Mahaska County Supervisor Candidate Henry “Willie” Van Weelden
Oskaloosa, Iowa – Willie Van Weelden had been a member of the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors from 2000 until 2012.
Van Weelden was born in Mahaska County where he started his education at What Cheer, then went on to Oskaloosa Christian and lastly Pella Christian, where he graduated in 1964.
Van Weelden then enlisted in the Air Force, where he served for 4 years. He returned home to the farming industry and moved to his current home in 1971 where he raised 3 children with his wife. After all these years Willie says, “and still married to the same woman.”
After getting elected to Board of Supervisors initially, Willie said that, “there were a lot of things that the board does that I was unaware of. You look at the Board of Supervisors and think, well all they do is take care of roads,” but Willie said there “are many multi-county things that go on, that counties work together on.”
“Once the budgets are done, it is about the multi-county committees you’re on. It’s about kind of looking after the roads and working with the engineer on what’s going and being aware of what’s going on in the county,” says Van Weelden.
One of the first accomplishments Van Weelden points towards when he first took office was helping to get mental health reorganized in the county. He served on the South-Central Mental Health Board. Van Weelden says the group was having financial problems, so he and another former supervisor worked with Mahaska Health Partnership, and “that’s when they took over and became New Directions.”
Van Weelden says he also helped to guide DAV [Disabled American Veterans] get a van, which helps to transport county veterans to medial appointments around the state. Van Weelden said he continues to volunteer his time, now his 14th year, driving the van.
When it comes to seeking office once again, Van Weelden said he’s aware of the challenges that he will be facing as a supervisor. “I think there are some things going on that could be done a little differently on the board,” says Van Weelden.
“On the mental health thing, I think they kind of dropped the ball on the mental health thing with the 4 county region,” says Van Weelden. “That was pretty well in place when Ken Rozenboom and I left the board.”
Van Weelden said that the 4 counties had agreed the mental health region would be a good fit. “And the wheels came off and one of the reasons I was told, very directly by someone at the meeting, was there was a 4 county meeting at our courthouse, and none of our supervisors were there.”
“If you’re not going to go to the meetings, why would anybody want to work with you?” Van Weelden asked.
As far as one of the biggest issues facing Mahaska County, Van Weelden said that not enough funding for roads has always been a struggle, “but it’s something you have to work with.”
Without an increase in funding, Van Weelden said, “we can’t do what we used to do with those dollars.”
When it comes to a vision for Mahaska County, Van Weelden said he’s “not big on regionilization of counties. He said that after conversations he’s had with other supervisors over the years, that combining of the entities would result in little savings for the tax payer. “You’ll add another layer of management in there you don’t have now,” says Van Weelden. “Where you going to save the money?”
“I think with the airport. With 63, I think [Mahaska County] is in a good position to grow, attract people to live here. You’ve got Cargill, you’ve got the industries in Pella and industries in Oskaloosa… We’re in a good triangle I call it…Eddyville, Pella and Oskaloosa.”
Van Weelden says that he looks forward to once again serving the Mahaska County community. He says that when he lost two years ago, there were many questions in regards to his status legally, “I knew I was innocent from the start, it just took a long time to get there. I think I’ll continue to do what I did before, and that’s being the best representative I can be,” Van Weelden said in closing.