DES MOINES, Iowa — In less than two years, she went from an aggressive voice of protest inside Des Moines City Council chambers to complete and total silence.
After becoming the Council’s youngest elected member, Indira Sheumaker has now become its first to abandon her seat without explanation.
Sheumaker has been absent from all council functions since March 6th. Finally, she was sent a letter via certified mail last week from Des Moines mayor, Frank Cownie. The letter asked that Sheumaker explain her actions by 5 pm Monday, or the council would consider her position “abandoned.”
Every attempt to deliver that letter to Sheumaker was unsuccessful — even when it was taken to her home by a professional process server. But Cownie said Monday’s deadline would still stand. Sheumaker did not respond at all and her colleagues on the Council said she’s officially had her chance, and it’s time to move on.
“Part of being a council member is that you have to show up,” said Ward 4 representative, Joe Gatto, “and for six months we have not heard from Indira, so I don’t think it’s fair to the residents of Ward One or the entire city of Des Moines that she continues to get paid. So yeah, it’s time for us to take some action.”
It’s an odd turn of events for someone who was once so vocal. She was among the leaders of several loud protests in favor of defunding the police inside Council Chambers in 2021. Once elected, Sheumaker openly sparred with other council members and cast lone dissenting votes, and was accompanied at meetings by family members and friends who berated the other members of the Council from the audience.
But before long, Sheumaker began to stop communicating with her constituents and eventually stopped coming to meetings last summer. After missing a string of meetings with no explanation she finally resurfaced, claiming she’d been battling COVID and depression. This spring, she disappeared again and all attempts by media, constituents, and city leaders to reach her seem to have been unsuccessful.
Her colleagues on the Council say they have no idea what happened to her. They call it a huge disappointment to those who elected her.
“I was told one time that it’s much easier to get elected than it is to govern,” said at-large councilwoman, Connie Boesen, “and I believe that’s true. Going through the process of an election–it’s an invigorating time and people are gung ho — but then you have to govern.”
At this point, the council can really only move on with another small step. At the next meeting (which is September 11th due to the Labor Day holiday) they’ll set a date to hold a hearing for Sheumaker’s removal — likely sometime in October. After that, the council will decide on its next course of action, which could include filling her seat by appointment or by special election.