At a time when no town seems safe from the nation’s ultra-divisive politics, Kimberly Sheets hopes that voters in Warren County will value an old-fashioned commitment to service and experience over partisanship in the upcoming special election for county auditor.
Under an unusual set of circumstances, Sheets is running to lead an important local office she knows well in the county she’s lived in nearly her entire life.
“I’m the most experienced candidate,” Sheets said in an interview with Starting Line. “For seven years, I’ve been involved with the auditor’s office and I’m very familiar with all the different hats and tasks that are required in that position. I enjoy that position in regards to working with the community and the residents—all the residents—and it’s just very gratifying for me to be in that position.”
Her opponent in the Aug. 29 special election is David Whipple, the interim Warren County Auditor who unceremoniously suspended Sheets as deputy auditor. Within days of his appointment, concern over Whipple’s embrace of conspiracy theories prompted local pushback, and a petition signed by more than 3,000 eligible local voters triggered the summer election.
The road to this special election has been bumpy and many in Warren County, including former auditor Traci VanderLinden, thought the interim auditor position should have already been Sheets’.
VanderLinden resigned in May for personal reasons and recommended that the three-member Warren County Board of Supervisors select Sheets to fill out the remainder of her term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2024.
Sheets and Whipple both applied for the interim auditor position. The all-Republican board opted to go with Whipple, who had no previous experience in government and comes from a construction background. The board cited his “leadership” capabilities in choosing him over Sheets, who they seemed to blame for missteps attributed to VanderLinden during her time in office.
“They missed a big opportunity and that’s why I decided to go ahead and run in this special election,” Sheets said. “The people need the chance to say who they want as their representative in there instead of just three people.”
The board appointed Whipple during a special meeting on June 6. Shortly after that, Whipple’s since-deleted social media posts where he shared various conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, QAnon, and even the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, surfaced.
This sparked the petition drive led by Warren County Democrats and other concerned stakeholders to trigger a special election. Organizers turned in more than 3,400 signatures on June 20.
“The people do want to have their voice heard,” Sheets said. “I think it’s always great when people band together to stand up for what they believe in, for what they feel is right. … That’s what democracy is all about, that’s how it should be anyway.”
The day after the petition was turned in, Whipple placed Sheets on paid leave.
“That did surprise me,” Sheets said.
Whipple told KNIA News this was done so as to not place the auditor’s office in an awkward position—but it also happened to remove a potential political opponent out of a position of authority.
“It’s really hard to build a team in here if the staff don’t know who to follow,” Whipple told the radio station. “They could fear that they give me too much loyalty and then Kim would have a retribution and they wouldn’t have a job after that or vice-versa, they give me too much loyalty or Kim whichever, it certainly wouldn’t work out well for them.
“To get rid of that uneasiness, to work on building this team, so that we can get to business, I had to ask Kim, I had to put her on administrative leave,” he continued.
Sheets said she is a professional and would have no caused issues by being there.
“I can still do my job with no problem,” she said. “I just wasn’t given that opportunity.”
Following the successful petition drive, the Warren County GOP challenged the legitimacy of more than 1,000 signatures—only 2,384 eligible county voters needed to sign the petition—in hopes of stopping the special election.
This led to a June 30 meeting of the Warren County Election Commission, which includes county attorney Douglas Eichholz, county treasurer Julie Daughtery, and Whipple, who decided not to recuse himself from the situation despite the obvious conflict of interest. The meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd and Warren County officials had overflow space as well.
Whipple sided with the other two officials and agreed that the Warren County GOP’s rationale for throwing out signatures wasn’t strong enough and voted for the special election.
With the election set in stone, Sheets is now focused on her first run for office. Her campaign even rented an office on Indianola’s recently renovated downtown square. The office is located above a kayak store, and one campaign volunteer joked that it reminded him of a similar scene from “The West Wing.”
Because of her experience in county government and having grown up in Indianola—minus a two-year stint when her parents moved the family to Des Moines—Sheets is a familiar face to lots of folks, but she is not taking those ties for granted.
She has campaign events planned pretty much every day leading up to Aug. 29, including meet and greets across the county, appearances at the Warren County Fair, and the National Balloon Classic, a hot air balloon extravaganza held annually in Indianola.
Sheets knows educating voters about who she is and what she brings to the table is vital. What’s left unsaid by her is how crucial this race is considering the role auditor plays in the election process in the county, and how the attacks on election integrity—Whipple’s social media posts being a prime example—erode democracy.
“You need somebody in that office that can curb that misinformation, that can tell them exactly where they can go vote, if this rumor is true, if this is what really happened,” Sheets said.
“I just want people to get out there and vote. I want to be their representative, I feel like I’m the right representative, but I need them to come out and actually vote for me.”
AT A GLANCE:
Name: Kimberly Sheets
Position: Interim Warren County Auditor Candidate
Residence: Rural Indianola
Experience: Seven years in the Warren County Auditor’s office, 13 years in the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, and two years in the Polk County Recorder’s Office.
Family: Husband and two adult children.
Interests: Riding motorcycles with her husband, camping, reading books, socializing with friends and family.
by Ty Rushing & Pat Rynard
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