BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With four full years as Fort Madison’s mayor under his belt and over 10 years as part of the Fort Madison city leaders, Brad Randolph said he’s ready for at least two more.
Randolph indicated last week that he would be running for re-election on Nov. 5 and he spoke Friday about why he wants to continue holding the gavel at City Hall for a while longer.
“It wasn’t a tough decision to run again. I think Fort Madison is in a good place and there are some things that I was part of starting back in 2012 when I took over, and like it or not, some of those things haven’t come to fruition yet.” he said. “There’s just a lot of extra pressure with my kids growing up and getting pulled in a lot of different directions. I just wanted to make sure that I could give the position the time it needs and requires to make the community better.”
One of the top priorities for Randolph is getting the Amtrak depot moved from its current location to the the depot in Riverview Park. The mayor said he made a promise to former mayor Steve Ireland that he would help see that project through. Ireland died in 2012 and Randolph was appointed to fill the spot. In addition, he said the city made a commitment to residents when they passed the Quality of Life bond referendum to start reinvesting in Fort Madison.
“One of the biggest things is the Amtrak depot platform. When Mayor Ireland was at the helm and fell ill I told him I would see it through,” Randolph said. “It was a labor of love for him and it’s a labor of love for me now. The city has put in a exorbitant amount of time in this starting with the raising of the depot and we need to get this completed.
Randolph said this is the closest the city’s been to getting that project to bid and he thinks construction will start in the spring next year.
He said the goal behind passing the Quality of Life referendum was to start rebuilding Fort Madison.
“I’ve been a big proponent of infrastructure rebuilding and and we’ve been spending off that bond,” he said. “It was time for Fort Madison to invest in itself and we passed that with that in mind. That kind of was added to when we took over Business 61 and Hwy. 2 and got the money from the state and that project starts next year on the east side. It’s a very exciting time for the community to see that rehab taking place and the finished product with a brand new corridor through town.
With a new grocery store days away from opening, new subdivisions popping up, and infrastructure improvements going on daily, Randolph said he thinks the city is in a good place.
“I would say the city is in a good place. No community is perfect, we always have our issues to deal with, but when you talk about subdivisions going up and we’re getting local contractors willing to undertake that, that’s a big deal. We’re seeing new housing stock that we didn’t have and that invites movement. It brings in people from out of town that are looking for new housing and I think that’s a great thing. With the infrastructure improvements they see that effort and that’s a plus as well.”
But running for mayor isn’t something Randolph says anyone can just jump into.
“A lot goes into being a public official. You have to be able to work with staff, state legislators, the governor’s office and U.S. congressmen. It is something you can’t just walk into and expect everything to work. There’s a learning curve there and I think I do a pretty good job of representing the city and working with the public.”
But he reiterated that not everything is perfect and there is still a lot of work to be done.
“On the short side, I think we have too many businesses that are sitting empty. That’s unfortunate and I wish I had a quick fix but it really comes down to increasing foot traffic and finding those niche shops. It also comes down to people being willing to step up and take that initiative to be a business owner.
He said those issues are not so easily resolved by the city itself, but rather a concerted effort with Fort Madison Economic Development, Fort Madison Partners, Main Street and Tourism.
“We’re constantly trying to pick away at that and we’re starting to see things happen there,” he said. “We keep talking about tourism and having people come into town and we’re diligently working on that as well.”
Randolph holds a seat on the city’s tourism board as well as having a seat on the Great River Regional Waste Authority Board, but he said typically things just don’t happen fast enough for him. He is also a doctor of dentistry and owns Randolph Dentistry in Burlington.
“Probably my biggest frustration is this. As a business owner, you’re required to make snap decision on stuff and implement those decisions. With taxpayer money it just can’t happen as fast as I love to have it happen,” he said “We have to be good stewards with the public’s money, build consensus with how it’s spent. That makes projects take longer. You have to listen to the public and that’s a critical piece in making sure we are working in the best interests of the public.
“I think I’ve been a good conduit between the public and the city staff and I consider myself a problem solver. I try to cut through the red tape and come to common sense understanding of how things work.”