BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison businessman and former Lee County Supervisor Matt Mohrfeld has thrown his hat in the ring for the vacant 3rd Ward City Council position.
The city was faced with either appointment someone to replace former councilman Travis Seidel, who resigned his seat on June 15, or schedule a special election for the spot. At the previous City Council meeting, the council voted 5-1 to appoint someone to fill the position. Councilman Bob Morawitz said the seat should be put in front of the voters.
Mohrfeld held a seat with the Lee County Supervisors from 1995 to 2003 and said that experience, coupled with his passion and commitment to Fort Madison spurred him to send a letter of candidacy and resume to City Hall for consideration.
Mohrfeld owns and operates Matt’s Greenhouse on 303rd Avenue on Fort Madison’s north side.
Candidates who wish to submit their names for the 3rd Ward spot must do so prior to July 31.
“I’ve always enjoyed being involved, and you know, helping mold a governmental body,” he said Monday afternoon. “I think it’s a good thing to do and I hope to be involved again if they’ll have me on the team. If not, I’ll support whoever they do pick to be on the team.”
Mohrfeld has been in business in Fort Madison for 41 years and in those years has served as president of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the city’s Tourism Board, served on a Governor’s Board for Early Childhood Development in Des Moines, the Fort Madison YMCA board, and many other posts in addition to his time on the board of supervisors.
He’s also head Cross Country coach for Holy Trinity Catholic High School and an assistant on the Burlington High School swim team where his son Jacob participates.
Mohrfeld said his time with the supervisors was partisan but this position won’t be.
“So we won’t have that wedge to drive, but the thing I learned most in my time with the supervisors was how to work with a $25 million budget and how that’s spread over many departments,” he said. “I learned about associated boards like health, conservation, and the other groups we worked closely with like the Lee County Economic Development Group.
“When I was a supervisor there was just three of us and the time it took was pretty intense. I know the city council has a city manager and the county didn’t have that. It was a helluva job and I mean that in a good way. I really enjoyed doing it, and I really enjoyed being finished.”
Mohrfeld said the council and the city are in good shape and said there is great work being done,.
“The city’s on a good path right now. Parks have looked great lately. Avenue E looks good, There’s lots of road construction as frustrating as that is, but the city’s doing well,” he said.
“The Council seems to work together pretty well from my observation. I love the new trash cans. I think those are cool. I think it’s very indicative that we can make those kinds of changes. They are doing great things and I don’t use that term lightly. That’s from someone who’s been in business here 40 some years and has seen less than great things”
Mohrfeld said one thing he’d like to see the city, as a whole focus on, is the curb appeal.
“This is the very simple Matt Mohrfeld answer – Our city could have a little better curb appeal. I’m a runner and I go by every piece of property in Fort Madison and that’s not in any way an exaggeration. I go by them all. So many people take pride in their properties and there are some that could use a helping hand.”
Mohrfeld said there are good things in the works including the Fort Madison Partners beautification efforts and the Paint-A-thon that happened this year, He also mentioned the work of the PORT Trail committee. But he said the city needs to incorporate more groups such as churches and schools to help identify and program ways to help with the city’s appearance.
“Do I think that’s gotten better, I do. Could it be better – yep.”
He also said he thinks an appointment, over an election, is the right choice for the city.
“There’s something to be said to filling an appointment. I would be an example as this gives me a chance to find out what the council’s truly like and gives people a chance to see if I’m an appropriate fit,” Mohrfeld. said. “Our little town does not need to shell out four or five grand for 100 votes. It’s not like the people’s vote isn’t heard on an appointment. The council is doing the responsible thing in asking for resume. And quite honestly we don’t have very good turnout in the 3rd ward.
With recent economic incentive packages being used by the city to encourage growth, Mohrfeld said it’s not the city’s role to create private sector jobs, But he said it is fully the city’s responsibility to create an environment where that growth happens.
“I think there are cases close to Fort Madison that were over-incentivized. But I don’t think it’s ever a bad thing. It’s fair, it creates jobs, it creates paychecks, it creates opportunity. But it’s Matt Mohrfeld’s job to create jobs and I’ve created a whole bunch of ’em. Campaign sound bites will take credit for it, but governments don’t do that. What they do is create infrastructure to make it attractive and easy to come in or expand. If I have an available workforce, site development, good roads, good running paths, good schools and nice parks with Sunday night band concerts, we’re creating a good environment. That’s the purview of the government.”
He said beyond that you do have to work with the people who are doing the expanding, developing and investing.
“Yeah, you gotta do it, but you don’t necessarily have to burden all of the cost,” he said. “Matt’s Greenhouse creates the jobs,.. Tony Johnson does, Bob Huffman does, Michael Mohrfeld does, Leslie Malinski does. But everyone did with the infrastructure the city developed, those are where the city’s role comes in, and then working with groups like Lee County Economic Development, Southeastern Community College and it’s CBIZ department.”
The city has until Aug. 15 to make an appointment and has two more regular meetings prior to that deadline. The first of which is Tuesday night and the second on Aug. 7