BY CHUCK VANDENBERG – Montrose resident Rich Harlow announced this week that he will be seeking a seat on the Lee County Board of Supervisors in this year’s election.
Harlow is no stranger to localized politics having served on the Fort Madison City Council and the Lee County Conservation board.
Harlow may be remembered as the Voice of the Bloodhounds and is in the Fort Madison High School Athletic Hall of Fame as a broadcaster and bus driver. He also served on the Aquinas Athletic Club, was Asst. Chairman of the Bloodhound Booster Club, in addition to a long list of community service endeavors including serving on the Tri-State Rodeo board. He’s also done work with the March of Dimes, the Catholic Church Parish Council, he helped get the original RiverFest off the ground, and served with the River City Fireworks Corporation.
He’s a former radio personality and program director at KOKX, and had stints with KXGI, which became KBKB. Harlow has also been actively involved with the Fort Madison Eagles, Elks, Moose, and Knights of Columbus groups. He’s spent 30 years working with what was Iowa Workforce Development, now IowaWorks, as a federal and state funding and manpower specialist and employment service representative.
Currently, Harlow drives a school bus in Fort Madison and works for King-Lynk Funeral Home, while also driving a party bus for Full Out Promotions.
Harlow said he is excited about the possibility of serving the people of Lee County again.
“I want to serve again with Rick Larkin. I also want to join him and other supervisors in moving Lee County forward and working for its betterment,” Harlow said Thursday morning. “I’m all about jobs and economic development and quality of life issues in Lee County.”
Harlow said he wants to help create an environment for young people and families where they can get a good wage and where local high school graduates can stay here and have a livelihood and a good job.
“We don’t want to educate them and see them go away,” he said.
He also said it’s time to move past the north/south county relationship.
“I’m not about north and south Lee County. I’m about the whole Lee County,” he said
“That’s the $64,000 question. I think the people part of it in Lee County is that these sides are afraid they will lose their identity as a second county seat. They’re afraid they’ll lose their courthouse, and then possibly a post office or a school. They want to keep their identity. It’s been an issue ongoing and we’ve seen that in the electorate in Lee County. They don’t want to lose anything and I can appreciate that.”
He said with the county budget tightening, tough decisions have to be made, such as whether to continue contributing funds to the Lee County Economic Development Group.
“Some supervisors want to cut that back, but if we have the money we should continue to fund them. Let’s help them help us,” he said. “But obviously, as with anything we do in county government, we expect results for the money we’ve spent.”
Harlow said he would like to see the supervisors be more accessible when possible.
“Some citizens would like to have the hours or meetings changed and rotated. If there’s anything we can do to be more accessible I’m all for that. I’m also about jobs and the economy.
He also said budgeting and prioritizing funds can be difficult and emotional for people.
“When you do something like this, just like on the city council in Fort Madison to a large degree, you are limited to what you can and can’t do with regard to the money they give you. It’s tough juggling everything with the money we have without raising taxes. But people want things – good roads without potholes, swimming pools, parks…absolutely, but they don’t want their property tax raised.”
With his experience on the Conservation board, Harlow said he’s happy that a committee has been organized to come up with a solution, and controversy is always a part of politics.
The semi-retired Harlow declined to give his age, only to add charmingly that “I’m old enough to have experience. I’ve been around the horn.”
Harlow will be looking to fill the seat being vacated by current supervisor Don Hunold, who announced earlier this week that he would not be on the ticket in the upcoming elections.