Looking back but moving forward

Marshalltown Mayor Jim Lowrance shares his views on the past four years

I am nearing the end of my term as mayor of Marshalltown. So, now is a time of reflection for me, and I have had time to think about the positive change seen in our community since I took office in January 2014. I wanted to share with you some of the areas in which I have been most proud of our community’s accomplishments. And many are truly community accomplishments involving community organizations, volunteers, businesses, and city employees.

Investment in the community

Marshalltown was designated as an Iowa Great Places community in 2014, and we have prospered under this designation. Partners have come forward to help develop new housing for all ages and income levels and throughout the community, including Orton Homes, the Willows, Woodlands Construction and Schrom Properties. This would not have happened without a housing study which put data to what we all knew and gave developers a reason to look at Marshalltown.

Our business districts have continued to redevelop and thrive. 13th Street has seen millions of dollars in private and public investment over the last four years and has become a unique destination within Marshalltown. Downtown Marshalltown has thrived as well. The Iowa Wholesale Building, Tallcorn Towers, and Kibbey building provide distinctive housing experiences, with the Gallery Garden become a state and nationally recognized reuse and stormwater project.

Businesses have seen positive growth in the last four years as well. Whether it was the introduction of new retail, like Hobby Lobby, Slumberland, expanded retail, like Theisens, dining options, like the Brew House, West End Perk, and Dunkin’ Donuts, or industrial growth from Midwest Manufacturing and Alliant Energy, our community has benefited from these additions and changes.

The private and public investment in trails has and will continue to enhance the quality of life in our community for decades to come. The Iowa River Trail is now completely paved inside city limits and the work continues outside the city. Trails Inc. has been an invaluable partner to the city, and we should all feel proud of their efforts and the trail as we take advantage of a new recreational opportunity in the community.

City facilities and parks

One of my proudest accomplishments as mayor has been to see the City through the process of telling our story to the community as to why a new facility was needed for the Police and Fire Departments. I was very proud to see everyone work together — citizens led by Paul Peglow, elected officials, employees — to achieve something truly monumental for this community.

The City’s reinvestment in our parks system has also brought about new opportunities for families and kids of all ages. Mega-10 Park is the place to be. While some children at the park encouraged me to ride the zip line, I declined, but only because the line was too long. The West End Courts transformation to futsal courts is well under way, and I am very proud to say Marshalltown will have the first outdoor futsal courts in Iowa.

I am excited to see what is yet to come for the Coliseum. In early 2017, a feasibility study was completed and gave us an idea of the untapped potential of the facility. As we begin to look at funding sources for a potential rehabilitation, I am proud that we have stated that this is a facility that must remain an active part of our community.

Financial stability

The city of Marshalltown has seen significant financial challenges in the last four years. Property values declined as the State of Iowa introduced property tax legislation which continues to be a financial threat. We have worked to reduce the costs of the city’s organization while still meeting the service expectations of the community. The community again rallied behind the city to give us more flexibility in our use of Local Option Sales Tax and helped to secure a positive financial position for the city now and in the future.

City employees

One of the most enjoyable parts from my time as mayor has been getting acquainted with many of the more than 200 full-time and part-time city employees. I wish everyone could come to know our professional staff and be impressed with the constant professionalism displayed in all departments.

We have also seen a number of new faces in our management team with the city over the last four years, including Fire Chief David Rierson, Public Works Director/City Engineer Justin Nickel, Parks and Recreation Director Anne Sellness, Finance Director Diana Steiner and City Administrator Jessica Kinser. We were fortunate to have been able to add such outstanding individuals to the city’s leadership team. This amount of turnover could have been damaging to the city and our operations, but these professionals quickly picked up their roles and have proceeded in working together to make our community a better place.

Emerging leaders

In addition to the new leaders the city has added to our community, a number of others have emerged in the last four years to take on significant leadership positions and roles. I am proud this community has created meaningful opportunities for involvement.

Vision for the future

As I conclude my term as mayor, I can proudly say the vision for the future of Marshalltown is bright. With funding from the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation, the city has put together a Parks and Recreation Master Plan and will be starting a study in 2018 for improvements on the Highway 14/North 3rd Avenue corridor. These studies along with the city’s goals and strategic plan and capital improvement plan provide a roadmap for how the city can continue to contribute to increasing pride in the community.

While challenges will always present themselves to the future elected officials of the city of Marshalltown, the resiliency of the community and the positive momentum for enhancement of quality of life will keep us all moving forward to a Marshalltown we can all take pride in.

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Jim Lowrance is the current mayor of Marshalltown.