Wirin: ‘I love the momentum’ in the city of Marshalltown

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If re-elected Nov. 7, Councilor At Large Bethany Wirin is fired up and ready to go for a fourth four-year term.

She cited a number of proposed projects — such as those planned for the Veterans Memorial Coliseum — and the work of Vision Marshalltown, which promotes a positive image of the community. She spoke highly of Marshall Economic Development’s efforts to develop a team of partners — of which the city was one — to help convince Alliant Energy, despite stiff state-wide competition, to build in Marshalltown a state-of-the art, gas-fired electricity generating plant.

It broke ground July 15, 2014, cost nearly $650 million to build, and pumped $47.3 million into the Marshalltown economy.

At its peak, 1,300 construction workers were on site.

It significantly increased the amount of natural gas flowing into Marshalltown, benefiting local businesses, industry, and residential customers.

Wirin is the longest-serving councilor of the current city council — having been elected in 2005 — and is Mayor Pro Tem (Vice-Mayor) meaning she fills in when Mayor Lowrance is not available.

At a recent Chamber of Commerce-sponsored City Council Candidate forum, she touted her experience and interpersonal skills, which she said contributed to a number of major accomplishments benefitting residents. They ranged from replacing severely dilapidated fire and police stations with the new joint police-fire department headquarters under construction (with occupancy estimated December 2018) to $4 million in major street improvements the last two years to the hiring of competent fire and police chiefs and a city administrator.

“I love the momentum we have going right now,” she said. “I just want to continue to build on that.”

Wirin said she is looking forward to learning more about the proposed city-Iowa Department of Transportation partnership to make significant improvements on Highway 14 which runs through town.

“It is that type of thing … it would be a big investment, but it is looking toward the future,” she said. “It is saying to us, ‘what do we really want for our community?’ There are so many exciting things going on, I want to see it continue.”

The passage of the Local Option Sales Tax measure earlier this year by voters gave Wirin another reason to be optimistic about the city’s future.

By a tally of 603 yes to 535 no, Marshalltown voters approved the re-allocation of approximately $3 million annually in local option sales tax funds received by the city.

Wirin said it was important to provide more property tax relief to residents.

The city is currently applying annual LOST revenue to 75 percent property tax relief, 20 percent capital improvements and 5 percent any legal purpose authorized by tcouncil. The city needed passage to amend it to 78 percent property tax relief and 22 percent any legal purpose authorized by council.

The number one problem in Marshalltown, according to Wirin is getting more people interested in community activities, ranging from city government to volunteering for not-for-profit groups.

“Developing desires and skills in people around town to be part of the community is important,” she said. “Because it is so easy for us to get isolated today, to feel powerless to actually contribute. I noticed this the first time I ran in 2005, many people were involved and many were not. The feeling of togetherness is not a unique problem to Marshalltown … regardless, the long term goal is to get folks involved.”

Incumbent Wirin is not taking the race for granted.

She and fellow incumbent Bill Martin are on the ballot with three challengers.

Martin, a former school counselor and retried Iowa Valley Community College District educator, was first elected in 2013.

Challengers are Brittany O’Shea, David Shearer and Mark Eaton. O’Shea is running on a platform of safety, town aesthetics and frugal spending. Shearer served on the council circa 1982. He wants the council to be more engaged with residents. Eaton moved back after managing business interests in Utah, and is eager to bring a business approach to the council.

In the 2013 election with six candidates running for two at large seats, Wirin received 1,318 votes or 34 percent. Martin received 1,096 or nearly 29 percent.

The other candidates split the remaining 1,397 votes.

Wirin, 44, was born and raised in Marshalltown, and then went away for college.

She and husband Bruce Wirin lived in the Twin Cities for a time before moving to Marshalltown.

The Wirins’ two children, Ben and Betsy, are enrolled at Marshalltown Christian School, where Bethany Wirin is executive director.

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