On Nov. 2, Des Moines elected three city council members: incumbent Connie Boesen was re-elected for the At-Large seat with 54 percent of the vote, Ward I elected newcomer Indira Sheumaker with 46.36 percent of the vote and Ward III re-elected incumbent Josh Mandelbaum with 66 percent of the vote.
Boesen was first elected to the Des Moines City Council in 2017. She served on the Des Moines Public Schools Board of Directors for 14 years. Boesen’s platform included revitalizing residential properties through programs like Invest DSM, expanding mental health crisis teams for the city and strengthening the relationship between the city council and the DMPS Board of Directors.
“Thank you to everyone who turned out to vote in this election and to our volunteers who spent months talking to voters across Des Moines,” Boesen wrote in a Facebook post. “I’m honored to continue serving Des Moines and look forward to building a better future for everyone in our city.”
Jaelyn Lentz, a senior strategic political communications major at Drake University, was Boesen’s campaign manager. She said she was excited to see all their hard work come to fruition.
“She’s done a lot over the last four years that has really cemented her as someone who is willing to work for other people,” Lentz said. “That is one of the things I heard from everyone. If someone came to her with a problem, she was going to work until it had been solved, no matter what it was.”
Indira Sheumaker is a community organizer who worked with the Black Liberation Movement in the summer 2020 protests. She ran on a platform of defunding the police and making the city council more representative of the people it serves. Another part of her agenda is making city council more accountable to the people through measures like preventing it from passing controversial items through the consent agenda.
“I feel that we achieved the goals that we set out to achieve,” Sheumaker said. “At the beginning of the campaign when we were talking strategy, I wanted my campaign to do two things: I wanted to excite people and give them someone they really wanted to vote for versus someone they felt obligated to vote for. And I wanted to reach out to areas and communities that had been underrepresented; that had never had anyone knock [on] their door.”
Making the transition from activist to councilmember will involve some strain, Sheumaker said, but she remains committed to her fight for change.
“I don’t see myself becoming less of an activist. It’s very important to me not to become integrated into the institution and become part of the problem,” Sheumaker said. “I envision, or I expect, that I’m still going to be in some role of speaking up and trying to hold the council accountable while I’m in this seat. I just have more of an opportunity to do that now that I have that role.”
Josh Mandelbaum is an environmental attorney who was first elected to the Des Moines city council in 2017. He previously worked for Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. His platform included making Des Moines more accessible for non-car forms of transportation, making the city more sustainable in the current climate crisis and bringing more economic growth to Des Moines’ outer neighborhoods, in part by redeveloping abandoned properties.
“We feel great about the results of the election,” Mandelbaum said. “Over the course of the campaign, we knocked over 14,000 doors, we talked to a lot of folks and it showed in the result. I got things done during my first term, and so I had things to run on. We did a lot from a climate change perspective.”
During Mandelbaum’s term, the city council passed a clean energy standard that, among other things, set a goal of reaching 100 percent, 24/7 carbon-free electricity by 2035. Now he intends to solidify that by creating a “comprehensive climate action and adaptation plan” for Des Moines that includes items like electric vehicle infrastructure.
“At the local level, you can’t duck the consequences of climate change. My first term, we essentially dealt with three different types of climate-related events,” Mandelbaum said. “We had the flash floods of June 30, 2018, that had a massive impact on people. We had the derecho of Aug. 2020. And just this past year, our drinking water was threatened by severe drought. So, we’re dealing with the consequences of climate change. We should be doing everything we can to prepare for it, to prevent that.”
Bill Gray, the only incumbent to lose a race, will be replaced by Indira Sheumaker after his term expires in January 2022.