Kester: ‘Some guys golfed, I built houses’

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When First Ward Councilor Dan Kester turned in his nomination papers certifying his name would be on the Nov. 7 ballot, he followed through on a pledge.

The pledge was to run for a full, four-year term.

He made that pledge to the mayor and six city councilors at a special city council meeting in April.

The purpose of the meeting was to interview eight others interested in completing the late First Ward Councilor Bob Schubert’s term.

Schubert died in March.

By Iowa law, the council could select a replacement. Schubert had been elected in November, 2013 to represent the ward beginning Jan. 1, 2014 through Dec. 31, 2017.

After several rounds of questions to each candidate, Kester was selected by a 5-1 vote, beating out other candidates,

including Sue Cahill, who will be his opponent on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Councilors cited Kester’s business experience as key.

Kester, 50, has been employed as Vice-President of Sales and Marketing at Marshalltown Co. for nearly 17 years.

A native, he is a 1985 Marshalltown High School graduate and built 22 homes “on the side” while working full time for Marshalltown Co.

“Some guys golfed,” Kester said. “I built houses.”

Councilors also cited Kester and spouse Lora Kester for purchasing a downtown building and remodeling the second floor into their living quarters.

“I see the city facing more and more challenges, especially in setting budget priorities and balancing the budget in the years ahead,” Kester said during the April 3 interview.

Fast forward seven months later, and Kester, like other councilors, is closely following Marshalltown’s $50-million budget, because of mounting concerns the state legislature will seriously reduce, or eliminate the “backfill” allocation to Iowa towns. “Backfill” was installed by the state legislature under the Branstad legislation to replace revenue lost as a result of commercial property tax rollback initiated several years ago.

In fiscal year 2017, Marshalltown received $435,345.53 in “backfill” from the state, said City Finance Director Diana Steiner.

Kester, along with other councilors has said the council will have to make tough choices if the backfill is reduced or eliminated in the 2018 legislative session.

It is a real possibility of reduction or elimination, since state revenues have fallen short of projections, and the state recently borrowed from its “rainy day fund.”

Kester said he has learned “a lot” since becoming a councilor.

He has gained a reputation for one keeping a sharp eye on city expenditures.

“My big concern where we are heading is the police and fire headquarters … my concern is what it is going to do city finances. We need to be wise with spending on that facility.

If we can save six percent, that is almost $1,000,000, we can use someplace else,” he said. “City governments in general have this philosophy, ‘I have this budget, I have to spend it. That is not the way our family budgets work. If there is one thing I would try to impress upon our city is let us not spend it if it is not needed. I don’t care if it is the budget or not.”

Despite domestic and overseas travel commitments at Marshalltown Co., Kester said he has 100 percent attendance at council meetings.

He regreted not being able to attend a Oct. 11 Chamber of Commerce City Council Candidate Forum, and will also miss a Times-Republican-Iowa Valley Community College sponsored debate Oct. 24 also to business commitments.

“It is unfortunate (to miss the forum and debate) but Marshalltown Co. has allowed me to focus on the council activities,” Kester said. “I have 100 percent attendance … but I also have to take care of business. These were trips that had already been scheduled, were on the books, and involved other people. If it was just me going out to make sales calls, I would re-schedule.”

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Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or mdonahey@timesrepublican.com