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The last three candidates up for District 1

Author’s note: This is the second of a two-part article on the candidates who have filed to run for the Mower County Board of Commissioners District 1 seat. The first ran on Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Seven candidates filed to run for Mower County Commissioner for District 1 during the filing period from Dec. 2-11. The seat was made vacant with the death of Comm. Tim Gabrielson, who passed away in November the week after winning re-election to a fourth term.

The candidates who have filed to run are Ric Berg, Tim Duren, Laura Helle, Arnie Johnson, Mark Lang, Michael Langstaff and John Mueller.

For this feature, candidates Laura Helle, Arnie Johnson and John Mueller will tell you about themselves in their own words.

Laura Helle

Laura Helle

In early 2020, my four-year term on the Austin City Council was ending. I was mentoring Oballa Oballa and I gave him my word that I would not be running for City Council in 2020 so that he could run in Ward 1 where he lived.

I planned to run for mayor, then Steve King announced his mayoral run. If I was in the voting booth with a choice between myself and Steve King, I would have a hard time choosing. I decided I could best serve Austin by supporting Steve. Since I knew Oballa Oballa was prepared to run for the Ward 1 City Council seat, I kept my word to him and stepped aside. It was gut wrenching because I was committed to literally make room for more diverse elected leaders. I also knew that I have more skills, time and passion for serving our community.

When Tim Gabrielson passed away in November, our community lost a dedicated leader and his family lost a beloved husband, father and grandfather. Out of this cloud comes the silver lining of a new opportunity for Mower County’s leadership to evolve.

I respectfully request the voters of the First District of Mower County to consider my candidacy. I grew up on a farm in Iowa and have lived in northwest Austin since 2001. My husband, Matt Stobaugh, is a special education teacher at Holton Intermediate and we have two daughters, Danica (12) and Josie (3). I work as the Executive Director of Austin Area Arts, a non-profit umbrella including the Paramount Theatre, Austin ArtWorks Center and Austin ArtWorks Festival.

As a City Council member, I have served on the Housing and Redevelopment Authority Board, Port Authority (economic development) Board, Community Education Advisory Board and Culture and Arts Commission. Mower County is stronger when the City of Austin is stronger and I’m ready to further enhance city-county cooperation and embrace win-win solutions that work for everyone. I love our community and I want to be part of its continued growth and success.

Arnie Johnson

Arnie Johnson

My parents are Arnold O. Johnson and Norma B. (Opsahl) Johnson. I’ve lived in Mona, Iowa, Lyle and Mapleview, where I moved in 1969. I graduated from Austin High School in 1978. In 1976, I became ill with myasthenia gravis and was treated for colon cancer in 2008. I moved into my current home in 1991. My son Arne was born in 1994.

In 2009, I became Mayor of Mapleview, an office I still hold. I also currently serve as vice president on the board of the Mower Council for the Handicapped. I’m sorry for the loss of our commissioner.

I’m not going to have a Facebook page or put signs around; I’ve had enough of that this year. You won’t find anything fancy here – I’m not pretty or rich, just a simple man with a simple life. I’m not making any promises, but I’m willing to do the best with what I have. I’m not afraid to admit I don’t know, but will ask those that do. Being mayor has taught me you can’t make all the people happy all the time, but you can try to do the best for the whole community.

Be safe, stay healthy, and God bless us all!

John Mueller

John Mueller

I was born and raised in Austin and I graduated from Austin High School. I have been married to my wife Dawn for 30 years. We have four children and two grandchildren and we are members of St. Augustine Church. Living in rural Austin for the past 26 years, our family has raised a variety of livestock and been active participants and leaders in Mower County 4-H. I have owned and operated Red Rock Livestock Equipment LLC, since 2004. I have enjoyed a 30-year career in law enforcement and will be retiring in the coming months.

I spent three and a half years as a Fillmore County Deputy Sheriff before coming home to the Austin Police Department in 1994. I have been a lieutenant for more than 20 years and in 2010 I served as Acting Co-Chief for six months. In addition to my leadership and administrative roles within the department, I have held leadership positions in local and regional professional organizations. I am a graduate of and Day Leader for Leadership Austin and also a graduate of the Blandin Foundation’s Leadership Program.

I believe in serving my community. I was elected to the Mower County Fair Board 17 years ago and I have served several terms as president. I was elected and served on the Red Rock Township Board for 10 years and chaired the board for several years. I have also been on youth, community, educational, and fraternal boards and committees. I have leadership, administrative, and collaborative experience in diverse city and rural organizations. If elected, I will bring my broad experience and my commitment to the community to serve the residents of District 1 and all of Mower County.