The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Second former city commissioner in hunt for Linn office

In City Hall on March 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm

David Zahn, a Cedar Rapids police investigator and the city’s last public safety commissioner, has filed formal papers to run for the job of Linn County Sheriff.

Zahn, 44, announced his candidacy in January. He’s running as a Republican.

Current sheriff’s Maj. Brian Gardner, 46, is running as a Democrat, and deputy Bill Elam, also a Democrat, also formally entered the race on Friday as a Democrat.

Sheriff Don Zeller, a Democrat who is retiring at the end of the year after 14 years in office, endorsed Gardner when he announced his retirement.

Zahn is the second former city of Cedar Rapids commissioner/council member to jump into this year’s Linn County races.

Earlier this week, Lyle Hanson, former city finance commissioner/council member, announced he would run as a Democrat for Linn County auditor in an attempt to unseat Democratic incumbent Joel Miller.

Hanson and Miller will face off in a June 3 primary, as will Gardner and Elam in the sheriff’s race.

Both Zahn and Hanson served as full-time city commissioners/council members, and both left elective city office at the end of 2005 when the city of Cedar Rapids changed its form of government from the commission form to a city manager/part-time council form.

Zahn and Hanson, too, had both been city employees prior to winning elective city office, and both returned to city employment as specified in state law. Hanson’s management position subsequently was eliminated in the summer of 2007 as part of a City Hall reorganization. That reorganization did away with several top management posts, including department directors of transit, water, streets, parks and forestry.

In announcing his candidacy in January, Zahn said he would approach the job of sheriff in the non-partisan fashion that was required for Cedar Rapids’ elected officials.

He said he will wear a uniform in the Sheriff’s Office and will keep a “direct line” into his office for employees, which he said he did in six years as Cedar Rapids public safety commissioner.

A police officer in 1999, Zahn ran for public safety commissioner/City Council member after deciding it was better to try to do something about shortcomings in the Police Department rather than complaining about them.

He defeated incumbent Nancy Evans and went on to win re-election in 2001 and 2003.

In office, Zahn was a staunch defender of the city’s police helicopter program, which the City Council did away with in 2006 after it had operated here with Vietnam War-era equipment for more than 30 years.

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