Mr. Mayor

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Mayor Bob Hartman has served two terms as West Liberty’s mayor, before that he served for several years on the city council, including mayor pro-tem.

He’s running for the position of mayor again on Election Day this Tuesday, Nov. 7. He is currently unopposed and will have his name on the ballot.

Hartman has been an elected official in West Liberty through the best and worst of times. However, he’s ready for more.

“I have chosen to run for mayor again because of my love for the city and the community members,” he says. “The community is an open and inviting community to ‘outsiders’ which are not always found in other smaller cities.”

Mayor Hartman first arrived to West Liberty 25 around years-ago. Like many of our residents it was only going to be for a short while, but then West Liberty happened.

With his wife Marla they have raised four kids in the community, all of whom have gone through the school district. Their youngest is currently a senior in high school.

“We have a great school district here, my four kids excelled with great memories and a good education base,” says Hartman.

“As mayor, I have been asked by many media outlets about how positive and warming West Liberty is considering the large Latino population,” he adds. “The media outlets explain this is atypical throughout the country.”

According to a comprehensive update adopted by the city in November 2015, the city population has trended to above 3,700 as of 2015.

According to the Census Bureau, approximately 52.2 percent of its entire population acknowledges having some Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, the second highest percentage in Iowa.

“I have enjoyed the opportunity of serving our community members while working with council members and organizations in creating the place I love,” says Hartman.

“We have had success with beautification projects, infrastructure improvements, street improvements, and new housing,” he adds.

He sites the following as some of the city’s success during his time as mayor:

· Improving the quality of life and vision of the community by placing expectations on enforcement of nuisance violations in our community.

· Working closely with city staff to correct fiscal crisis with the city’s funds.

· The installation of Reverse Osmosis Filtration system for the community to have quality water.

· Creating the Downtown Task Force (DTF) to start working towards the revitalization of downtown business and buildings.

· Appointing and working with the city staff to sustain and hire quality employees who share the passion to make our city the place to live.

So what is it that he wants to accomplish in a third term as mayor?

Perhaps one of his biggest reasons he’s running again is curbside recycling. The city is currently moving towards a $1.7 million overhaul of how it recycles.

Most recently, the city council approved building a new Municipal Recycling Facility to replace the old center on N. Walnut Street.

The hope is that by 2018 curbside recycling will be availible to all residents, as opposed to them having to take their own recycling to the center right now.

“I have projects I still would like to accomplish, like curbside recycling and the building of a recycling building,” says Hartman. “This project began with my first two terms as Mayor, and I would love the opportunity to see this completed.”

He refers to his time as mayor as a team effort between citizens of the community, its local businesses and the city council. That’s another reason recycling is important.

“Our planet is a borrowed commodity which the world has the obligation to hand down to future generations,” he says. “We, the City of West Liberty cannot save the world, but we need to do our part in this obligation.”

Another issue he wants to take on as mayor will be city growth, especially when it comes to the last 25 years.

In a time when many small cities are shrinking or barely breaking even in terms of population, West Liberty has increased by 32 people a year for the last decade.

West Liberty is centrally located in Muscatine County between Iowa City, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids and the Quad Cities. However, it’s still a small town and maintains that small Iowa town feel.

This is a major draw to many that live in the community, including Hartman. He’s employed by the City of Iowa City as a police officer, but lives in West Liberty.

“Smaller cities provide quality of life issues which families seek and I want the City of West Liberty to be that community,” he says. “We have organizations and committees working on projects which will assist this goal.”

“The growth will hopefully continue and be supported by businesses including third-party businesses which support larger business in the area,” adds Hartman.

These are a just a couple of the topics he hopes to tackle if elected to a third term as mayor. He will need to continue to work closely with the council to make it possible.

“I was not born and raised in West Liberty, but the City of West Liberty is my ‘HOME’ and I emphasize this with great passion!” he says. “I will continue to provide the City a great service and work hard for my community!”

Here are a few more questions posed directly to Mayor Hartman:

Question: There’s been talk about walking trails over the years but little to no action. Do you foresee you and the council taking on the topic again in the future and why?

Answer: “The project of walking trails has not been forgotten. There is still talk about trails by city staff and council. This has not been brought up in a council meeting for a while. There are several obstacles regarding walking trails.

“The two big obstacles are land and financial resources. The city would have to acquire land or at least access to land. This issue includes land which would be suitable for a walking trail.

“Financial resources include grants and the city's operation budget. I have had citizens inquire about future projects because they are excited about current or recent past projects. Projects are great and I also become excited about positive progress.

“The city needs to be fiscally responsible in maintaining projects once finished. Sometimes building and establishing a project is not the most expensive part of the project. Long-term stability (upkeep) of projects have to be taken into account.”

Question: Recycling will be one of the big city projects in the upcoming year, what is your viewpoint on the matter. Do you agree with the direction the city is heading?

Answer: “The Girl Scout Organization started recycling a few decades ago, and locally Council Member Diane Beranek lead this campaign with her leadership position with the Girl Scouts.

“This was located downtown near the old fire department. I believe the current developments and direction of the future recycling plans are moving in the right direction.

“The city has received a grant from the Iowa DNR which connects us with other recycling centers to become more main stream. The curbside recycling portion has the potential to build momentum in increasing participation.

“This is a service to assist with citizens who are not willing to transport their recycling or are unable to get their recycling to our current site. The one-source container should assist citizens further by not requiring a person having to sort their recyclables.”

Question: What is the council’s role in helping develop the town, such as bringing in more business and more people?

Answer: “The council's role is extremely important expanding development and in keeping the current quality of life. The council has the opportunities to establish/maintain relationships with citizens, businesses and developers.

There is always talk about bringing more businesses and population growth. First, I believe cities need to have positive relationships with current business and citizens. This builds a base with citizens and current businesses.

“Not an inclusive list, the council establishes policies regarding different resources of incentives, zoning and other policies which may affect maintaining, building, hiring, and population growth.

“The City of West Liberty had inquiries by many businesses looking to re-locate or expand. The issue is not always just a city issue.

“We as a city are competing with cities from other states. When other states are involved it sometimes, if not often, is based on which state provides the best incentive package.”
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