This is one of nine candidate profiles to be featured before the upcoming Nov. 7 city election in Newton. Evelyn George is one of five candidates running for the at-large city council seat.
Name: Evelyn George
Employment: Iowa Farm Bureau
Hometown: Sumner, Iowa
Years of Newton residency: More than 30 years
What do you feel is the most important issue Newton will be facing during your term on the city council?
Newton must continue working to attract new families and diversify our tax base. Construction of new housing and a new school are critical to attracting new residents. Local company expansions and new companies choosing to locate in Newton add to our tax base and bring new jobs and residents. We can’t think our work is done. State funding to cities is expected to be lower, so we must continue looking for ways to add revenue and be cost-effective in providing desired services to our residents. Public-private partnerships and collaboration are keys to success.
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 biggest struggle?
Going from hand-wringing to taking action to move the community forward has been challenging — but so rewarding. It’s exciting to see progress throughout the city — from dilapidated buildings going down to dirt moving and new construction going up. There’s renewed pride in neighborhoods. And the “Get to Know Newton” marketing campaign has been an effective way to share this positive message inside and outside our community.
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?
In best practices, the city’s role is to put economic development goals in Newton’s comprehensive plan and budget, to evaluate financial options and local incentives, and to cooperate with local and regional development efforts. The Newton Economic Development Corporation (NDC) has the responsibility to lead local development activity and engage partners to grow local businesses, support entrepreneurs and attract new business and industry. This public-private partnership is working to build our tax base and attract new jobs and residents.
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 is critical to retaining and attracting families, restaurants and retail businesses to Newton. The city has taken important steps to demonstrate the demand for new housing – taking Newton from zero new home builds in 2011 to 32 new homes constructed and under construction the past four years. The city council chose to support a full-time executive director for Newton Housing Development Corporation (NHDC) to take the lead in housing development, which is their expertise. The $10,000 incentive for buyers of new homes in Newton has been successful in getting the attention of builders and families looking for a new home. Of 21 new homes sold, 10 were to families new to our community. New home construction will begin soon in Cardinal Ridge and Fairmeadows North with homebuyers expressing interest in both developments.
Do you think there is an area in Newton the city should be focusing on that has not received enough attention?
The city needs to find ways to be more effective and efficient. We want to be known as a city that’s “easy to do business with” through our responsiveness to citizens and developers. Some department heads have been through customer service training, which needs to expand to the front-line employees who interact regularly with citizens and visitors. Lean process improvement projects can also help improve responsiveness and efficiency of city staff.
Why do you want to be on city council, and why should voters choose you to represent Newton?
Each year of service, my understanding of city operations and issues impacting Newton is better, and I’m more effective representing and serving the citizens of Newton. I’ve learned so much by talking with residents about their concerns. I will continue working for Newton to retain and attract residents and to diversify our tax base as well as strengthen public-private partnerships and improve city efficiency and responsiveness.