Community was Marshalltown Strong because of great leaders

Disaster response is both chaotic and frightening but it could not top the outstanding leadership of city and county employees in the wake of July’s EF-3 tornado. Thanks to that leadership, our community — while still suffering — is on the road to recovery six months later.

As the Times-Republican staff emerged from our basement on Main Street minutes after the tornado tore through downtown, first responders were already widespread helping to calm the chaos and tending to the injured. Just around the corner at RACOM local law enforcement had begun closing streets and signaling traffic. The leadership of our local agencies and their training in emergency management was paramount to the immediate response.

In the days and month’s following, the city and county officials worked to establish a plan with community safety and taxpayer dollars in mind. While FEMA did not grant individual assistance, it did grant public assistance which required an immense amount of documentation and recording. Individuals like City Administrator Jessica Kinser and Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder played a large role in this.

The Marshall County Courthouse has been one of the biggest pieces of interest for both locals and those outside of our community. County Auditor/Record Nan Benson stayed in the courthouse well into the night after the tornado and has worked tirelessly along with other county leaders like County Buildings and Grounds Director Lucas Baedke on its repair. Because of efficient budgeting, the county supervisors were able to ensure that the damage will not hinder taxpayers.

Mayor Joel Greer knew from the beginning that we needed people to realize the significance of the storm. He’s interviewed with news stations far and wide. And he’s hosted state and federal representatives to make sure that we get access to as many resources as possible.

City councilors had to quickly evaluate community safety and juggle tough tornado-related decisions with priorities that were set long before the storm. The school district leaders have also worked on facilitating resources to families and hosted a variety of events or fundraisers to help those affected. Iowa Valley leaders hosted volunteers and provided space for many entities among other ways of helping.

The efforts from volunteers and residents were extraordinary. Those working for our local government provided a foundation to make it happen. All the efforts from establishing a curfew, removing debris and setting in place mandates for demolition have been important to our journey so far.

Strong communities need effective leadership at both public and private levels and those leaders need to work together. Marshalltown has embraced that. Perhaps one of the best examples is the United Way campaign. It would be easy to think that the organization might not meet its goal this year given the circumstances, but it exceeded the goal thanks to Executive Director Nancy Steveson’s team and co-chairs Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman and Marshalltown Police Capt. Chris Jones.

There is much work yet to come in Marshalltown, but the work done so far is worth recognizing. We are six months into our recovery and with continued leadership Marshalltown will be better than ever.