Citizens in the northeast Iowa town of Oelwein have rallied to force a special election to choose the city’s mayor. Last week, the Oelwein City Council decided against holding an election and appointed council member Peggy Sherrets as mayor.

But, local businessman John Walker says he’s collected nearly twice the needed signatures on a petition for a special election. “I appreciate the city council looking at, you know, what they thought was the best way to do this — appointing one of their own — but, it’s not,” Walker says.

Former Oelwein Mayor Jason Manus resigned last month after being charged with sexually abusing two girls four years ago. A special election to choose a mayor could cost up to $6,000, but Walker says local residents “deserve to have a voice” in the matter. “They’re sad, this has been hard on the city,” Walker says. “That’s the whole reason why I’m doing this. This election is part of the way this city can heal.”

Another local businessperson, June Griffith, is interested in becoming Oelwein’s new mayor. “I think it’s time the common person takes a little more interest and doesn’t sit on the sidelines all the time,” Griffith said. She plans to file her nomination papers after a date is set for the special election.

(Reporting by Roger King, KOEL, Oelwein)