Lee County has a new County Attorney following the appointment of Ross Braden to the post Tuesday morning. But it appears that appointment might be for a much shorter term than anticipated.
The county board voted 3-2 to appoint Braden to replace Mike Short, who retired this month after nearly 40 years in office. Short left with fewer than two years remaining in his current term.
Braden, who lives in West Point, is a defense attorney with a private practice in Fort Madison. Under state law, his appointment runs until the next pending election, which originally was the general election in November 2018. But the county board Tuesday also approved holding a $2.6 million bond referendum for a new Lee County Health Department building on May 2, 2017.
County Auditor Denise Fraise said Tuesday night that after consulting with the Secretary of State’s office, they agreed the bond referendum is a pending election, since it will be countywide, so the county attorney’s race will be added to that ballot.
Fraise said instead of holding a primary prior to May 2, the Lee County Republican and Democratic parties will slate candidates for county attorney. She said someone could also be added to the ballot via petition.
Fraise said residents could still request a special election in April, but it would cost her office an additional $20,000 and would require the collection of more than 1,600 signatures in less than two weeks.
Braden was one of three candidates to apply for the post, along with Clinton Boddicker of Keokuk and Amy Christen of Davenport. Boddicker is currently the First Assistant Lee County Attorney, overseeing the Fort Madison office, while Christen is an assistant public defender working in Scott County, Iowa.
The county board focused on Braden and Boddicker during its discussion Tuesday, which took place in open session at the request of the three candidates.
Chairman Rick Larkin, Vice Chairman Don Hunold, and former Chairman Ron Fedler sided with Braden, talking about the benefits of bringing in someone new with fresh ideas and different perspectives.
Supervisors Gary Folluo and Matt Pflug voted against Braden's appointment. Pflug said this is not the time for someone to be learning on the job ,while Folluo added that it's a bad idea to disrupt things in the office, citing the desire for a smooth transition.