‘You have to have a certain passion’
ALGONA — Lynn Kueck, Algona’s mayor, is all about giving back to his hometown and making it be the best it can be.
He also likes to share his knowledge of history with the community whenever he gets the chance.
An Algona native, Kueck graduated valedictorian from Algona High School and then continued his studies at the University of Northern Iowa, majoring in mathmatics. During the spring of his senior year at UNI, he recieved a call from his former superintendent in Algona because they were in need of a new math teacher.
“I accepted the job,” Kueck said. “I was given a great opprotunity and I hadn’t even graduated yet.”
From there he became the head of the math department, the boys basketball coach, and the boys golf coach. After teaching for five years he applied to Stanford University in California and was accepted.
“I am very proud of my master’s degree from Stanford,” he said.
Kueck moved back to Algona to his teaching job and, in 1997, he was elected mayor.
“I got a call from a few of my buisnessmen friends and they asked me if I ever thought about being mayor because of how I always talked about giving back to the community. Next thing I know my name is on the ballot.”
During his time as mayor, he had some free time in the winter months and began researching the history of his town.
“As soon as I began researching, it became a real passion of mine, and you have to have a certain passion in order to be mayor.”
In 2004, the mayor wanted to have a special celebration for the 150th anniversary of Algona, which sparked his interest further.
“The more I would go and learn, the more different ideas I would have for a celebration. Finally, I came up with the idea of celebrating our founders, Asa and Ambrose A. Call and, with the help of Vicki Mallory, director of the chamber of commerce and co-founder, the annual Founders’ Day Celebration was born.”
This year Algona will be celebrating the 18th Founders’ Day.
Each year Kueck gives a free tour of Algona during the celebration.
“I rent a trolley, like the ones you would see around San Francisco, for the guests to ride around in and tell guests the history of numerous places in the town.”
Along with learning the town’s history, he has learned some more obscure facts.
“One story that has caught my eye has its beginning in 1896. A caravan of gypsies would camp near a stream in the woods north of Algona, and during their time working some of their members died. Since the gypsies had superstitions about death, they would bury them and have a custom ceremony.”
The resulting cemetery became part of the folklore of Algona’s history, along with the term “gypsy cemetery,” which is more commonly known as the Union Township Cemetery.
Learning more about the town history isn’t the only way Kueck has helped Algona.
The local option sales tax was an idea he suggested when he was first elected and the town proposed to build a new city pool.
“The initial cost of the pool was very pricey, and we did not want to affect everyone’s property tax. That is when the idea of the local option sales tax came into play,” he said.
The LOST is a way to help communities raise funds for specific local projects.
“It is really nice because it only adds a few extra cents to your cost and you do not notice it at the checkout,” he said.
It has helped Algona fund projects such as the Algona Aquatic Center, the new City Hall, various walking and biking trails throughout the city, and it has also helped to make downtown vibrant, he said.
His goals for this year and the upcoming year are to create affordable housing for the community, continue to help existing businesses expand, and to create amenities that will make people want to move to Algona.
“The collaboration of the chamber, retail sector and great city staff has made all of the great things Algona has possible,” Kueck said.