Don Wells, the vice chairman of Bettendorf’s parks and recreation board, says he intends to run for the open seat on city council, setting the stage for a contested special election against another well-known City Hall figure.
“I’ve had a great working relationship with all the councilmen over the years,” Wells said Tuesday afternoon during a phone interview. “And all this because I’ve been working hand in hand (with them), making sure that the parks and recreation department is well taken care of.”
Wells is the second person to announce an intention to run for the open seat, and filing deadline for candidates to appear on the ballot is Friday. The other declared candidate is Bill Connors, the city’s former community development director who retired last year amid a round of buyouts.
Drawing on his 10 years with as an elected parks commissioner, Wells pointed to his experience with Bettendorf’s city government and running area nonprofit Greater Bettendorf Community Foundation among his qualifications for the job. He also noted he’s lived in the community for more than 40 years, saying he’s “satisfied” with the job on the parks board but wants to see if he “can make a difference on a bigger scale.”
The special election, scheduled to happen March 5, comes after the death of longtime Alderwoman Debe LaMar, who was first elected to represent the southwest-side ward in 1997. LaMar, who retained the seat for 20 years, died in November following a long bout with cancer at age 61.
“I’ve known Debe LaMar for a very long time and … I always told Debe as long as she was our alderman in the third ward, that I would never run against her,” Wells said, calling her passing unfortunate.
Connors, Wells' opponent, spent more than 20 years working for the city and has also referenced his knowledge of city government as a primary reason that he’s the person for the job, saying he’ll have “a very short learning curve” if he’s elected.
State law prohibits anyone from holding more than one elected office at a time, meaning Wells will need to resign his parks board commission spot if he wins. If he loses, Wells said he’ll seek reelection to his current spot on the parks board.
The winner of the special election will have to stand for reelection in November. Both candidates say they’ll seek a full term if they win in March.
Under state law, city officials can fill a vacancy through a special election or by appointment. In January, Bettendorf aldermen asked the Scott County Auditor to schedule a special election, saying the 3rd Ward residents should be the ones to choose their next representative.
Bettendorf’s parks board has long been a jumping-off point for those seeking a place on the city council. Sitting council members who kick-started political careers there include citywide Alderman Frank Baden and Alderwoman Lisa Brown.