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Lee County to Stick with Two County Seats

Daily Gate City Newspaper

Lee County will not be making history any time soon as it will remain the only county in Iowa with two county seats for the foreseeable future.

Supervisor Ron Fedler was leading the charge to change history, proposing an ordinance that would name Fort Madison as the lone county seat.

He said he was ready to call the proposal for a vote when he arrived at the Central Lee Middle School gymnasium Thursday night.

That notion changed rather quickly as Fedler reached for a microphone about ten minutes into the meeting.

"I want to say that I am sorry for putting all of you people through this because I did not have that intention," said Fedler to a crowd of around 300 at the special meeting.

After that... he asked Chairman Ernie Schiller to remove his ordinance from consideration, prompting a 30 second standing ovation from the mostly pro-Keokuk crowd.

Fedler said what changed his mind was a brief meeting with Vice Chairman Matt Pflug and Supervisor Gary Folluo.

Fedler says he and Pflug reached an agreement to work together to address the concerns about the current structure of county government through open discussions.

"That we could maybe find a solution to this problem," said Fedler, "That would be better... Without even hesitation, I said, 'Matt, this was agreeable.'"

Fedler does not know when those discussions will occur, but he is eager to start working to unite Lee County.

Matt Pflug said he ran the gamut of emotions last night.  

He said he arrived at the meeting near Donnellson thinking there was no hope of Keokuk remaining a county seat.

That changed to optimism after speaking to Fedler before the meeting and relief after Fedler announced that he was pulling the ordinance from consideration.

"I think my heart quit beating about 200 beats per minute... so yeah... other than that, its a pretty good night."

Pflug said his top priority has always been to restore driver's license services to Keokuk.  

He said those discussions will likely get underway after Don Hunold replaces Chairman Ernie Schiller on the board in January.

“Because you know you got to have that individual's input," said Pflug, "and you know we are going to have a new treasurer on board too, so I think she should be part of that decision making as well.”

Pflug said when it comes to a centrally-located courthouse, though, much more information and discussion is needed.  He said that should start with a study by outdoor professionals to tell Lee County the condition of its current buildings.

The meeting, which some had thought could last hours, ended up spanning about 45 minutes.  That is due to about 20 people choosing to address the board, with most thanking Fedler for not proceeding with his proposal.

It appeared that this could be an actual first step in ending the North/South tension that has intensified in recent years.

The tension that filled the room at the start had been replaced by a sense of joy as people chatted and even laughed together before getting in their cars and driving home.

There was even a moment that may have symbolized the night.

Mary Van Pelt, who formed a citizens committee to study the issue of one county seat, and Al Nelson, a staunch opponent of the work of that committee, walked up to each other after the meeting and simply shook hands.

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.