Letter to the editor: Give Phil Hemingway a chance, Johnson County

City High student Yardley Whaylen talks with ICCSD School Board member Phil Hemingway during the sixth week of the Iowa City Student Climate Strike, Friday, April 26, 2019. — Jason Smith/Little Village

Had an interesting conversation with Phil Hemingway at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market July 2nd. I’ve known Phil for decades — he was our go-to auto mechanic for many years. He’s now running for Johnson County Board of Supervisors for the fifth time. He’s a Republican, and I’m a left-wing progressive-to-radical.

I asked him about what I’ve seen people say here on Facebook directly: that because he’s a Republican he’s a Trump loyalist, that he’s a right-wing crank. Those statements bothered me because they didn’t square with my experiences with the man.

His response (paraphrasing) was “they think that just because I have an ‘R’ after my name? The reason I’m still a Republican is that I’ve always been a Republican. I think it would be opportunistic to change now. I know other Johnson County Democratic officials used to be Republicans. Have the people criticizing me looked at my record on the School Board?”

Things that are facts about Phil Hemingway that don’t fit the conventional wisdom about him:

He was in the Iowa City Pride Parade with his brother, a gay man who currently farms the Hemingway family’s Century Farm.

He was instrumental in getting the Iowa City School Board to get rid of the isolation boxes that were being used to discipline students.

He was tireless with his financial oversight of the Iowa City School District, when no one else on the board seemed concerned about where the District spent its money.

Never ONCE when he had a seat on the school board did he bring up any of the hot-button right-wing issues like “Critical Race Theory” (though the furor over CRT began after his tenure) or banning books.

In fact, I’d say that any Johnson County liberal/progressive who took the time to talk to Phil about his ideas for the county would find themselves agreeing with him most of the time.

I also think that his primary concern — that the government spends its money wisely — should be everyone’s concern. Just because people have a “D” after their name doesn’t necessarily mean they do what’s best for their constituents. For one thing — as Phil is quick to point out — the Johnson County Supervisors have voted themselves hefty pay raises every year since 2018. They now make $90,000 dollar a year for a part-time job.

Phil is a man of principle and integrity, who I would trust to hold my wallet. Which is — not coincidentally — the job he’s running for. Johnson County taxpayers would be lucky to have Phil on the Board.