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The coolest thing about the Indianola mayoral race, says Stephanie Erickson, who is running against Pam Pepper and Michelle Fetters Steen for the job, is this.

“We’re all three women, we’re all three mothers,” she said. “Pam and I are going to spend a lot of time together during track season — whoever gets this, it’s going to be fine.”

The mayor's job is open after Indianola Mayor Kelly Shaw resigned in September. The Indianola City Council decided to take applications — both Pepper and Steen applied, and Pepper was subsequently appointed as interim mayor.

But citizens, including Erickson, signed petitions to force a special election, which is set for Tuesday, March 2. The winner will serve through December, 2021, and can seek reelection in November.

Absentee voting is now open. Voters can ask to have ballots mailed to them through Friday, according to the Warren County Auditor’s Office. Voters should return their ballots as soon as possible, ballots must be postmarked no later than March 1, 2021. Voters also can cast their ballots in person at the Warren County administration building, 301 N. Buxton St., Suite 101, through March 1.

People can vote in person Tuesday, March 2, at the American Legion Hall, 105 West 1st St., Indianola, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The winner of the election will be the second woman elected to be Indianola's mayor. Irene Richardson was Indianola's first woman mayor, elected in 1979 and serving three terms.


Lived in Indianola since 1997. Family includes husband Tim; Doug, a junior at Central College; and Mark, a senior at Indianola High School.

Pepper said she is running on three things.

Experience — including 12 years on the Indianola Planning and Zoning Commission and seven years on the Indianola City Council. Mayor was one job she didn’t think she was interested in.

“I like having the power of the vote,” she said and Indianola’s mayor is a non-voting position. But when the city council decided to appoint a mayor in September, Pepper decided to apply.

 “I love the role, I love being engaged in the city again. I don’t miss voting.”

Positivity —  “I’m a very positive person and I want to bring positivity to the city,” she said. “I see my role as being an ambassador to the city.”

She also wants to expand Indianola’s role in the metro. “We are a little bit forgotten,” she said.

And engaged — Pepper said she has met with Indianola Municipal Utilities, Simpson College, Warren County, the National Balloon Classic, the Warren County Fair and Des Moines Metro Opera, among others, since taking over as interim mayor.

“I want to be working on those relationships and those collaborations,” she said. She also is working to continue to build relationships with constituents.

“There has been some negativity in the past,” she said. “I want to move past that.”

She said she wants citizens to attend council meetings and ask questions. “I don’t want council to be yes, yes, no, no, and walk out the door.”

To that end, she is asking staff to explain more about the issues before the council during meetings. She also noted recent ward meetings, articles in the Indianola magazine, and the long packet that goes with every council meeting that is available on the city web site.

Finally, Pepper said she has no specific priorities as mayor.

“The mayor has to be big picture,” she said, citing projects such as the planned streetscape and wastewater treatment plant, as well as discussions about renovating the library and city hall.

“I don’t have one issue, and I don’t think a mayor should have one.”

Pepper can be reached at 515-962-1294.


Lived in Indianola officially for a year and a half. But she graduated from Indianola High School and has lived much of her life just outside the city limits. She has a husband, Tom, and three kids — Aaron, Adam and Hannah, along with two daughters in law and four grandkids.

Steen had applied for the mayor’s position when the city appointed Pepper. When they asked if she would run for the seat in case of a special election, she said yes. So now she’s following through.

“It seems exciting to me,” she said. “I’ve never run for office, not a state or city or federal seat. I’m not running against the current mayor. I’m running for the position.”

Steen said she has kept an eye on city activities for years but started watching meetings regularly in April. Plans for the Square, where Steen long owned a business and building that has now become Feed & Foster, sparked her interest.

“The Square is so important to me,” she said. The planned streetscape project is especially important, she said.

“When I had my building on the Square, we had an issue with the sewer,” she said. Sewer gas was coming in the back wall of the building. In the process of dealing with that, she learned the sewer pipes were all broken. “There really was no sewer going out to the sewer system.”

She’s excited to know the streetscape is going to take care of that and other issues.

“I’m happy that the water system under the Square, all of those pipes and the ability for firemen to put out fires on the Square,” she said. “There’s really no hope for a business right now if there were to be a fire. Knowing that the Streetscape plan is going to fix things you can’t see, it’s going to be much safer. I love that.”

Steen said she has started a blog at to keep people informed about what’s happening in city government. She also plans to visit with businesses to let them know about her campaign.


Lived in Indianola since 2019 with her husband, Josh, and Carter, a junior at Indianola High School, and Hadley a sixth grader.

Erickson helped gather signatures to force the special election for mayor and eventually decided to run herself.

“I thought long and hard about it,” she said, and finally decided “I want to be part of this community. I want to do good here. We have so much we can do good here.”

Erickson said her priorities include infrastructure, including roads, and “really engaging with citizens.”

She cites examples she’s seen in other communities, including Altoona, where she used to live.

On one Altoona city page, a citizen was complaining about the street situation near his home when Mayor Dean O’Connor stepped in, promising to visit the neighborhood and get the city streets department involved to make it safer.

“The conversation stopped,” she said. “Sometimes people just want to be heard, and I want to see how I can hear them.”

She said she would hold office hours, not just at city hall, but possibly at places like Uncommon Grounds or Local Vine, where people could come talk about anything from their neighbor’s dog barking to stormwater issues.

“Their issue to them feels big,” she said. While she said city manager Ryan Waller often weighs in on social media comments, “it just keeps going and people get frustrated.”

While Erickson and her husband attended Simpson, she said they are new enough to bring a new perspective.

Erickson said she likes the idea of monthly legislative breakfast that would bring together city officials and members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors and state legislators. She is “solutions based,” she said. “It’s what feeds my soul.”

Her primary goal, she said, is to build positivity.

“We love this town,” she said. “We picked this city, we went to Simpson here. I want Indianola to be a welcoming city that my kids want to come back to. I want them to bring their families and live here where we live.”

(7) comments


Was there a reason why this article did not identify each candidate’s registered party? Coming out of a ‘pandemic’, the governmental reaction to it was pretty cut & dry - right down party lines who adhere to a basic platform.

Amy Duncan

The mayor and other city council positions are non-partisan.

That is what they say?



I am going t vote for Michelle Steen. I feel she would be the best fit for this community and has our community interests at heart and what the citizens think about projects and will get their input. She is a wonderful person and easy to talk to.


Pam Pepper was selected by the city council unanimously when Mayor Shaw abruptly resigned. Obviously they felt they could work with her. The taxpayers should not even be paying for this special election. Such a waste of time and resources. Pam is definitely the most qualified and should retain her position until the election next November


Whoever is in this position is serving in an elected role, not a appointed one. There is much talk lately about unity. The backing & endorsement of 'we the people' is neccessary regardless of who is in this positon. Money well spent going forward.

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