Hamelton to take on Rink for at-large seat

BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
PCC EDITOR

FORT MADISON – Jerry Hamelton is a former law enforcement officer who moved back to Fort Madison about six years ago and is seeking his first public office in town.

Kevin Rink is a three-term incumbent councilman who said he was on the fence about running for office again. Rink, a 29-year resident of the city, also volunteers on the Elliott Test Kitchen Board of Directors and is a member of the Knights of Columbus.

“I was very much on the fence, but really the thing that pushed me more is that I had several citizens and city staff approach me to run,” Rink said.

“That really kind of set my tone and I would be the most tenured person on the council. I talked it over with my wife and she said, ‘What do you have to lose. It’s your seat to lose or your seat to win, no matter how you look at it’.”

Rink said he wants to continue his work on the council including seeing the infrastructure improve and helping keep people informed of the local government’s role in their lives.

“I’d like to start a coffee with a councilman where once a month or so we bring in some donuts and coffee and give people a chance to talk with myself, another councilman and maybe the mayor,” Rink said.

“Just give them a chance to come in relaxed and talk with us about what’s going on with them.”

Rink said it would have to be less than three councilman to avoid having a quorum present, but he said it would be a good time to get more engagement with the public.

Hamelton said he made the decision to run when he read in a Pen City Current article, where councilman Chris Greenwald said he was elected to do what’s in the best interest of the city and not necessarily what the voters want.

“I found that shocking that an elected official said that he would know better than the people that voted for him, what is best for them. That comment pushed me to run for office. If they aren’t going to care what we think, then I am going to care what they think,” Hamelton said.

Hamelton lived in Fort Madison until his father moved them to Arizona where he stayed and served as a deputy on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. His brother became ill and Hamelton brought his family back to Fort Madison and went to work as Police Chief in Nauvoo. Then he returned to Arizona in 2002 and moved back to Fort Madison again in 2013.

“This is my home. I’m from here and this is where all my family is at. I loved my job and loved being a police officer, but anymore I’m old and creeping up on 50 years old and can’t do what the young kids are doing.”

Hamelton also brought up engagement and said people need to be more engaged.

“I don’t believe anyone engages too much in politics here and I believe it’s because they are so disenfranchised, they won’t even vote,” he said.

“I try to convey that message to people that if you’re not satisfied with how things are going, change it.”

Hamelton said he also ran because he feels the city has been irresponsible with spending in the past three to four years wiping out a surplus the city had.

When commenting on how the city can get out of the financial pinch, he said public safety isn’t the place to cut. He also said franchise taxes are an unfair option because it taxes city residents for mismanagement on the part of city staff.

“The Police budget hasn’t increased $10,000 more than what we were paying three years ago, so I don’t understand how that’s a problem,” Hamelton said.

Hamelton said paying the sheriff to lead the city’s police department and paying a search firm $10,000 to find a new police chief was a misuse of funds.

“We wasted our money. We completely wasted city money on the sheriff’s office coming down here and staffing the police department when we had several officers here that coulda done it,” Hamelton said.

“City spending has to be more intelligent that it is being handled now. There’s things we can do.”

Rink said, as a councilman, he was appreciative of the sheriff’s help in handling the police department, but said that move did ruffle some feathers in the city.

To further help ease financial pressure, Hamelton even suggested selling the marina to a private developer to help the city generate revenue there while reducing expenses.

“The city doesn’t have the money nor manpower to keep it up. We could commercially sell it to somebody who’s willing to develop it and create a better environment down there,” he said.

Rink said more diligence needs to be done on the franchise tax option and would like to hear more from people on both sides of the idea.

“I’d like to see both sides of it. Mark (Lair) and I threw this out several years ago with MidAmerican when we were originally talking about moving the fire department to five personnel per shift, instead of four,” Rink said. “It didn’t go over very well.”

Rink said he wouldn’t support cutting staff in the city to help find answers to the budget crunch.

“I won’t support any cuts of city staff,” Rink said. “We’re down to the bare bones, but we have to continue to serve.”

Hamelton is also against funding the new depot in Riverview Park as another project that will drain city resources.

“It appears to be for pet projects, like the train station. I’m not against the train station, I’m against the fact that you spend my money, your money, and these guys’ money on something that won’t return money to the city,” he said.

“The way I look at that is we’re about to adopt an expensive kid at a time when we can’t afford the one’s we have.”

He said he’s aware that the city could have to pay some money back in grants, but he said even that figure could be less than the amount the city would spend on the facility going forward.

Hamelton said the other reason he decided to run is that areas of the city are being forgotten under current leadership.

“Residents need to know they are cared about if they live on Avenue I or M just like someone who lives on C or D.”

He said a breakdown of the city council shows that 5 or 6 of the seven current councilmen live on the north side of the city.

“When you go to the south and knock on those doors, people say they don’t vote and aren’t going to vote because the city never does anything for them and nothing ever happens down here,” Hamelton said.

“‘They never fix anything down here and they don’t care about us down here’… Those people have a point that they feel they’ve being neglected and I believe they are.”

Rink also wants to see the city’s infrastructure continue to improve. He said the city is taking steps with streets and the Old Hwy. 61 project needs to get going.

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