Mayoral candidates offer clear choice for voters
Differ on key issues
Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories on Wednesday night’s Times-Republican-Iowa Valley Community College sponsored debate. Today’s story will focus on the mayoral contest between Joel Greer and Gary Thompson. Friday’s will cover Sue Cahill in the first ward and Mike Gowdy in the Third Ward.
By MIKE DONAHEY
Marshalltown voters will have a clear choice between two candidates — and the city’s direction when election day dawns Nov. 7.
That was evident during the second of two debate programs co-hosted by the Times-Republican and Iowa Valley Community College District Wednesday night in DeJardin Hall on the campus of Marshalltown Community College.
Wednesday’s main event featured mayoral candidates Joel Greer and Gary Thompson.
Joining Greer and Thompson were First Ward candidate Sue Cahill and Third Ward Councilor Mike Gowdy.
Cahill is challenging First Ward Councilor Dan Kester. He is vice-president of sales and marketing at Marshalltown Co., and could not attend because of previously scheduled business trip.
Gowdy is unopposed.
All outlined their vision for Marshalltown on a wide range of topics presented by moderator Jeff Hutton, managing editor of the Times-Republican.
On Tuesday, four at-large candidates debated also in DeJardin Hall.
Greer and Thompson outlined their positions on the city budget, a petition by two residents to sever their properties from the city, how best to engage residents in council decision-making, including the Latino population, security cameras installed throughout the county and more. Each gave opening statements before answering numerous questions. All gave closing statements.
For mayor-Joel Greer
After nearly six years serving as second ward councilor, Joel Greer hopes voters will elect him mayor.
A Spencer native, Greer, 64, is an attorney and managing partner at Cartwright, Druker &
A devoted volunteer, he has dedicated substantial time over many years assisting, and providing free legal advice to a wide variety of civic groups ranging from the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation to TRAILS, Inc. to the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA.
He was founder of Light our Courthouse, Hughes Grove Historic Neighborhood Inc. and Marshall County Crimestoppers.
At a recent Chamber of Commerce-sponsored City Council Candidate Forum, Greer outlined his plan to govern the city.
He said a key mayoral responsibility would be to “stay out of the way” of City Administrator Jessica Kinser.
He and other incumbents at the forum, and in T-R/IVCCD debates cited Kinser’s initiative, skill set and ability to help carry out council directives.
During Wednesday’s debate he outlined more:
— He strongly supports the current mayor-city council-city administrator form of government.
— Greer, along with a majority of councilors, voted to spend $30,000 in 2016 to help develop a multi-purpose recreational trail from Marshalltown to Steamboat Rock. TRAILS, Inc. a not-for-profit group, has raised more than $4 million dollars, much of it from private donations and successful grant applications to the state of Iowa, as well as business and charitable foundations. Greer said the $30,000 was needed “local match” money which secured thousands of dollars more from in state grants and foundations.
— Greer voted no to a request from three property owners to sever their properties from the city. The owners claimed they are paying taxes but receiving no services, an allegation the city denies. He believes, as did other councilors, allowing the severance would generate a “snowball” effect and others would be induced to submit severance petitions.
“I want to expand the city’s footprint, not shrink it,” he said.
— Greer said as a board member of Crime Stoppers, he played a role in helping raise more than $104,000, which provides cash rewards for tips to apprehend criminals and has proven to be a proven crime deterrent according to law enforcement officials. Recently the group secured donations of $20,000 from the city, $20,000 from the county, melded with $20,000 from Crime Stoppers. Those funds will allow for the installation of security cameras throughout Marshalltown and the county. Installation will begin in the immediate future.
— He cited a vote to approve a city expenditure to the Marshall Economic Development for a housing study. Past investments allowed MED to develop initiatives to spur more building of housing in the $100,000 to $175,000 range in hopes of attracting employees of Marshalltown businesses currently commuting in from Ames, Ankeny, Des Moines and elsewhere.
— This election many candidates have called for more involvement from residents to participate in city government or volunteer organizations. Greer cited his involvement in bringing in many residents to serve on various city council committees and community development organizations such as Vision Iowa, I Give a Damn About Marshalltown, and TRAILS, Inc.
For mayor-Gary Thompson
Thompson, 59, told the audience he was “one of you … the son of a factory worker who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.” He has worked at Lenexa Manufacturing, and successfully managed two UPS Stores, one In Marshalltown and one in Ames.
(He sold the stores in a divorce settlement last year, and recently resigned a position with a local business to devote full time to campaign for mayor).
He said he would advocate strongly for Marshalltown and is “passionate about the city.”
His positions on the city’s form of government, differs substantially from Greer.
— He strongly opposes the mayor-council-administrator form of government. He believes the salary paid to City Administrator Jessica Kinser (an estimated $132,000) could be better spent elsewhere. He advocates the mayor and council taking on a stronger role in managing the city, relying on city department heads to effectively manage their departments. “I am not anti-Jessica Kinser,” he said. Alleged city administrator is “holding the hands” of department heads making $80,000 to $90,000 per year. Claimed earlier this month at a forum Howard Stegman was the “last strong Marshalltown mayor.”
— Said if elected, he would use his veto power to block “wasteful” spending by the city and would “hold city councilors accountable” for budget inefficiencies.
— Thompson said he is favor of the Iowa River Trail and public art, but questioned whether the city could afford spending $30,000 on the IRT in 2016. He did not specify how much city money has been spent on public art. He claimed the city had pressing infrastructure needs which take precedence.
— Thompson supports the efforts of two property owners (Monte and Leisha Eaton and James and Susan Gruening) to sever their properties from the city. He supported their claim they are not receiving city services for taxes paid, a claim the city vehemently denies. The City Development Board will discuss the severance case in Des Moines Nov. 8. They have up to 90 days to issue a ruling.
— Agreed with Greer on supporting the installations of security cameras throughout Marshalltown and the county, sponsored by Crime Stoppers. Said it was “one of the best returns on investment possible … money well spent for public safety.”
— Thompson advocates a campaign to convince Lennox Manufacturing to move their corporate headquarters from Texas back to Marshalltown.
— Advocates enforcing numerous ordinances on the books which would make Marshalltown cleaner and more attractive. Gave examples of one downtown property which was violating city ordinances regarding its building exterior.
— As mayor, would focus “on the little things,” which cumulatively would significantly add up to improve the community.
Contact Mike Donahey at 641-753-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org