November 26, 2022

Union County doubles its representation

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series about the four state legislators representing Union County after redistricting.

There’s an old saying that goes, “two heads are better than one.”

Iowa legislation changed that for Union County, and some other Iowa counties, when the state legislators begin their session in January. Union County will have “four” heads.

For decades, Union County has had been represented with one state senator and one state representative. Non-partisan redistricting, which is done after the U.S. Census every 10 years, changed that beginning with the 2022 election and legislative session. Union County will have two senators and two representatives.

New to Union County will be Senator Amy Sinclair and Representative Ray “Bubba” Sorensen. They both have the townships along the Union-Clarke county line and most of the Union-Adair county line. Representative Devon Wood and Senator Tom Shipley have the remaining part of Union County including Creston. Wood, Shipley and Sorensen won their respective seats with the election earlier this month.

Wood’s district includes all of Adams, Taylor and Ringgold and portions of Page and Union counties. She replaces Cecil Dolechek who chose not to run for another term.

Wood is the only newcomer among the four. But she’s not new to Iowa politics.

“I have a had long standing relationship with Shipley through the Iowa Cattlemen (Association) and I know Bubba very well,” said the woman from New Market.

Wood was a clerk for former state legislator Clel Baudler from Greenfield which helped her get to know Sorensen.

“When I was out campaigning, and those who were in economic development or chambers, and have talked to Bubba about our broadband. People will tell me, ‘If you know Bubba and are willing to work, you have got our support.’”

Wood does not have the same interaction with Sinclair

“I got to know her, but have not worked with her on anything specific. I have run into her a bit. When I was younger and getting feet wet in the capitol, I shadowed with Joni Ernst. She and Sinclair are still close. I got to know Amy early on. Ernst was one of the first people Ernst introduced me to. I went to college with one of Sinclair’s sons,” Wood said. “Sinclair has been a cheerleader of mine since I decided to run.”

Ernst was also a state senator before being elected as an Iowa senator in 2014.

With her first year in legislation starting in a couple of months, Wood said she is confident.

“They have already been helpful to me,” she said about the other three. “I already felt like a colleague and this how they have treated me. Shipley has said you don’t have to have all the answers, just know the right person to call. With Tom’s experience in ag and transportation, or on campaign, I’ve picked his brain.”

Wood just wants the constituents to feel confident with the four.

“January will feel different for me. But it’s an honor when you have people who come out and support you and want to see you be a voice for them. I want to continue the great representation for our area and new district. We have had it for a long time and I want to continue. It does feel a different not having officially taken office yet. I still have things to learn.”

Sinclair was elected to legislation 10 years ago, also after redistricting. This year was nothing new to her.

“Union County inherited me,” she said.

Living in Wayne County, Sinclair taught in the Central Decatur schools and at Southwestern Community College, preparing students to complete their GED testing, as well as teaching parenting and adult basic education classes. Her classes were not at the Creston campus. She later served as a federal grants coordinator and after-school program director for Wayne Community School District.

She had served two terms on the Wayne County Board of Supervisors. She was also an active board member for the 10-15 Regional Transit System, Iowa’s 5th Judicial District, South Iowa Area Crime Commission, Southeast Iowa Response Group-Hazmat Operations, Community Health Centers of Southern Iowa, and Chariton Valley Transportation Planning Affiliate.

In state legislation she has been involved in education, judiciary commerce and ways and means.

“Shipley and I are friends. I knew Tom before he was in the senate as he was so involved in cattle. You couldn’t ask for a better person.”

Sinclair said Shipley and her have much in common from cattle and legislative work with rural education.

“There isn’t a large city in either or our districts. Creston is his largest up to this year. Knoxville was my largest. We are now largely rural, agriculture and some manufacturing,” she said.

Sinclair said she knows Sorensen the least as there have not been many opportunities for their paths to cross.

“I have done some forums with him. We have been talking about moving forward and communication,” she said.

With the session two months away, Sinclair expects property taxes to be the most common issue among voters.

“I think that goes hand in hand with inflation. People’s wallets are not getting fatter, but costs are going up. Iowa property tax system is based on sale value. If local governments haven’t dropped their rates, property tax becomes an issue,” she said.

She also wonders about the redistricting process. “It is a little strange. I see a lot of senators lost a majority of the population they have served.”

Sinclair said that has consequences.

“They picked up a majority of people they have never met. There has got to be a better way to do that. I’m not sure how that will be done. I like the system, but make it such one of the primary factors would be to keep a priority (of the population) or not disrupting the borders much. We shouldn’t be dividing a county,” she said.

The motive behind redistricting is to have balanced population. Her district includes all of Adair, Madison, Clarke, Lucas, Decatur, Wayne and portions of Dallas, Union and Appanoose counties.

“Union County is fortunate to have four and double the efforts. We can loop the other person in and be another voice for the people who have reached out,” Wood said.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.