Incumbent at-large Council member Kirk Johnson will face a challenge from former Council member Gary Rustad, while Emily Neal and Dan Kirkeby are facing off for the Ward 2 Council position in Tuesday’s city election.
Fourth Ward Council member Steve Luse, who is completing his first term on the Council, is running for re-election unopposed. Council members serve four-year terms.

At large
Johnson, director for alumni relations at Luther College, served several years as a member and chair of Decorah's Board of Adjustment prior to being elected to serve two terms on the Decorah City Council from 1996 to 2004.
During his first eight years on the Council, major infrastructure projects included: replacing the Fifth Avenue Bridge, development of the new Business Park, airport improvements, major additions to the Public Library, a new joint Law Enforcement Center with the county, and a comprehensive historic downtown streetscape project.
Johnson served as a member of Decorah's Planning and Zoning Commission from 2005 to 2011.
“We updated Decorah’s Comprehensive plan and I chaired a sub-committee that developed bike routes for the city,” he said.
After a 12-year hiatus, Johnson was re-elected to the City Council in 2015.
‘I have cast votes in favor of economic development projects for Toppling Goliath, the Fairfield Inn project, Hy-Vee, the Gundersen Clinic Helicopter hangar, and other smaller projects. I am supportive of tax incentives for new and remodeled housing,” Johnson said.
“I would love to see a new Menards in Decorah… and I support the flying of the Rainbow Flags during the Pride Celebration, which I regard as a national celebration of civil rights,” he said.
Johnson said he is running for another term because he cares deeply about the Decorah community and its future.
“The City Council is in the position to set priorities in the community and to allocate the resources to make things happen,” Johnson said.
“I am proud of the positive things I have been a part of including the downtown historic streetscape project from my earlier City Council experience, the development and completion of the Trout Run Trail, the economic development projects with the Fairfield Inn and Suites project, expansion of the Toppling Goliath Brewery, and in the near future, a new Hy-Vee grocery store. It is a privilege to serve such a progressive community.”
He served as a volunteer grant proposal writer and advocate during the Trout Run Trail Project for the Trails of Winneshiek County (TOW) group from the inception of the local Trout Run Trail project through the local fund-raising effort.
Johnson has served as a board member for the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce and has been a board member for Decorah Jobs since 2016. Johnson is a founding member, and was secretary/treasurer for Decorah Human Powered Trails from 2012 to 2018. Johnson currently serves on the Decorah Jobs Board and on the Hotel Motel Tax Committee.

Rustad, who previously served on the Council for 20 years, also is running for the at-large position. Rustad ran for mayor after Mayor Don Arendt decided not to seek re-election and was defeated by Lorraine Borowski in the 2017 general election. He was a long-time chair of the Council’s street committee.
Rustad said, in the past couple of months, multiple people have been asking him to run for the Council.
“The reason is because there are a lot of people unhappy with the way things are going with our City Council,” Rustad said. “They don’t feel like City Council members are listening to them. They’re spending money they haven’t budgeted for. People are just concerned about that.”
He said citizens have talked to him about issues including the flying of flags on Water Street and sidewalk and street issues.
“The biggest complaint I’ve gotten is how the city of Decorah has turned its back on any potential economic development and that goes back to Menards,” Rustad said when he announced his campaign.
Menards had proposed rezoning floodplain near Walmart for the construction of a new store, but the Council never voted on the rezoning request or the Menards site plan because Menards withdrew its request in October of 2018.
The Decorah Planning & Zoning Commission considered the final application for rezoning in August of 2018 after several public hearings and ultimately denied the request to rezone, yet recommended approval of the final site plan. The Commission makes recommendations to the Council and the Council had held three public input sessions on the Menards’ rezoning request and site plan, but had not yet voted on them when Menards withdrew its Decorah project.
Because the Menards rezoning request was “shot down” by “a city committee like the P&Z,” Rustad said city officials may need to look at the rezoning process for development, including changing city code.
Rustad is a senior account manager for Midwest Family broadcasting.
“I look forward to possibly serving the people of Decorah once again,” Rustad said.

Ward 2
Emily Neal, assistant director for the Center for Sustainable Communities at Luther College, was appointed in July to fill the Ward 2 position on the Council when Council member Dan Bellrichard moved from the ward. Dan Kirkeby was the only other applicant for the position.
After the appointment, Winneshiek County Republican Chair Tom Hansen started a petition calling for the special election, which is allowed by Iowa Code. As a special election Sept. 24, Neal defeated Kirkeby by a vote of 308 to 143. Neal and Kirkeby are both on Tuesday’s election ballot.
“I think it is pretty fair to say, that I’m running for re-election because three months is just not enough time to get everything done,” Neal said. “In all seriousness, what it has been is just enough time to start learning about the incredible work and dedication of our city employees and volunteers, and to gather information on upcoming investments that will need to be made in order to keep our city strong and resilient for years to come.”
There are some exciting new projects on the horizon for Decorah, according to Neal.
“I’m looking forward to being a part of these conversations and decisions. Of course, the easy part is to listen to our needs and wants and to think about what we could do, but the hard part is coming up with how we fund it all,” she said.
“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get busy creating a budget that will allow us to take care of our city in the best possible way. I’m looking forward to the next several months of budget planning, being strategic with our resources and innovative in our efficiencies.
“The other thing that has really given me inspiration and enthusiasm has been getting out and meeting the residents of Ward 2. I’ve spent several hours each week this fall knocking on doors and introducing myself to the people (and dogs) of Ward 2. I am inspired by their thoughtful insights on what is both best about Decorah and what needs attention.
“A few things that I’ve noticed is that people really value open communication and that we have many common values including building a community that is forward-thinking, accessible, welcoming, resilient and affordable,” Neal said.

Kirkeby manages the All Vets Club in Decorah.
“One of the main reasons I am running is that over the past several years it seems as though the Council of Decorah has been swayed more so by special interest groups. Granted these groups need to be heard but not necessarily the governing body,” Kirkeby said.
“This really became apparent at the most recent public forum held at Luther College. Many of the answers given by candidates associated with Luther answered many of the questions ‘We do this here at Luther....’ or ‘Our experience here at the college...’ Now I will say that Luther College is a great asset for Decorah but Decorah is not Luther College. This is the feeling that many people of Decorah share with me. There is a need to start placing Decorah as a whole first,” he said.
“Our Council also makes hasty decisions with not much thought as to whom or what may be affected. Prime example is the ‘Flag Policy’ that they tried to change and as of yet not come to a final solution. Their initial decision upset not only Veterans but many of the citizens of Decorah, which makes me wonder if they truly have the hearts of the citizens in mind or do they have a personal agenda? After going to several recent council meetings, I have the impression that personal agendas are more important,” Kirkeby said.
“I am looking to stand up for the citizens of Ward 2 foremost and the rest of Decorah with some good sound common sense thinking.”
Kirkeby spent 12 years serving in the U.S. Army and Reserve and received numerous awards and recognition.
If elected, Kirkeby said he would work on property owner rights, property tax relief, new and existing business growth and promotion of Decorah.

Ward 4
Luse said he is seeking another term on the Council because he enjoys being of service to the community and helping to make the decisions that will shape the city’s path.
“There are several, impactful opportunities before the city. Setting a vision through a strategic plan, keeping the historic downtown strong, adopting a building code, addressing the affordable housing need, securing much needed childcare, planning for the 2020 census, adopting a sustainability plan, developing our municipal telecommunication utility, supporting the airport’s continued modernization and establishment of a larger renewable energy utilization are all issues I look forward to addressing in my next term,” Luse said.
“I wish to encourage all citizens to be sure to vote and exercise their civic opportunity on Nov. 5,” Luse said.

All city candidates

The following is a listing of all the candidates for city offices in Winneshiek County.
City of Calmar
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Jason Drucker, Keith Frana
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than three): Linus J. Sabelka, Jeanie Kirkeberg, Patrick Nervig, Keith Gerlich, Gary Barness
City of Castalia
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Jamie K. Smith
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than three): Lowell Corlett, Wayne Corlett, Thomas W. Schultz, Dennis Wilkins Benjamin Martin
City of Decorah
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than one): Gary F. Rustad, Kirk Johnson
Park and Recreation Board (Vote for no more than three): Richard Gaard, Kathy Bakken, Brian Fuhrmann
City of Decorah 2nd Ward Councilperson (Vote for no more than one): Dan Kirkeby, Emily Neal
City of Decorah 4th Ward Councilperson (Vote for no more than one): Steve Luse
City of Fort Atkinson
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Paul R. Herold
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than three): David J. Schneiter, Kay Schmitt, Paul G. Schmitt
City of Jackson Junction
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Mae Schmitt
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than five): Richard Vrzak, Lana Schmitt, Art Perry, Kenneth Kriener, Rodney Vrzak
City of Ossian
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Chuck Covell, Bryan Beckman
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than three): Graham Goltz, Daniel Langreck, Susan Lienau, Rodney M. Hemesath
City of Ridgeway
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Sue Schnur
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than three): Allyn Linderbaum, Zack Walsh, Ryan Ramsey
City of Spillville
Mayor (Vote for no more than one): Michael T. Klimesh
Councilperson at large (Vote for no more than two): Renee L. Wagner, Darrell G. Schmitt