The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

February 15, 2013

New Main Street director: Listening is key

OTTUMWA — The first thing Main Street Ottumwa’s new director wants to do is listen and build relationships throughout the community.

Bob Untiedt, Main Street Ottumwa’s new executive director, said one of the biggest things a community organization such as MSO needs to work on is “pulling people together to create a common vision.”

MSO board president Fred Zesiger said Untiedt’s work as a nonprofit executive and his experience in nonprofit board development, advocacy, leadership, fundraising and program management snagged the board’s attention.

Untiedt has previously served as the director of Food Reservoir, a project in Hiawatha that increased food distribution throughout the area; executive director of the Linn County Nonprofit Resource Center; executive director of Hollywood Interfaith, a faith-based community organization in Hollywood; and community organizer of the San Francisco Organizing Project.

With any economic development, Untiedt said someone needs to maintain enthusiasm within the community.

“From the conversations I’ve had with people here already and through some of the research I’ve done, there are lots of opportunities,” he said.

One project that particularly caught his eye was the Downtown Master Facade Improvement Program, which, if the city is awarded a $500,000 grant, would vastly improve the storefronts in the 300 block of East Main Street. In total, it’s a $1 million project that has pulled in funding from the city’s CIP, Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation and property owners in the designated block.

With the training and development experience Untiedt has had with nonprofit organizations, he said he ought to be able to move MSO forward.

“I’m pretty good at engaging people, volunteers,” he said. “But it also helps to have the perspective that I don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room.”

Especially at first, Untiedt said he will rely on MSO’s board and committees to teach him everything about the organization, about Ottumwa and about their goals and vision.

One idea Untiedt wants to implement is referring to volunteers not as volunteers but as leaders.

“All of these people bring their passions and their visions here,” he said. “There’s so much I can learn from them.”

There are three main goals Untiedt wants to focus on when he begins his position on Feb. 25:

• Gain an in-depth understanding of the visions and values of the MSO board.

• Manage the activities that have already been planned.

• Listen.

The third goal is probably the most important, he said, because while he has done some preliminary research on Ottumwa, “it’s limited.”

“I’m not an expert in Ottumwa,” he said. “I’ll be more successful if I’ve formed those relationships.”

But he’s not afraid of leading, he said.

“I’m not a Quaker in everything I do,” he said. “We do have to go and we’ve got to get things done.”

The perception Untiedt has gained of Ottumwa so far is that “it’s on the way back from where it’s been.

“I’m not comparing it to any other community or to what it used to be, but it sounds like it’s on its way back up,” he said.

Main Streets and downtowns across the nation are starting to dwindle, and some extremely small towns in Iowa are on the verge of disappearing, but Untiedt said that doesn’t have to happen here.

“My whole life I’ve heard this notion of a ‘brain drain,’” he said. “Iowa brings in a large number of people at the age of 18, but then those same people at 25 are the ones who leave.”

The goal for communities like Ottumwa is to figure out 1) how to create a diverse and healthy economy that creates the jobs young professionals want and 2) how to sustain a vibrant quality of life that makes them stay.

“Decent jobs are No. 1 in retaining young adults,” he said. “But second — and it’s a close second — is what is there to do for fun?”

From what he’s gathered so far, Ottumwa’s economic development organizations work well together, and those good working relationships will only help further each organization’s goals.

“It should be easy to work with other groups in economic development,” he said. “I’d love to see a Venn diagram of their interests and how they overlap.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Van Buren says bye-bye to Waste Management KEOSAUQUA — Waste Management has been charging the Van Buren Community School District an average of nearly $1,600 a month to remove waste and recycled materials from the Douds and Keosauqua centers. Now faced with a bidding process, Waste Management

    July 23, 2014

  • Pesticide use is not all bad OTTUMWA — When you pick up a grocery ad, it seems like every other page has a produce item stamped USDA Organic, meaning that those items were spared from chemicals including Glyphosate, the most common pesticide in the world. As the Organic Food Mov

    July 23, 2014

  • 0724 OTT Kitchen Science color photo -L -T Kitchen science sparks curiosity OTTUMWA — A lucky group of children spent Wednesday morning experimenting with kitchen science and creating geysers of foam at the Knights of Columbus hall. The Kitchen Science performance was presented by Waterloo's Grout Museum and is part of the O

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Making something of themselves OTTUMWA — Community leaders this week heard how Ottumwa's Job Corps started from nothing yet became successful. But they also heard from students who said they were doing nothing until they found success through Job Corps. "After I dropped out of hig

    July 23, 2014

  • Prosecution: All evidence points to Techel as killer DAVENPORT — Just as all roads lead to Rome, so all evidence points to a Wapello County man accused of killing his wife, according to the prosecution. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Prosser, who is prosecuting the case for the third time, said defe

    July 23, 2014

  • New charges filed in abuse case OTTUMWA — A single charge against a man for sexual abuse has been replaced by a new trial information, and authorities are throwing the book at him. Grant Troxel was initially charged in early June with sexual abuse. But the new list of charges indic

    July 23, 2014

  • 0724 OTT car investigation color photo -L Tip led to Tuesday arrest OTTUMWA — There was more to the incident Tuesday in which officers surrounded a car near U.S. Bank in downtown Ottumwa than just a routine traffic stop. Police Chief Tom McAndrew said Jason Tobek, 36, is in custody and faces charges of interference w

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Eldon man gets five year prison term KEOSAUQUA — An Eldon man was sentenced to five years in prison in Van Buren District Court for his role in an October 2012 altercation in Selma, which escalated into shots being fired into the home or Randall Ritz, 11883 Bridge St., Selma. Donald E.

    July 23, 2014

  • Emergency council meeting Friday OTTUMWA — Ottumwa’s City Council will meet for a second time this week, this time to discuss an emergency problem at the city’s Water Pollution Control Facility. The special meeting will be conducted at 1 p.m. Friday in the council chambers. Earlier

    July 23, 2014

  • 0723 OTT Riverfront color photo -L -M Ideas flow at Riverfront Renaissance workshop OTTUMWA — Ideas flowed as freely as the river itself Tuesday evening as more than 100 Ottumwans shared their vision of what the riverfront can be.The Riverfront Renaissance design charrette, sponsored by the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation, drew p

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook