The Ottumwa Courier

June 17, 2013

Changes coming to council chambers

By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — Four city officials are up for re-election this fall, though only two plan on running.

Mayor Frank Flanders, as well as Councilmen Bob Meyers, Brian Morgan and Jeremy Weller, will finish out their terms at the end of this year.

"Things are looking highly likely that I will [seek re-election]," Flanders said. "I think that we need some continuity of the good things that have been going on in the past few months. The only thing that would prevent me from seeking re-election is if my supporters were to draft me to seek another office."

Flanders will have some competition in Tom Lazio, who announced on Monday his plans to run for mayor.

Lazio said Ottumwa needs a leader who exhibits professionalism to promote the city and provide a positive business climate. Lazio, who served as the executive director of American Home Finding for 45 years, retired last year and said he now has the time to devote to the position.

"I don't know Mr. Lazio all that well, other than having worked with him a little bit with the [Ottumwa Regional] Legacy Foundation," Flanders said. "We'll see what kind of a platform he comes up with."

Flanders said he's proud of his first term as mayor.

"One thing I'm really proud of both as mayor and as a council person before is when people come before the council looking for redress, looking for someone to listen to them sympathetically, I've been there," he said. "I know that there are many citizens out there that have come to recognize that in me and appreciate it. For that reason and for others, I think I stand a chance of being able to improve my numbers in precincts where in the past I've struggled, assuming I do run again."

But both Morgan and Weller plan to sit out this election in order to spend more time with their families and focus on new careers.

"I'm just not prepared to do it for another four years," Morgan said. "As of right now, I'm just kind of ready for a break."

But he did take out papers to run for mayor recently after he said several people approached him about taking the plunge.

Morgan will be finishing his first term on the council, four years he said he's proud of.

But before his term ends, he would like to see a new firetruck purchased for the Ottumwa Fire Department, as well as "everything with Market Street Bridge hammered out."

"We've really done a lot in the last four years, and I'm happy with the way I'm leaving it," he said. "We've put more money into street projects than I believe at any other time in the history of Ottumwa. We've kept sewer rates down ... they went up 12 percent instead of the 50 percent they could have."

Weller said a new job with McCune and Reed Insurance and wanting to spend more time with his wife and son led to his decision to not run.

"I don't want to be tied down — all the meetings, the phone calls, the researching of agenda items and so forth," he said. "It takes time. But I've enjoyed it; I don't regret it at all. I've seen a lot of projects go through and I'd obviously love to stick around and see some more ... but maybe one day down the road as I get a little bit older, maybe I'll do it again."

Weller said the council will leave the city better than it was four years ago.

"One of our goals was streets and sewers," he said. "When we took office, the city was spending $1 million or so a year on streets. This year, with the Market Street Bridge included, that's closer to $10 million. Seeing those kinds of changes, where we've really refocused our funds and put them toward infrastructure and getting streets done, getting grants, it's nice to see those get done."

Meyers plans to run again, and if re-elected, would begin his third term in January.

"I feel like I've learned so much about the various aspects of city government, and I feel like with the things I've learned and the mistakes I've made, to run for a third time would be an opportunity to put all of that to good use," he said.

He said the combination of quality elected officials, city staff and working relationships means the city "can accomplish good things."

"I've been part of councils ... that have hired and put some awfully good people in place and really positive things are happening for the city," he said. "So it would be neat to be part of seeing some of those projects come to completion."

The first time Meyers ran, 13 people ran for three open council spots; the second time he ran, 16 ran for the three open spots.

"The challenge when I run seems to be the number of people who run against you," he said. "In fact, I hope there are a number of good people who do run for council. Then it comes down to the voters."

The filing period for Ottumwa's city election is Aug. 12-29. The primary will be held on Oct. 8, and the general election will be held on Nov. 5.

— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.