that’s always an issue,” Thede said. “I think that needs to be addressed.”
“Also, making sure we get parents involved,” she said. “They have to have better ownership.”
Thede said she believes the state could help support school systems by “making sure we provide enough money” to run their operations.
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She also is concerned about keeping down class sizes.
Although some people have criticized lawmakers for failing to act on education reform proposals initiated by Republican Gov. Terry Branstad, Thede said the governor’s plan didn’t provide “a real clear direction.”
“It was all over the board about evaluations, standards, compensation, early childhood, competency-based learning,” she said. “I think people became confused about what was going to be the program. It was unclear what we were going to do.”
In the end, the legislature ran out of time to consider everything on their plates, she said. Next session, she would like to see lawmakers take another look at education reforms, decide which ones would provide the most impact and decide their next step, she added.
Thede also wants to keep working to make sure Iowa grows its job base, and that includes helping small businesses.
She said her district is home to a lot of elderly, and she is very concerned about how the state can help ease their burdens. She spoke about meeting a man whose wife went to a nursing home, and now he might have to sell his home to foot the bill.
Others are moving their elderly parents in with them, and making decisions for them, she said.
“We’ve just got to look at that and see how we can help the elderly,” she said. “We’ve done some good things, but I think we can go a little further with this.”
“They’ve done so much for us,” she added. “We’ve got to do the same thing for them.”