Editor’s Note: As the City Election approaches, we invited all candidates for Mayor and City Council to share information about them and their views with our readers, in their own words. 

This is the profile submitted by Mayoral Candidate Rich Hainstock. 

My name is Rich Hainstock and I am running for Mayor of Vinton. My background includes being a full-time farmer, an Iowa State University Extension Education Director, and now I manage my own business as an entrepreneur. Negotiating, scheduling, facilitating and managing varied groups of people have been what I have been trained to do and what I continue to do. I am a member of the Business Opportunity Group of Vinton Unlimited, Braille School, and iVinton committees. Serving 15 years on a county zoning commission that rewrote the entire subdivision ordinance was a rewarding past public service. I have worked with Tax Increment Financing (TIF) contracts and with street paving contractors resulting in paving of public streets – on budget. I have volunteered with Rotary International, Boy Scouts, 4-H, and FFA. Seeking out opportunities to be a part of my community comes naturally to me and Vinton has made it easy for me to feel at home and welcome.

Views on iVinton:

I was a member of the original iVinton committee. I’ve been working on it since the beginning. The current committee is breaking into 5 separate smaller committees and I’m chairing the business committee which has the task of asking our current businesses what they need now and what they will need in the future as well as forecasting what any future businesses might need. So obviously, I believe in working towards having a fiber optic system that will provide reliable, high-speed and competitively priced service.

What makes Vinton unique?

What I think is unique about Vinton is easily explained in this story: From time to time I have the opportunity to take representatives from a prospective new business around town. The story always goes something like this. We meet at about 10 o’clock in the morning downtown on 4th Street and the very first thing they say when they get out of their car is, “I couldn’t find a parking space” and I get the privilege of responding, “You know that is what’s really great about this town? It’s a business town. Not every town this size is still a business town. Something has happened in Vinton to keep these businesses going.” Then, by the time I take them around town and show them the industrial park, the new school, and everything else that has happened in the community and explain to them about the things that we continue to work on, there is this amazed look on their face. Then they ask me really good questions about how to make their company fit into Vinton’s business community. It really is a pleasure to be able to talk about this town and that it’s such a wonderful place to be and it makes the job easy to show Vinton to prospective businesses. 

How would you support housing initiatives and build our tax base?

Supporting housing initiatives is really quite easy for me. That’s the business I’ve been doing for more than 15 years. I’ve built a housing subdivision with a public golf course. I’ve built houses on individual lots and here in Vinton you’ve probably seen some of my remodeling jobs take shape. I’ve done several downtown commercial spaces that include second story lofts and a couple of houses.

So what would I do? There’s a local group that is working on bringing housing to the property south of the High School. I have been asked to be on that committee. The first question I asked was, “Will it cause a problem my being on this committee if I become mayor?” The response was, “No… We’re kind of hoping that if you become mayor it’ll help.” I also made certain they understood that if I’m not elected mayor, I will still be on that committee and help housing come to Vinton.

I have experience in how other communities have supported housing development and expansion of their tax base. I believe I could work with the council and developers to find win-win situations for Vinton and for the developers.

Why did you make the decision to run for mayor?

Because of my business, I’ve been attending city council meetings and I’ve been watching how they operate. One of the two jobs of the Mayor is running City Council meetings and I know that I have the skill set to do that. The second job that the Mayor does is serving as the “CEO of the city” (the official title). With a Mayor-Council organization, the Mayor (along with the City Manager) is in charge of the city. They take information and recommendations to the council and, in turn, it is the council that makes decisions and spends taxpayer money. As those decisions are made, it is a situation a lot like what I’ve been doing in my work over the last 15+ years. A general contractor has to work with subcontractors and has to be able to get them to do what they need to do without forcing them to do it, but rather by facilitating and creating a situation where they are willing to do what they are needed to do. The Mayor is often in that exact same role. The Mayor needs to work with the city council and city manager so they can do their jobs and make decisions for the community. The Mayor shouldn’t make decisions rather he/she should help facilitate them. I’d like to think that the Mayor would be a person who would be able to communicate the same information to every city council person so that they understand the facts of the situation so they can make an informed decision. So, why would I want to run for mayor? I’ve been trained since I was a small boy that if there’s something that needs to be done, it’s not you should do it but you must do it. So I felt I should do my share and help the city of Vinton move into the future.

If you can accomplish one significant thing your first year in office. What would be your top priority and why?

My top priority would be iVinton. When the community voted on it, it received over 80% approval which means it is also a top priority for our constituents. It affects so many other things. It’s even higher than housing which is a scary thought since that’s my background. Because I believe iVinton will also drive housing and business development. There are some ideas floating out there about how this can be financed and how the fee systems could be structured. We can use this as a tool to market our community and market our businesses. iVinton could be used as a marketing tool to bring young families into town. We can have a very unique situation with iVinton leading the way for most of our economic development efforts. Fiber optics cable put in the ground or hung on a power pole is the public infrastructure that, if carefully planned and executed, will benefit all citizens. I’m really excited about it and that would be my number one priority.

Economic development question?

Economic development in any town the size of Vinton is a multi-pronged effort. Anybody who thinks that if they do one thing “the town will prosper” will find it is not so simple. The reality is that in a small town it’s the same as in a big town. Businesses are attracted when they have a personal connection to someone or something in your community. It takes a group of people, such as the Benton Opportunities Group of Vinton Unlimited (which I’ve been attending for the last 7 years.), to go out and look for those people, and those businesses. One must listen carefully when you hear someone say “You know, my company is thinking about expanding” those words are gold to economic development. Everyone thinks we want to get this new business or this new idea to come to town, which is great, but I think homegrown businesses are the true success stories. To get new businesses to come to town we need to hear someone say “I’m ready for my business to expand,” and then we need to make a personal connection to bring them here. One example of my experience here is with La Reyna Mexican restaurant. When I started my downtown development, someone said they wished there was a Mexican restaurant in town. I went to eight Mexican restaurant business owners that were already in business before I found one that would work. I knew it would work because Carmen and Carlos’s first question to me was, “What is the school like?” I knew I had a winner. It’s the same with any big industry; you need someone to make that type of personal connection and to provide a reason why they would want to come here.

What do you believe are Vinton’s top two challenges going into 2018, and how will you address these challenges?

To me, one of the biggest challenges in the next year for Vinton will be to not forget about differed maintenance. Differed maintenance comes in many forms in Vinton: Streets, sidewalks, sewage treatment plant, water towers. All of those things we use and take for granted every day. It’s really easy for those things to slip by because there is nothing glamorous about the work. Who doesn’t want to announce a new business coming to town with a hundred jobs but who wants to talk about sidewalks all day long? It’s a challenge. So I think one of the biggest challenges for Vinton and the government of Vinton is to keep that in mind. Number two on my list is one of the biggest challenges facing Vinton. What is going to be done with the Braille School? Whether we’re going to accept it or not, it’s the elephant in the room and we can’t ignore it. The committees are working on it. The second committee is now formed, they’re working on that issue and it sounds like something is going to happen in the next year. We’ll just have to deal with it. We need to look at the information, listen carefully, study, ask the hard questions and then ultimately make the hard decision.

How will you support the on-going dialogue with the board of regents about the braille school property?

The role that I’ve agreed to take in the Braille School decision is as an observer on the committee for the renegotiation between AmeriCorps and the state. I don’t think we’ll ever meet physically – it’s all done by email – so it’s interesting to me how at that level of government people don’t meet face to face, but the point is that this work is one of the things I’m already doing. The current Braille School Committee met last week and I met with them and gave a small report and discussed options that we may want to front-load the negotiations with. Vinton might be best served if these options are discussed now and work to get them included as options. If the community doesn’t take the Braille School that’s fine, if we do take the Braille School there are still options, we still do not have to exercise those options. It seemed to be something that the committee is considering and we’ll see where it goes from here. That’s all I can tell about that at this time. What will I do beyond that? Anytime anyone talks about redeveloping the Braille School, that’s what I do, I have a background in redeveloping things, there are people a lot smarter than me that know a lot more about that but I know some of those people and many other people also know others who have already come forward and offered to help with this decision. My main role is to help with renegotiations with secondary roles of facilitating the work and being supportive. 

What are your thoughts on a new rec center and how soon should we begin working on it?

The rec center is one of those items in the community that is a public good. It is a quality of life issue. It has been mentioned that the hospital, school, and city rec department are three groups that would be great if they worked together on this. Private donors have always been a strong part of funding but a fifth source is public/private partnerships. There are plenty of people in the recreational business that would be very happy to visit with Vinton and bring their wares to Vinton. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be talking to them. When you talk about funding partners these are people with deep pockets. These are people who know what they’re doing in their industry. And of course, connecting with our hospital, school, and rec department will make this a success. The second part of that question was how soon should we be getting at it? It can’t start soon enough because it is something the city has been talking about for a while. It should be immediate, let’s get working on it.

Sidewalks:

There are two types of sidewalks people have in their minds. One is the trail system type that is publicly managed and in Vinton that falls under the parks and rec department. They have people talking about that all the time, it’s very important to them. That issue is something that needs to be coordinated with everything that happens in this community. The second is the type of sidewalks that are out front of your house or your neighbor‘s house. Sidewalks help create neighborhoods and Vinton is a big neighborhood. I know of a city that has implemented a sidewalk program that has been effective. It’s been in effect for 10 years. It’s taken 10 years for it to make a difference but the reason it works is because it’s consistent, long-term, and has a start and stop point that you can’t get past. So, I know there’s a system model that will work and I am willing to discuss it with the council should they be interested in it and hopefully that will help move us in the right direction.

Why is there no public vote for the braille school purchase?

The council could ask for a non-binding public vote to help them decide on whether or not to accept the braille school but ultimately the decision goes to the council. So, listen carefully to your candidates for council, choose one that represents your views. I’m not saying you can’t have a public poll, but even if you do it’s still the Council’s decision.

With the FEMA report in mind; what should Vinton do to protect the fire station and the light plant? Should they move them or protect each of them with a flood wall?

I read through the FEMA report recently and the cost in that report would scare most anyone. It appears to me that accepting the money to move the fire station is the most logical situation and I base that on the costs and styles of the proposed flood walls, not the cost of moving the fire station. All of the options except one would make it impossible to have access to the fire station during a flood and that seems unacceptable.

As far as the flood wall protecting the power plant, perhaps that’s the way to go, there needs to be more study done on that, the costs are truly astronomical. In the end, moving the power plant would be a VMU and council decision.

Closing Statement:

In my business, I follow a 4-step process. I look for opportunities, I research opportunities that are of interest to me, I create a plan, and then I take action. Many people like to look for ideas, many people like to research ideas, and many people like to plan those actions. It’s acting that is hard to do, it’s hard to step forward, and it’s hard to step up where people can see you and take that limelight and also sometimes take the abuse that comes with it. In my mind, the role that I’ve taken so far is the role of facilitator. I work to bring consensus. I work to make things happen but there needs to be action. No, I haven’t spent the last eight years becoming deeply mired in the current political situation in Vinton. I have spent the last eight years learning about Vinton. I’ve come to learn who the city employees are that work for Vinton. I’ve come to know the volunteers that make Vinton work! I have learned to call Vinton my new home town. Thank you for the opportunity to serve my new hometown.

Rich Hainstock

See Hainstock’s Mayoral Campaign Facebook page HERE.