COUNCIL BLUFFS — On Tuesday, Council Bluffs voters will choose a mayor other than Tom Hanafan for the first time in a quarter century.
Brent Siegrist and Matt Walsh are vying to replace Hanafan, who is stepping down after 25 years. The Democrat is the longest-serving current mayor of any major Iowa city.
Siegrist, 61, and Walsh, 57, are both Republicans in the officially nonpartisan race.
Siegrist hails the city’s progress but says that doesn’t mean a “fresh look” isn’t the best way to approach the future.
“There’s a real feeling out there that it’s time for a change, time to take a fresh look,” Siegrist said. “I think I represent that change.”
Walsh contends he knows the ins and outs of daily city government functions better than anyone except Hanafan.
“Our town has had an amazing transformation,” he adds, “and I would like to help continue with that.”
Walsh, a commercial lender for Security National Bank, has served the past 18 years on the Council Bluffs City Council. Siegrist, executive director of the Area Education Agencies of Iowa for the past nine years, represented Council Bluffs for 18 years in the Iowa House, including several years as majority leader. He did not seek re-election in 2002.
Siegrist wants to get more residents involved in city government. To that end, on the Monday evenings when the City Council is not in session, Siegrist would hold meetings throughout the community to make it easier for the public to offer input.
“You’ve got to reach out and try to engage the public,” Siegrist said.
He cites his administrative experience and says that, if elected, he would bring department heads together to find ways to run the city more efficiently. He also said he would convene a summit on the city’s housing needs and begin the steps toward creating a strategic action plan for Council Bluffs.
Though Walsh says “the city is doing well,” he said he knows Council Bluffs will face challenges in the near future.
Now that state lawmakers have approved legislation to reduce commercial property taxes, Walsh said, it will be more imperative than ever that new businesses need to be recruited and that those in the city remain.
He said his experience working with business owners over the years gives him an advantage in economic development recruitment efforts.
One area where economic development can occur, along with beautification, is West Broadway, he said.
“We need to vastly improve the look of West Broadway with the current lane structure. There are ways we can landscape the area. We can do decorative lighting, rebuild sidewalks, put in landscaping.”
The demolition of the vacant Bunge elevators and the removal of unused railroad tracks south of the West Broadway corridor will provide expansive space needed for large retailers, Walsh said.
Siegrist’s list of endorsements includes Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican.
Hanafan and the current members of the City Council are among those who have endorsed Walsh.