BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Making his first run for public office, Keokuk’s Jeff Reichman said he’s a different kind of Republican who can represent the working class.
Riechman was born and raised in Keokuk and graduated from Southeastern Community College, has a business degree from Iowa Wesleyan College, and is a Marine Corp Command staff graduate. He now makes his home in Montrose and works in the shipping department at Roquette, while running his own home inspection business, Tri State Home Inspections for the past two years.
His family moved around a lot within Keokuk before he graduated high school.
“My parents were at the forefront of find-it, fix-it, flip-it, but they didn’t do it in 90 days, it was every three to six years while we were living in it. So I lived in about 11 homes in Keokuk while I was child before I ever left for college. I had a lot of experience in real estate and fixing stuff and home improvement.”
He is facing off against Jeff Kurtz (D-Fort Madison) for the 83rd District Iowa House seat being vacated with the retirement of Jerry Kearns at the end of this year.
Reichman has put in more than a quarter century with the U.S. Marines, serving two tours in Iraq and is still serving in the reserves.
Currently, his capacity is as an Individual Marine Augment.
“I augment them as a reservist for exercises. I’ve been to Korea four times and the Philippines the year before that. The last time I went out to Headquarters for Marine Forces Pacific which is in charge of the entire Pacific realm from California to India including all training, multinational training, and briefing reports to the general each morning,” Reichman said.
He said politics in the state and country is an emotional topic.
“I think it’s each party fighting for its relevance. We saw that in the last few weeks. That was one of the questions we had in our last debate and we all agreed it’s terrible. A lot of grandstanding, butting heads, and push and pull,” he said. “I think they’ve lost sight of who they’re serving because look at what they’ve done driving people to the extremes.”
Reichman said bringing the country together comes down to leadership and we’ve lost a lot of that because elected officials are more worried about self-serving than worrying about the people they represent and America as a whole.
“We have a lot of good qualities in our president now,” he said. “You can’t find a person to please everybody. And I won’t say I support everything he does or the way he does everything, but his results speak for themselves and we’ve had some great results.”
He said previous free trade agreements were anything but free, and President Donald Trump has made great strides in rectifying the agreements made under previous administrations.
“Obviously we know now that these other agreements were not “Free Trade” but we didn’t know that as the general public. We said free trade so we figured everything was just flowing back and forth and we now know that wasn’t the case at all. An extra $3 to $4 a gallon for milk to Canada – obviously not free, or an extra $2,500 on a car in Japan or China, obviously not free trade. And he fixed that and he’s in the process of signing other agreements as well.”
Some of the results of the agreements are still to be determined, and Reichman said the real value of the new agreements will take some time to be realized.
“Even with the farmers, you can find one that doesn’t like what’s going on, but you can also find several that have confidence that trade deals are going to get signed for our food products as well.”
With Gov. Reynolds announcing a budget surplus of more than $120 million last month, Reichman said he thinks the main contributor to that is economic growth.
“I think it’s a combination of a few things, but we know, and the governor has said it herself, there needs to be changes to health care, specific to mental health, and they did take some steps to put that back in the budget. But the economic growth is the largest part of it, which I think is a great thing.”
He said his fear is that people are going to find a way to spend the surplus instead of using it bring people’s tax burden down.
“My fear is that you put an extra pile of money in front of someone they’re going to find a way to spend it. When the gas prices went down five years ago I was interviewed for Channel 10 and they asked what I thought of a gas tax and I said I don’t think we should look for ways to tax people. Tax and spend is not the right way and that’s my fear is that we have this budget surplus and we’ll find a way to spend it.”
He said the state is looking at online sales tax as a way to help offset more of the spending cuts absorbed in the past few years.
Reichman said that is part of keeping up with technology, but any increased revenue from online sales needs to be re-allocated from the state, that would probably collect the tax, back to the local economies.
“We’ve had clothing and other stores close up shop and now you buy those things online now and that’s revenue out of our local economy that’s going somewhere else. We need to make sure if they are collecting at the state level it doesn’t stay there, but filters back down to where the revenue was lost.”
Reichman said the privatization is certainly a change for Iowans. He referenced former General Electric CEO Jack Welch who said if you’re not No. 1 or 2 in the business get out of the business.
“I don’t see a reason why Iowa should be running a health care system, that’s not their forte. Run Iowa, create infrastructure and do economic development, but leaving health care to health care professionals is my philosophy,” he said.
“Just by being different there’s going to be criticism of it. Not all changes have been for the good. I’ve talked to people in health care, but what you get is the goals you set. We’re the customer and the customers are always right and if the people of Iowa are not happy, you inform them that they’re providing a service and we’re not happy and this is what we want changed.”
Reichman said the government “upset the apple cart” with health care six years ago with the Affordable Care Act.
“I don’t remember talking about the rising cost of health care until about six years ago. That has not corrected itself. I still have hopes that it will and we’re still battling over it.”
Reichman said Iowa is in a great place regarding education, but that doesn’t mean the state should be comfortable with where it is. He said the state is rated as one of the top five states in the country in education.
“You can’t stop being great and you have to continue to evolve to stay great. Iowa was rated as the no. 1 place in the nation to live. We have to keep building on that success and not rest.”
He said he would like to see Iowa’s educational branding change to increase the focus on vocational and hands-on programming rather than forcing the four-year degree on students.
“Our education system is good, but there are some changes I’d like to see. We passed No Child Left Behind in the Bush area and the ones that are being left behind are the ones who are not choosing a four year degree. We’re chasing standardized testing and I’d like to bring more industrial arts and technical programs back into the schools. Statistically, just 50% of these kids go on to a four-year college and only 25% of those graduate. We’re teaching and training to go to a four-year degree and that chases the standardized tests.”
He said there are a lot of kids being left behind by not being introduced to trades and that value and need saying kids are held in higher esteem if they go to college. He referenced efforts currently under way in Lee County that could be used as a model throughout the state.
“The way funds are allocated now, I don’t like. We used to spend more and have more emphasis on trades and hands-on opportunities. I saw a thing on Facebook that asked what we learned in high school that we still use. I still change my oil when I can, work on my own house, change parts on my car, usable skills that I still use today. There’s a large value in those and we need to emphasize that.”
The state’s Iowa Public Employees Retirement System has been pushed to the front of discussions in the past year and Reichman said he’d go so far as to say it was election year propaganda.
He said one person in the legislature made a motion to change the structure and it’s been scuttlebutt ever since then.
“It’s miscommunication. I would go so far in an election year to say it’s probably propaganda. I’ve seen a video out where she’s says ‘No’ not going to change it’.”
He said there is a funding shortfall and some adjustments were made to allow it to catch up over the next 20 years.
“There’s going to be a lot of people retiring in the next 20 years,” he said. “That needs to be monitored closely and, if it’s corrected, great. If it’s not, somebody’s going to have make a tough decision… a lot of people are going to have make a tough decision, and make sure that it’s corrected properly and continuing to increase its contributions to make sure it’s properly funded. As long as it continues to fund itself, it’s a good program.”
Reichman said Iowa’s waterways can never been clean enough. He said water quality has improved from the days when Lake Michigan caught on fire.
“I know we’ve gone to a lot of drainage tile to get water off farmland quicker and that promoted run-off and that’s not good, because there isn’t really much of a barrier after that.”
He said a two-pronged approach where we look at ways to capture the chemicals and then looking at what farmers can do to reduce the amount of nitrates and phosphates is probably the best formula.
“It would be nice to see catches to monitor the water. That’s what we do with industry to monitor that waste. This is Iowa, I don’t want to restrict farmers, but I don’t want them to hurt us in an effort to help us. I want to make sure what they are putting on the crops to make sure they grow properly and feed us all aren’t ultimately harming us in the long run.”
“What I’ve been pushing from the start is economic development. Yes, it’s finding more businesses to locate in Iowa and having existing businesses hire more and that’s happening and that’s great. The other thing is improving the standard of living. If we have a higher demand for jobs, the wages go up. Wages have been stagnant and repressed. Iowa has an extremely low cost of living here.”
“We’ve got to make sure we’re covering with education those shortfalls from these jobs that are left open. With recruiting of people, we’ve lost 10,000 people in Lee County in just over a decade so if you do an average wage in Lee County as $30,000…$300 million gone. Gone from the tax base, from people who buy a home, groceries, gas, clothes – all the activity that happens in the local economy.”
“We need to rebrand our education goals. Trying to shove everyone into a four-year program isn’t the route to go. Again at the state and federal level, we’ve got a bunch of lawyers and doctors and people with four-year degrees who think that’s the way to go. A shift in that process that we raise all our children to have four-year degrees needs to take place.”
“As I’ve said, I am a working guy, doing shift work at Roquette and there’s a misconception that if you’re a Republican you can’t represent the worker. I’ve punched a clock, I’ve worked shift work and weekends and holidays. I’ve been laid off and unemployed. I’ve been through those things and I understand people in Lee County are going through that. At the same time I’ve had the background and diversity with my business degree working in retail, manufacturing, military, all at different levels with many different people.”
‘I enjoy talking with people and I think I can bring that communication and the conversation to get people together. I’m open to everyone and appreciate their input and I’ll show value in that input, and get things done.”