2015 Elkader Elections - Garms, Pope running for mayor

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Bob Garms

Josh Pope

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

Municipal elections will be held throughout Clayton County on Tuesday, November 3. In Elkader, voters will choose between two candidates for the mayor’s job. Bob Garms is running for re-election; his opponent is Josh Pope. Both took time to answer some questions from the Register.

Bob Garms was born in Montebello, CA and has lived in Monona, Belmond and Algona. He earned an education degree from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s in educational administration from Mankato State University. He and his wife, Hila, have been married for 46 years and have two children: Matt and his wife and two daughters in Kansas City and Mindy and her husband and son and daughter in Clinton.

Garms had a 36-year teaching and coaching career that took him to Fremont-Mills, Meservey-Thornton, and Central Elkader.  In 2004 he retired from Central where he was also the athletic director for 24 years. He has held various leadership positions in the Iowa High School Athletic Directors Association, serving as president in 2002-2003 and as CEO of the Upper Iowa Athletic Conference. While living in Elkader he has been active in the community helping to raise money for the swimming pool and serving on the pool board for many years. In addition, he campaigned to raise money for the public library addition and served as an ambulance driver.

Why are you running for mayor?

There are many challenges still facing this community as we continue to improve the infrastructure. We have survived the flood of 2008 and continue to move forward and receive various awards, the most recent of which was the All-Star Community Award presented by the Iowa League of Cities.  This is a very vibrant community with a lot going for it, and I want to see it continue to move forward.

What qualifies you to be mayor?

I have served in many leadership roles within the local community and at the state level and am completing my 12th elected year as Elkader mayor.

How would you interact with your constituents?

At city hall we have an open door policy, and we try to interact with Elkader residents in a positive way.  We listen to the people and then try to make decisions that are best for the entire community. We encourage residents to attend city council meetings that are held at 5:30 pm on the second and fourth Mondays of each month.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the City of Elkader?

Finding and providing affordable housing is one of the biggest challenges.  We have businesses and industries that like to hire local people or at least encourage their employees to live in Elkader, but they cannot find affordable housing. Of course, continuing infrastructure improvements such as streets, water and sewer will be an on-going issue. Another challenge is to attract a name brand motel that could house large groups since currently these groups stay in the Prairie du Chien area.

If elected, what would you like to see accomplished during your term as mayor?

I would continue to deal with the major challenges facing the community. I want to see Elkader continue to be a great place to live and raise children. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

During the last 12 years Elkader has moved forward with many infrastructure improvements, such as the betterment of north High Street and Main Street. We have seen many new businesses open and others expand.  This is a destination place and I would like to continue to lead Elkader in that direction.

Also running for mayor is Josh Pope. A Waterloo native who was raised on a farm near Jesup, Pope has lived in Elkader since 1999. He has been the store manager at Norby’s Farm & Fleet since May 2008, almost exactly one month before the town’s historic flood.

Since 2004, Pope has owned and operated J-N-J Pizza, Elkader. He provides part-time jobs to many Central students. Pope was the president of the Central Athletics Booster club for more than a decade.

Why are you running for mayor?

I decided to run for mayor because I feel deeply about the city of Elkader. I feel we have a real opportunity to grow as a community and increase the quality of life. I would like to see growth in affordable housing to help businesses fill their job openings and that, in turn, will increase general population and school enrollment. As a small business owner, one of my biggest fears is the loss of our school. This would be devastating to Elkader as a whole.

What qualifies you to be mayor?

As a business owner, a manager of a small farm store and many years as a finance manager, I possess the qualifications to be mayor. I realize that while times are economically tough with the right leadership our city has a chance to make great progress.

How would you interact with your constituents?

I consider any public input imperative to the success of our community. I would make myself available by phone and email, and would also regularly set aside time before and after City Council meetings to hear from people one-on-one or to work with small groups. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the City of Elkader?

Situations change so flexibility is the key, For example, after the floods, issues related to that needed to be addressed right away. Overall, however, we need to look at affordable housing. We have jobs to support growth but we don’t have affordable housing options. There’s a domino effect to consider here: If we have jobs that could be filled, in part, by young families and if we have housing those families can afford, we’ll see growth in other areas like school enrollment.

If elected, what would you like to see accomplished during your term as mayor?

I would like to see greater emphasis on our whole community. We hear a lot about Main Street, and we do have a wonderful Main Street area with lots of opportunities. But the area outside of the immediate downtown seems to get overlooked and it has a lot to offer, too. I’d like the people who live here and visit here to get a broader picture of Elkader.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I really want to encourage people to get out and vote. City elections may not be as exciting as presidential elections, for example, but they’re very important. In a small community like this every votes really does count, and a few votes can decide an election. So, I really want to see a good turnout.

Voters will also be deciding on two open council seats. Peggy Lane and Kevin Lau are running for those two seats. Lane is currently a council member.

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