A former longtime police sergeant who took a health-related retirement last year says she will seek the at-large Carroll City Council seat in this fall’s election.
J.J. Schreck, 41, a native of Alta near Storm Lake, said her 13 years as a police officer in Carroll has given her the insight necessary to represent the town’s residents.
“Because of my law enforcement career, I was able to meet with tons of people,” Schreck told the Times Herald. “I just want to be somebody that people can talk to, somebody they can turn to.”
Schreck lives in Ward 1 on the east side of town with her husband B.J. and their children Ellee, 11, Jolee, 7, Calee, 6, and Kynlee, 4, who attend Kuemper Catholic Schools.
She plans to run for the city’s at-large council seat, which is open to a newcomer because current Councilman Jerry Fleshner has said he will run for mayor.
Candidates can file paperwork to be listed on the Nov. 2 ballot starting Monday.
Schreck graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake with a degree in criminology in 2007 and moved to Carroll later that year when she was hired by the police department. She was promoted to sergeant in 2014.
Her future in law enforcement was jeopardized in 2019, when she had surgery to remove a tumor on her spine. She worried about being paralyzed by the procedure, or even dying.
“It was the most awful two weeks prior to surgery,” she said. “You don’t know if it’s cancer, don’t know if it’s benign. I do have some nerve damage, but it’s nothing that I can’t live with.”
The surgery went smoothly, and there have been no signs of the cancer’s return, but in May 2020 she underwent emergency surgery to fix a spinal fluid leak.
The rigors of being a police officer became too much for her back, and she took a medical retirement in October.
Schreck now works for Homecare Options, which serves residents with disabilities.
She is among a handful of newcomer council candidates who have been incensed by certain city spending decisions in recent years. She was part of a majority of voters who opposed a $5.9 million bond referendum last year to help pay for a proposed $13 million renovation and expansion of the Carroll Recreation Center. The referendum needed more than 60 percent support to pass, but it got 45 percent.
City leaders since have scaled back the scope of the rec center project to an estimated cost of about $7.3 million and in March approved a $500,000 contract with RDG Planning & Design to create the construction plans. The city will pay for the smaller project with local option sales tax revenue, removing the need for a public referendum to approve a portion of its funding through debt.
Schreck thinks the City Council has subverted the will of voters by taking a path that doesn’t require another community vote.
“People just don’t feel like they’re being heard,” she said. “We have to respect what people in the community want.”
City leaders have planned to accept a bid for the project and start construction next year. Schreck and other council newcomers potentially could thwart that plan if they are elected, but Schreck said she does not intend “to walk in and say, ‘Stop,’ and halt everything.”
But going forward, Schreck said she would be a force of fiscal restraint.
“We’re spending money not very cautiously,” she said. “We need to kind of reel that back, see if there’s other options.”
Schreck is among three candidates who are being backed by the local political action committee Carroll Citizens for Common Sense Government, which formed in the wake of a new city ordinance that requires inspections of rental housing in town. A Carroll landlord, Margaret Saddoris, of Jefferson, is listed as the chairwoman of the committee, which according to a filing with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is designed to “advocate for and against candidates” and “campaign for candidates for conservative spending.”
The committee also is supporting Kyle Bauer for Ward 3 and Tom Bordenaro for Ward 1.