Wirin says goodbye to city council after 16 years
When Bethany Wirin started her campaign for city council in 2005, she had no idea her tenure would last 16 years.
“I never thought it would last this long. I didn’t think that far ahead,” she said. “How could I?”
When thinking about her time spent in the council chambers, serving as mayor pro-tem for four different mayors and a variety of fellow councilors and city staff, she fondly recalls what she learned along the way.
Wirin had an interest in the political process and government as a whole when she was in junior high and high school. She was raised in Marshalltown and graduated from Marshalltown High School, but it was not until she was living in Minneapolis several years later when she found herself getting more involved in local government.
“I was in my mid to late 20s — I volunteered to be an election judge,” Wirin said. “I was paying more attention to the process of elections and how they work. I was seeing all the yard signs in my neighborhood. All the names on the signs, I didn’t know. They were just ordinary people to me. I thought, ‘I would do that.’ It would be great to serve that way.”
When Wirin moved back to Marshalltown in 2005, she joined the local Young Professionals group. Mayor Floyd Harthun, who was not running for re-election, was trying to get younger residents to become more involved with local offices, boards and commissions. He visited with the Young Professionals, speaking to a room of up to 100 people, telling them of what a rich opportunity serving on city council could be.
Some weeks later, Wirin saw the mayor downtown and asked him if anyone had taken him up on the advice to run for council. Only one person had responded to his call to action and was not looking at a council seat.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m kind of interested, but I haven’t lived here for a lot of years and wouldn’t know where to start,'” Wirin said.
Harthun put Wirin in contact with a couple of people to help her along her path. They sent her out to speak with more people, then more. Before she knew it, Wirin was all in. She won her race, and on Jan. 1, 2006, she started her first term. Before long, her ideas would start to stand out among her colleagues.
“I hadn’t been on the council very long. Maybe months,” she said. “We were talking about sewer rates. At the time, we didn’t do a professional study. We just did it on our own. We talked about five or six different options. One of the options, Mayor (Gene) Beach, when we were voting, called it ‘Bethany’s option.’ That’s what we ended up going with. That was really neat. It definitely felt like I was helping and serving the community the way I expected I would be.”
One of the issues Wirin most wanted to address as a member of the council was property maintenance. Along with her colleagues, the city has emphasized removing dangerous and dilapidated buildings and property maintenance code to ensure properties are held to an acceptable standard.
Wirin could often be seen entering council chambers with her twin children in tow. With her fourth term nearing its end, she heeded the words of her daughters in deciding this was the time to step away from the office.
“My children said, ‘Don’t run again, Mommy,'” she said. “They’re 11-year-old twins. I was so privileged. I dragged them to meetings. They were always welcomed. I brought them to all kinds of events. They need me in a different way now. I love that new people wanted to step up and do this job and serve the community in this way.”
Mayor Joel Greer had a long list of adjectives come to mind when thinking of how to describe Wirin — innately intelligent, thoughtful, kind, unflappable, conscientious and considerate were just a few. He hopes her example will inspire other women in the community to consider running for city council.
“I really regret our city council and mayor will all be male. We have a city that has a lot of females in leadership. We need their experience and their advice on votes,” he said. “I challenge the next generation of females in our community to step up and do what (Wirin) did. She did it with a full-time household and family responsibilities, and with a full-time job running the Christian school here in town. I’m really going to miss her advice and counsel.”