WAUKEE, Iowa — Dallas County Recorder Chad Airhart announced Friday that he will not seek reelection in 2022.
The three-term Republican from Waukee was first elected in 2010 after winning a contested primary and then defeating the 22-year incumbent recorder, Carol “Cindy” Holn, in the general election. He ran unopposed in 2014 and 2018.
Airhart’s impressive victory in 2010 was matched with fundraising ability and political acumen, making his endorsements worth courting by Republican state and national politicians. He backed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty in the 2012 Iowa caucuses and former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in the 2016 contests.
While holding elected office, Airhart has also served on the executive board of the Iowa County Recorders Association (ICRA), legislation liaison for ICRA and chairman of the Iowa Republican County Officials Association, and he was the recipient of the Property Records Industry Associations Carl Ernst Scholarship in 2014, an award bestowed on only one county-level elected officeholder nationwide.
In spite of his promising political prospects, Airhart said he is leaving office in part because of the increasing partisan polarization in Iowa politics, which he said is harming the public interest in good policy.
“The extremes of each of the Republican and Democrat parties have made it more difficult to accomplish legislative changes towards more sensible local government, which has always been a top priority for me,” Airhart said. “It has become harder and harder to find common ground in the legislature on common sense issues either because of political ideology, the political divide or special interests asserting their influence. While this is not new to the world of politics, I have watched it worsen over the past 10 years and, sadly, what I and many others in ICRA believe is good public policy fell by the wayside time and time again. I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life wanting to get into ‘the room’ and affect change, to effectively try to square the circle, only to sadly find out that many times a circle will always be a circle.”
Airhart said he sought the office of recorder in 2010 with the goals of modernizing the technology and streamlining the office, and he has accomplished both of those goals. All the records in the Dallas County Recorder’s office have been digitized back to 1850 and are all available to the public online for free.
Airhart noted that the number of images and volume of data available to the public online is greater than that of any other Iowa county. His office has also digitized all of Dallas County’s vital records — birth, death and marriage — as well as all of the military records filed in the office.
Along with digitizing the records, Airhart said he is proud that the office operated in the black during each year under his leadership. The Dallas County Recorder’s office operated without using a penny of the taxpayers’ hard-earned property tax dollars, he said. The office was self-sufficient from fees received for services, fees that were set by the Iowa Legislature in the Iowa Code.
Airhart has been true to his mantra: “You spend less than you take in.” Under his guidance, the recorder’s office has returned nearly $4 million to the county general fund.
“These are funds that the county does not have to collect in property taxes to operate other departments,” he said, “and because of the fiscal management of the recorder’s office, the need for additional Dallas County property taxes has been reduced.”
Airhart said he feels a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s been the honor of my life to have been elected three times to serve the people of Dallas County,” he said. “I’m proud of how we have run the recorder’s office and what we’ve been able to accomplish. I will forever be grateful to the citizens of Dallas County for the opportunity, to my colleagues with whom I have shared elected office in Dallas County and throughout our great state and to my staff, who have worked so hard to accomplish all we have. I’m not sure that there are any other recorder’s that have been more successful in advancing as we have.”
In 2020 Dallas County recorded the third-largest number of documents in the state of Iowa, behind only Polk and Linn counties. Dallas County remains the fastest growing county in Iowa and one of the fastest growing in America.
“While the workload has increased greatly, the advances in technology have allowed the staff to do more with less,” he said. “So while the workload has more than doubled annually in the last 10 years, the staff size in the Dallas County Recorder’s office is smaller today than it was when I took office.”
Airhart praised his office staff for their diligence and camaraderie during his decade at the helm.
“I am extremely proud of the professionalism of my staff,” Airhart said, “as well as the relationships with other elected officials, and how well the staffs of different offices have worked together to ensure quality customer service to the public while ensuring government works for those that need its services most.”
Airhart would not say whether he was getting out of politics forever.
“I never ran because I wanted to make a career out of being recorder,” he said. “I feel my goals and challenges as recorder have been met, and there is nothing more for me to accomplish here. I could run again and, if elected, manage the office effectively, but that is not what I want to do, nor do I feel it is fair to the citizens of Dallas County. At only 43 years of age, I’m hopeful that there is a lot of life left out there for me to do many other things, and I look forward to focusing on my family, business and whatever opportunities present themselves in the future.”