Councilman Matt Mohrfeld takes out papers to be next city mayor
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison will have a new mayor in 2020.
Current Mayor Brad Randolph put out a statement on Friday afternoon indicating he won’t be seeking re-election to the mayor’s seat.
Randolph said the decision was an extremely difficult one to make, but said it’s time for new leadership and a fresh look at things.
“You don’t know how long it took me to hit the send button on that,” Randolph said Friday afternoon.
“It’s been an extremely difficult decision to make. Up until I sent it I wasn’t sure I wanted to send it. And then when I sent it, I was thinking of ways to take it back.”
In his emailed statement, Randolph left room to return to public service, a notion that has been the subject of much speculation with a high mark last year when his name was surfaced in Washington D.C. circles as someone to potentially run for U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack’s seat in Congress.
“I don’t think I’m done yet serving. Whether it’s done back at the local level, or at the state or federal level – I don’t know. We’ll just have to see how time bares that out,” he said.
He pointed to the successful relocation of the Amtrak platform, the Hwy. 2 project, and the riverboat cruises as accomplishments of his tenure as mayor. And staying active in the community is still on the agenda. He said he wants to still be part of the process of helping with things like economic development.
On the heels of Randolph’s decision, current 3rd Ward councilman Matt Mohrfeld confirmed that he has taken out papers to run for Mayor.
“It is my intention to run for mayor and I have talked it through and have blessing of some of the council,” Mohrfeld said Friday.
He said the work that lays ahead of the city certainly isn’t easy or popular.
“I gotta be honest – the most glaring thing in front of Fort Madison is not glamorous. There are gonna have to be some hard decisions made when we set direction for the budget moving forward,” Mohrfeld said. “We’ve got a potential shortfall and a budget cliff coming in the next few years. Even if it’s half of what we project, its still severe. That’s gotta be addressed as we bring the council together with one voice.”
He said if elected to the seat, everything’s on the table to keep Fort Madison moving forward.
“I think you’re naive if you take something off the table. To get where they need to be, it’s going to take a multi-faceted solution, and when you take something off the table, you put pressure on something else.”
1st Ward Councilman Chris Greenwald said Randolph’s leadership was imperative to Fort Madison’s future and will be reflected in its history.
“I talked Brad into running 13 years ago and that was one of the best things I’ve ever done. He’s sharp, he’s classy, he’s educated. History will judge us all and I not only believe it will judge him well, but I believe it already has,” Greenwald said.
At-large Councilman Rusty Andrews, despite a recent dustup with the mayor over the financials of the North Lee County Historical Society where Andrews serves as treasurer, said he’s not sure anyone could have done a better job than Randolph.
“I can’t think of anybody that could have done it better. Again, some of my views are different than his, but that’s politics and that’s what makes it great,” Andrews said.
“I honestly couldn’t think of a better person to do the job. It’s not for everybody. It takes time from your family and dammit – at the end of the day somebody’s gonna hate ya.”
Fifth Ward Councilman Chad Cangas said he was stunned with the news.
“He still had a lot of things in progress. I was just stunned when I read it. He was still so involved in things. We didn’t know anything until the email came out today,” Cangas said.
‘I think he was a good face for the city and he certainly put in the time. When he went to work to save the platform and that was going above and beyond to get that done. He made it happen.”
Councilman Bob Morawitz said he wasn’t overly surprised by the news considering Randolph had said a month ago he wasn’t sure he was going to run again.
“He had talked about it over a month ago where he was contemplating it and I didn’t know where he was going with that, but I thought if he was thinking about not running, he probably wouldn’t.”
Morawitz said Randolph was dedicated to his post and did great work for the city
“I’ve been very happy with his service and he’s done a great job for the city. We don’t always agree, but his heart is in it for the city. He does a lot behind the scenes and I really appreciate that.”
Greenwald also confirmed Friday that he won’t be seeking re-election in November. He said he hopes the city is better now that it was when he took office.
“When Steve Ireland passed away, one of the things I said in tribute to him, even in the short time he was in office, was he left it better than he found it,” Greenwald said. “I hope I’ve done that and I think I have.”
He pointed to the increase in the city’s tax base in the past 13 years compared to the previous 30 years as proof of the city’s better footing. But he said his biggest regret will be the toll politics takes on people.
“I regret having enemies I don’t know – and who don’t know me. This town needs to learn how to agree to disagree.”
With Greenwald stepping down, two other well-known Fort Madison residents have put their name in the hat for the first ward.
Rebecca Bowker and Chris Sorrentino both confirmed Friday they have taken out paperwork. Sorrentino, who made an unsuccessful run for mayor two years ago, said a city council spot may be a better spot. But he said with Randolph’s announcement, he may rethink the candidacy.
“That’s a development of a different field for the race this year. I’m still focused on the 1st ward seat, but I’m not 100% decided as of yet and am still talking it over with certain people and family,” Sorrentino said.
“I was kind of hoping Brad would stay in his seat another term. So if I got the 1st ward seat I would have a chance to work with him.”
Sorrentino is an over-the-road, self-employed truck driver who leases to Curry’s Transport. He’s been in Fort Madison since 2009.
Bowker is the executive officer at the Iowa State Penitentiary where she’s been employed for the past 11 years and prior to that was in the private sector for 14 years in Fort Madison.
She said the city is facing some big things and she wants to lend her experience and passion to those causes.
“I think we’re on the cusp of some very exciting things for the city of Fort Madison and I want to be a part of that,” she said. “I’m hoping with my experience and investment in the community, I can be a vital part of the change.”
She said the city can’t function in a silo and needs to reach out to the other communities in the county and the county itself and garner those resources.
Papers for the upcoming election can be turned in starting Aug. 26 for the Nov. 5 election.
Other seats on the council up for election in November will be the 3rd Ward seat, Chad Cangas’ 5th Ward seat, and Kevin Rink’s at-large seat.
Rink said he hasn’t made a commitment to the re-election but did take out papers.
“I’m on the fence and if I jump over the fence I’ll have my signatures,” he said.
Rink is facing possibly two candidates for his at-large seat in November, one of which is Tyler Miller, a 21-year-old resident. The other is Jerry Hamilton.
Miller said he’s running to represent the younger voters in Fort Madison. He currently works at Merschman Fertilizer. Miller said he also is concerned about property tax rates deterring people from living or staying in the city.
“I’m running to represent the youth here. To show the young people they need to step up and play a role. What’s this city going to be like in 20 years if we don’t engage the young people,” Miller said.