Shearer: ‘City council moving farther away from the people

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Re-engaging Marshalltown residents with city government is candidate David Shearer’s top priority.

Shearer is one of five candidates competing for two councilor at-large seats on the Nov. 7 ballot.

He said he is running office because he does not like a number of recent council decisions.

If elected, he would encourage citizen input and participation.

City governance “from the bottom-up” will result in more efficient government, one more responsive to resident’s needs, and one residents will take ownership in, he said.

Shearer, 55, served one term on the city council circa 1982.

Then, he was a young man in his 20s.

And he acknowledged at a recent Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum a lot has changed since he served.

One significant change was Marshalltown’s form of city government.

When Shearer served, the city operated under the “Mayor-Council” form of government, meaning the mayor and city council managed day-to-day city operations with city department heads. The mayor worked full-time, much like a company president, with councilors putting in many hours too.

In the 1990s, voters approved a switch to “Mayor-Council-City Administrator” form. Meaning, the mayor and council were still elected by voters and answered to them. However, under that form the mayor and city council delegated a lot of the day-to-day city governance tasks to a paid, and professionally-trained city administrator.

In short, the mayor and council established policy and the city administrator would be asked to carry it out.

The city administrator could address and resolve issues a seemingly detached professional manner. One that was cost effective and efficient, and the administrator would not be swayed by any number of intangibles.

Jessica Kinser is the current city administrator, and on Nov. 15, she will celebrate her first anniversary with the city. Four city administrators served previously.

At the Chamber forum, Shearer identified a second change.

“When I was on the council, we had consent agenda items (on city expenditures) totaling $40,000 … now they are in the millions.”

Shearer said he does not like some of the things he has seen from the current council.

“The council is moving farther away from the people,” he said. “The council needs to be closer to the people. An example would be the (recent city council policy) change

on public comments. “If the council needs to be there until 2 a.m. listening to people’s concerns, within reason.

Shearer has a second major concern — council interaction with department heads.

“I believe strongly one supports the city’s department heads,” he said. “But a councilor needs to know what the thinking is, not just be a rubber stamp … it is that kind of trend that bothers me.”

If elected, Shearer said he would attend department head meetings and the departments, a habit he developed when he served.

“When I served, I was on three major committees,” he said. “One was community development — then, there was a major expansion at the Water Pollution Control Plant, and major expansions at Hy-Vee and Swift & Co. (now JBS). I also was on Street and Alley and General Government … it was powerful … we did everything. There was a sidewalk issue and downtown parking was an ongoing issue too.

Importantly, with committee form we were intimately involved with department heads and what they were doing, meaning, the councilor had a better insight before bringing it to the council … that is what has been lost.”

Shearer, working as a preacher (his words) at Marshalltown Church of Christ” said honesty with residents is central to his campaign.

“I know a lot of people in town,” he said. “I have served on a lot of committees and boards over the years. I will do a lot of ‘word of mouth’ … I do not have deep pockets to run a campaign.”

The candidate said he has a strong following and plans to listen to coffee groups, and visiting with people one-to-one.

“People are concerned,” he said.

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