Anamosa Gazette, November 11, 2005

Prisoners have no time for politics: And in Anamosa's 2nd Ward, that's just about everyone

By James Davidson, The Gazette

ANAMOSA -- The city of Anamosa discovered this week that when most of a district's potential politicians are behind bars, it's tough to field a council candidate. No one ran in Tuesday's election for the Ward 2 council seat, which was open after 12-year incumbent Bernie Keeney decided not to run.

One likely reason for the lack of candidates: Most of the people living in Ward 2 are inmates in the Anamosa State Penitentiary.

"(In) that ward there really aren't that many actual voting citizens," City Clerk Tammy Coons said.

When the city was divided into four wards based in the 2000 U.S. Census, the 1,321state prisoners factored into creating Ward 2, according to Jones County Auditor Janine Sulzner.

That left only 58 non-prisoners in the district.

And even thought the city has grown, Ward 2 only has 65 registered voters for this week's election, Sulzner said.

The election had three write-in votes, two for Dan Young and the other for Marty Seeley. But Mayor Jon Hatcher aid that Jones County officials must verify them before Keeney's replacement is officially determined.

If the write-in candidate falls through or declines to serve, the city council will likely discuss appointing someone for the empty seat, Coons said.

Keeney, 54, said his ward has been mostly convicts for the 12 years he has been on the council, but he has never been contacted by an inmate with a question, a request, or even for him to put in a good word with the warden.

"It's fairly obvious (the inmates) don't interact a lot within the community," he said. "I don't know what their restrictions are."

The prison doesn't leave council members' minds, however, because it is a major part of the community, said Keeney.

"A lot of the things we do in the community does affect them," he said. "We have to serve all citizens."