Melissa O’Rourke
Melissa O’Rourke
Melissa O’Rourke of Decorah has announced her intention to fill the vacancy on the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors for District 2.
The opening is due to the pending resignation of current supervisor Floyd Ashbacher who is moving out of the district effective Thursday, July 1.  
“I’ve spoken to Floyd, and congratulated him on his upcoming retirement,” said O’Rourke. “He’s given decades of public service to the community – first in public safety and service as the Winneshiek County Sheriff, and then as a county supervisor. The community owes Floyd a great deal of gratitude for his service.”
O’Rourke indicated she is prepared to step into that role. 
O’Rourke previously faced Ashacher for the District 2 supervisor position in the 2018 election cycle. Ashbacher claimed the election win by 68 votes, with 2,292 ballots cast
“I ran a serious, committed campaign in 2018, knocking on 1,157 doors in the district and having great conversations with hundreds of residents,” O’Rourke said. “I was honored that so many folks took the time to visit with me and share their thoughts and concerns about the future of Winneshiek County.  What an awesome experience to meet and listen to so many district residents.”
Currently, a three-person committee is tasked with the decision of how to fill the upcoming vacancy – either by appointment or setting a special election.
Under either process, O’Rourke is ready to serve.  “I understand that the committee continues to consider the options going forward.  But I’m excited about this opportunity, and want to make clear that I’m as committed now as I was in 2018. 
“I’ve watched the Winneshiek County Board of Supervisors working in a collaborative, non-partisan manner, making decisions in the best interests of the county.  Floyd Ashbacher has been a leader in that regard, and I would seek to follow that model.” 
O’Rourke said that her background in education, agriculture and law along with her history of service to non-profit organizations and her community give her the experience to serve Winneshiek County residents.
“Each member of the board of supervisors brings a different perspective, and that’s a good thing. Working together, the board wants to improve the quality of life for all residents, protect the best interests of the county, and help the county to thrive.”
O’Rourke works as a Farm & Agribusiness Management Specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She assists farm families and ag businesses throughout the region, with particular focus on farm succession, estate and business planning, human resource issues, and farmland leasing practices. She is a licensed attorney who formerly worked in private practice handling a range of civil matters, and in public service as both a public defender and as a county attorney. O’Rourke has served as an educator at the high school and undergraduate levels, and as a law school adjunct professor. She has served in leadership positions for non-profit organizations as well.
“It’s been my honor to serve and lead organizations through times of growth and challenge.  I’m particularly proud to have been a founding member of a group that in 2008 established the non-profit Promise Community Health Center in northwest Iowa that serves hundreds of patients each year, many of whom formerly faced barriers to health care – but now have access to medical, dental and mental health services.”  
In Winneshiek County, O’Rourke has been involved with the Northeast Iowa Peace & Justice Center, assisting with education and advocacy regarding immigration questions and issues. She is a member of First Lutheran Church in Decorah. She has been married to her husband, Joe Skoda, for over 40 years.
In 2020, O’Rourke applied for a vacancy on the county Planning and Zoning Commission and currently serves as a commissioner.  
“Working on the P&Z commission has been very interesting, but if I fill the board position, I expect that I would need to leave that to avoid any conflicts.”
O’Rourke credits a family history of veterans and public servants for her desire to serve. “During World War I, my grandmother traveled from southwest Iowa to work at the Rock Island Arsenal to support the war effort.  And during World War II, my mother (an Iowa farm girl) joined the US Cadet Nurse Corps to become an RN, pledging to serve ‘for the duration’ of the war.  They were models to me of what it means to be committed to public service. I intent to all viewpoints and work to build consensus in the best interests of the county. I hope to have that opportunity.”