Looking for a mayor

Our thanks and gratitude go to Storm Lake Mayor Jon Kruse, who announced on Tuesday that he will not seek another term after having served for 14 years. (Previously, he served 10 years on the city council and also did a stint as mayor of Lakeside.) Kruse has been a good ambassador for The City Beautiful. His work in lobbying on behalf of the restoration of Storm Lake — all Iowa lakes, really — at the Iowa Capitol was especially important. He was state chapter president of Ducks Unlimited, and he has used those connections in many ways to reduce the impact of sedimentation on Storm Lake. That is a legacy for which he should be remembered most. He played a big role in saving our lake, and in capitalizing on the many economic benefits that clean water offers.

Of course, our thoughts turn to who might replace him as mayor. We should first consider what the job entails.

The mayor has almost no authority under Iowa law. He presides at council meetings. He has a pocket veto — if the council passes something the mayor opposes, he can refuse to sign the resolution or ordinance and force a super-majority vote of the council. We do not recall Kruse doing this.

Otherwise, he is supposed to be sort of a goodwill ambassador for the city.

Informally, a mayor can have power. The mayor can bring the council together through the power of persuasion, or he can be a destructive agent by being a pest. The mayor has somewhat of an inside view of city hall and probably could make a city manager’s life miserable. The mayor used to be able to hire or fire the police and fire chiefs but that authority disappeared when the city adopted the council-manager form of government.

What then makes a good mayor?

A love for Storm Lake. An ability to sell. An interest in state government and politics. The desire to bring other units of government along with Storm Lake, and an ability to convince other interests why that is good (see ability to sell). Enthusiasm is a plus. Time to set office hours at city hall to listen to people. Good connections with lawmakers and state bureaucracies. All those things help.

Few people fit those shoes.

But someone will.

If you love Storm Lake and want to help shape its future, even indirectly, take out papers and run for mayor. Only do it if you want to sell the positives of life here. If you think you want to get rid of the city clerk or police chief, forget about it because it will end for you in frustration.

But if you want to shout the praises and cajole people to help build Storm Lake, this is the job for you.

We would especially like to see someone who reflects Storm Lake as its titular head. Storm Lake is nearing a majority population of people of color, primarily Latino. It would be thrilling to see an ambitious citizen of color run for office. We have lamented before that Councilwoman Sara Monroy-Huddleston is the only Latin American serving on the city council. This vitally important demographic group is seriously underrepresented at all levels of local government.

To that end, Huddleston and City Manger Jim Patrick have been talking lately about forming some sort of leadership academy for immigrants. Citizens who are new arrivals could learn Iowa Civics 101 and how they can make a difference in their own lives and that of their neighbors by being public servants. The Leadership Iowa seminar sponsored by the Iowa Association of Business and Industry is a worthy template. ABI brings together young bankers, lawyers, educators, business people and others to get them engaged more heavily in the civic life of Iowa. There is no reason such a program could not work for local immigrants.

We must prepare a new generation to lead in Storm Lake. That new generation is Asian, Latino, African and, to a shrinking degree, white. We need new perspectives on the city council, the board of supervisors, the school board and all the other appendages of local government. We need more civic engagement from everyone. It is heartening to see the city take active steps in promoting it.