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Alums elected into Decorah’s public office

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Alums elected into Decorah’s public office

Ross Hadley (‘95), Lorraine Borowski (‘70), and Johanna Bergan (‘08) celebrate after election day.

Ross Hadley (‘95), Lorraine Borowski (‘70), and Johanna Bergan (‘08) celebrate after election day.

Photo courtesy of

Ross Hadley (‘95), Lorraine Borowski (‘70), and Johanna Bergan (‘08) celebrate after election day.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Ross Hadley (‘95), Lorraine Borowski (‘70), and Johanna Bergan (‘08) celebrate after election day.

Martin Donovan, Staff Writer

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Three Luther College alums were elected into Decorah’s public office on Nov. 7. Lorraine Borowski (‘70) beat twenty-year city council incumbent Gary Rustad to become Decorah’s first female mayor. Johanna Bergan (‘08) was elected to represent Ward 5 and Ross Hadley (‘95) was elected to Decorah’s at large City Council seat.

Before announcing her bid for mayor, Borowski served as the Director for Decorah’s public library for 27 years. Borowski believes that her time as director made her a viable candidate for mayor.

“The library is a department of the city of Decorah, so during that time I attended department head meetings and attended city council meetings,” Borowski said. “When I looked at my qualifications because of my director skills as far as administrating, working with budgets [and] directing staff, I felt that I was qualified to run.”

Borowski described the mayoral role as a mediator in city council meetings and a representative of Decorah throughout Iowa.

“I do not have a vote and I do not break any ties [in City Council],” Borowski said. “I do have veto power, if I choose to use that. That is used very seldom, but it is a type of checks and balances. My main task is to oversee the city council meetings; any type of special meeting that would come about; and I also represent the city in whatever would need to be represented whether that be the local, county, or state level”.

Borowski said that the current political situation on the state and federal level poses challenges for Decorah, which contributed to her decision to run for mayor.

“We have a lot of things we want to do. There’s going to be less revenue coming down at the national and state level, so it really is important that we have a sustainable economic base to support the city,” Borowski said.

Hadley, who owns Amundson’s Clothing and The Good Foot in downtown Decorah, focused his campaign around economic issues. Hadley decided to run for the at large city council seat because he saw it as an opportunity to represent Decorah.

“I ran on balanced taxation because, as a business owner and a property owner I am aware of the impact of taxes, but yet I understand in order to have things you need to have taxable projects,” Hadley said. “There are some infrastructure things we need to address in Decorah, and we need a new school to be bonding for. There was an opening and I thought it was my turn to serve.”
Hadley also wants Decorah to become more environmentally friendly by having the city council implement sustainable policies.

“Sustainability is another [important topic],” Hadley said. “I was on the sustainability committee when I was on [Decorah’s] Planning and Zoning Commission several years ago. We drafted a sustainability plan but it was never adopted. [The plan] addressed water, reducing carbon emissions, and encouraging composting.”

While Bergan ran on similar platforms to Borowski and Hadley, she also felt compelled to change the structure on Decorah’s city council.

“I decided to run primarily because, when I looked at our current city council I didn’t feel represented. We have really fabulous current city council members and [Hadley] will do a great job as well,” Bergan said. “They are currently all male, they are largely older members of the council, and I really feel that our city has decisions in front of it that need the nuances of understanding of young parents, of mothers of children, of female entrepreneurs in the area, and our voices were not a part of the current makeup.”

Bergan stressed the importance of women leadership in politics and wanted to set a precedent for more women to run for public office.

“I think it is important to be a role model and set an expectation in our community that anyone can have the capacity to do it,” Bergan said. “My hope is that it is just a start of getting other people willing to step out there and say you can have a career and a family and you can still serve in this type of public leadership.”

Alex Sekora (‘18) expressed his contentment with the three newly elected Luther alumni in Decorah’s public office.

“I think we will see a lot of improvement in Decorah,” Sekora said. “They have very good backgrounds and are all very knowledgeable people, and I think we will see some progress.”

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