Nelson challenges Kooy for George mayor
This spring, city voters in George appeared to be facing a dilemma when the initial filing period for the general election drew no candidates for the mayor’s seat.
The Grant County elections department later called for a special three-day filing period because about three dozen seats across the county did not garner any filings.
During that special filing period, both the town’s longtime mayor and a newcomer to city politics filed for the position, giving voters a decision to make in the upcoming election.
Mayor Elliot Kooy faces Gerene Nelson in the Nov. 3 general election.
Nelson, 52, has lived in the George area since 1982 and moved into the city in 2009. She is self-employed and is an accountant. Nelson’s husband, Terry Nelson, is a current George city councilman.
The city attorney told the couple there is no law preventing them from serving on the city council together, Nelson said. Her husband has no plans to step down if she is elected, she said.
Nelson is confident there will be no conflict of interest if the two serve on the council together.
“I’m not sure where there would be any conflict,” she said. “I can’t imagine.”
If elected, however, she may have to step down from her current position as a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party in George, she said.
Nelson filed for the mayor’s seat because she didn’t think anyone was interested in the position and didn’t want to leave George without a mayor, she said.
“I just thought I was giving Elliot a break,” said Nelson, who lives only a few homes down from the mayor.
Kooy, 65, is finishing up his 24th year as mayor and seeks a seventh term. A George resident since 1980, Kooy runs his family’s business, Kooy Irrigation. He also is a board member for the George Community Hall and a longtime volunteer.
Kooy said he didn’t initially file for re-election because he was conflicted; he didn’t know if he had the time for it with his busy work schedule. However, he changed his mind after being encouraged by a number of townspeople, he said.
“I have committed myself to (running) again,” Kooy said.
This past year has seen some exciting developments in George, which, like many small towns, doesn’t have a strong sales tax or property tax base.
The city has been working with the Port of Quincy to attract new businesses to a port-owned industrial park located in the city limits. Making the way for the development off of Beverly Burke Road and Highway 281 was a grant, which helped pay for a city well and infrastructure at the industrial park.
Last year, Ancient Lake Winery was the first to purchase property in the industrial park. Owner Jerry Milbrandt has said he plans to build the winery into one of the state’s largest. Milbrandt purchased 13 acres and is interested in an additional 5 acres there.
Auvil Fruit Company of Orondo also has expressed interest in 42 acres, and Gregg Marrs of Blueline Manufacturing plans to purchase 4.42 acres for a Kubota equipment dealership he now operates from Frontage Road in George.
Both Kooy and Nelson said they are interested in seeing the momentum of that successful development continue in George.
The city only has been able to grow by annexing property to the north and south of it, Kooy said. While he’d like to work on more development in the city of George, it may be difficult, he said. There is much property available for development, however, most of it is owned by one family that is unwilling to sell it, the mayor explained.
As a result, development can be slow in George, Kooy said.
“In four years, there isn’t going to be much change,” Nelson agreed. “George moves very slowly.”
When looking back, Kooy said the city has made several advances. He is most proud of his work with the city council to build new sewer and water systems in the city. If re-elected, he believes there are still some parts of the city that need to be cleaned up.
As for Nelson, she said she doesn’t have an agenda. She believes her accounting background will come in handy if elected, and she wants voters to know she will be available if chosen to lead the city.
“If I am elected, I intend to make sure people know who I am and people are comfortable talking to me,” she said.
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org