OTTUMWA — At Monday night’s school board meeting, the board voted to appoint Jon Bunt as Bill Allen’s interim replacement.
Bunt, who moved to town three-and-a-half years ago, is excited for the opportunity.
“There’s gonna be huge change one way or another,” he said. Then, in reference to the board, added, “I think we’ve got some good minds, good people, and good experience.”
Although Bunt is originally from Ankeny, his family has long ties to Ottumwa. His wife, who works as a nurse at the hospital, visited Ottumwa frequently throughout her youth. When her grandfather passed away, she and Jon moved from Phoenix, Arizona to her grandparents’ old farmhouse, which had been in her family since 1912. So Bunt doesn’t see himself so much as a newcomer, but somebody returning to his family’s roots.
The house required work, which Bunt happily handled himself. Opportunities for reconstruction and rehabilitation only excite him, and he sees much of that same opportunity in Ottumwa. Bunt marveled excitedly at the Hub Coffee Shop, remarking how the building was just an empty, unused building before it was taken over and remodeled by the Bridge Church.
“Change,” he said. “Not for the sake of change, but because it’s the next step to improve the lives of everybody.”
Bunt sees his responsibilities as a member of the school board tied very closely to the needs of the community. When he spoke about ideas that could benefit the district, he saw them as part of a larger effort to benefit the town.
He considers the district’s recent focus on facility management to be a pressing issue. To Bunt, good facilities represent a healthy town, and are one of many factors that can help bring families in. He was especially impressed with SparkTank, and said he hopes to see more the district drive more similar initiatives in the future, such as career mentorship programs.
“We need to make sure we’re forward-looking with purpose and intent,” he said. “Keep long-term opportunities here for everybody.”
Although he knows his confirmed time on the board will be short, as his seat will be up for election at the next school board election on Nov. 5, he said he plans to run for a full term. He sees the next two months as a way to get an upper leg on the other candidates and to acquaint himself with the workings of the board.
If elected, he said facilities will continue to be a top priority, and that he intends to sit in on meetings of the facilities committee. At the school board meeting Monday he also stressed the district’s need for good mental health resources and resources for at-risk students, both of which have been of a similar priority to the district in past years.
Bunt has lived throughout much of the country, and sees his experience living in other places as integral to how he sees the world. He said travel has opened him up to the experiences of other people, and would like to see the district push for student travel and exchange programs.
At the same time, he has his mind fixed fully on Ottumwa, and thinks it’s poised to step into a position of leadership for not just southeast Iowa, but the state as a whole. He said he dislikes any time he hears about somebody traveling to Iowa City or Des Moines for something that Ottumwa could do just as well, given the right kind of resources, vision, and leadership.
“Why can’t Iowa City people come here?” he said.
Unsurprisingly, Bunt doesn’t think of his appointment to the board as a temporary position. Instead, he sees it as the first step in a long career of public service. A chance to acquaint himself with the community and start taking part in some positive change.
“Problems are problems until they’re solved,” he said.