This is one of nine candidate profiles to be featured before the upcoming Nov. 7 city election in Newton. Incumbent Mayor Mike Hansen is running for re-election.
Name: Michael L. Hansen
Employment: Labor relations representative
Years of Newton residency: 57 years
Running For: Mayor, City of Newton
What do you feel is the most important issue Newton will be facing during your term as mayor?
There are several important issues facing Newton in the next two to four years. Due to the limited space allocated for candidate responses, I will address them in a broader, more general manner. We must continue to grow our residential, commercial and industrial tax base. We must continue to attract business startup ventures and support existing businesses/employers with their expansion plans, which will bring additional employment opportunities. We must continue to work with our economic development team, community partners, business leaders and volunteers, as well as our county and state legislators to achieve our community development goals. Relationship building and networking have and will produce results. We must continue to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
What do you think has been the biggest achievement for the City of Newton in the last four years and what do you think has been the greatest struggle?
There have been significant achievements over the past few years. We have been successful in expanding job opportunities (more than 2,100 with several companies still hiring today), business investment and attracting new start-up companies in Newton. We have changed the look of our neighborhoods by utilizing the city’s Dangerous and Dilapidated building program, enhancing Newton’s curb appeal. The downtown recognition as a National Historic Place, the Newton Main Street designation and improvement plans, Hotel Maytag renovation and restoration, the housing initiative program and maintaining our community hospital are all examples of the community working together for a better Newton. One of our greatest challenges was getting developers/contractors to start building new homes in Newton, it took much longer than expected. Nevertheless, we now have several new housing starts underway and conversation continues with several potential retail and hospitality investors. I’m confident the announcement of new business investment and new employment opportunities for Newton will continue.
What role do you think the city can and should play in economic development? What more/less should the city be doing for economic development?
The public/private partnership investment model has been a very successful tool for Newton in attracting new investment and assisting with existing business expansion. The model requires the greater majority of investment to come from the private party with the city providing the minority funding primarily through TIF, tax credits and state/federal grants. With this model, general fund property tax dollars are not used for investment from the city. We should continue using this model to achieve our community development goals as directed by the citizens of Newton in the comprehensive plan, “Newton’s Future.”
Housing has been a major focus for the city in recent years. How do you see the efforts continuing and what ideas do you have for future growth?
Housing starts are critical to the continued growth in our local economy as well as our population growth. All you need to do to understand the impact of housing is to look at the growth in the communities to our west. More housing leads to more retail, more business investment, more jobs and more students in our school system. The City of Newton should continue its partnership with Newton Housing Development Corporation in developing additional subdivisions for new housing starts and housing opportunities in the downtown.
Do you think there is an area in Newton the city should be focusing on that has not received attention?
Though as a city we are pleased with the progress to date, we will never be “done” working to enhance all areas of Newton. As we continue to listen and gather input from the citizens of Newton, we will respond to the needs, preferences and desires that are shared. If someone has a concern they feel we may have overlooked, please contact me or any city official — we have a strong history of listening.
Why do you want to be mayor and why should voters choose you to represent Newton?
It’s truly an honor to have the privilege of serving the citizens of Newton as your mayor. I have had the good fortune of leading and working with talented members of our city council and staff, our community partners and business leaders, citizen volunteers and various community organizations. Together, we continue to move Newton forward with positive change in community growth and enhancement of our quality of life, all while being good stewards of your tax dollars. I’ve been here to help lead this great community through one of the toughest times in our history. All signs point to us being well into a period of recovery and growth. I have lost none of my desire nor passion to continue to lead Newton as we move into this new phase of expansion after years of challenge. I have no doubt that the future is bright for the City of Newton. I hope to have the chance to help shape that future. I ask for your continued support and your vote on Nov. 7.