New MIDAS director ready to get back to her roots
Kathy Pfiffner grew up in a tiny town in eastern Iowa, so small towns are near and dear to her heart.
Pfiffner recently took over as the executive director at the Mid-Iowa Development Association Council of Governments. Her first day on the job was Sept. 3.
MIDAS is an agency created to assist counties and communities with various governmental needs. It covers the six-county region of Calhoun, Hamilton, Humboldt, Pocahontas, Webster and Wright counties and is headquartered in Fort Dodge.
Pfiffner has a deep background in working for governmental agencies. She worked for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division in Iowa for 14 years. In 2016, she moved to New Mexico to serve as the USDA Rural Development’s community programs director for that state for two years. She then moved to Washington, D.C., to take a special projects coordinator position with the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service division before moving onto working for the Environmental Protection Agency in financing water and sewer systems under the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act.
Then the Midwest started pulling her back.
“I’m from Iowa originally and while I did like working in Washington, D.C., I liked having the hands-on work with the local communities, so I was wanting to get back to my roots and get back to that sort of stuff,” Pfiffner said.
One of the things Pfiffner put at the top of her priorities list when she took the helm at MIDAS was making sure she visits every single municipality in the six-county region.
“The previous director had been here for so long and I’m not from this area, so I just wanted to introduce myself,” she said. “I just think it’s good service to make sure they know who I am and don’t just sit back and wait for them to come to me.”
In brief, MIDAS is an agency that does all sorts of things to make peoples’ lives better, Pfiffner said.
“We operate two transit systems, helping people get to and from work,” she said. “We provide assistance to local communities for essential government activities such as codification, doing ordinances and stuff like that. As executive director, I make sure all those balls keep rolling at all times and really promote what we do.”
The Dewar native attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls for her undergraduate degree and for a master’s degree in public policy with an emphasis on rural communities.
“Rural communities face some more unique challenges – they don’t get near the attention some of the big cities do,” Pfiffner said. “Rural communities are near and dear to my heart because I was born and raised in one. I think it’s a great life, so why not continue to help not only sustain it, but expand it and help make it a very successful place.”
Pfiffner also holds a law degree from Drake University Law School in Des Moines and plans to use that for MIDAS to eventually offer some legal services to its clients.
Other changes Pfiffner is looking at for the agency is a re-branding to make the group and what it does more recognizable to the general public. And eventually, maybe in a year, she said, MIDAS will look into expanding its services, like the adding of legal services.
“And also getting into some areas that we’ve never provided services for,” she said. “I’d like to get active in some sort of housing programs if I can figure out how to do that. Housing is a perennial issue for all rural communities and my six-county area here is no different and I’d like to see us getting involved in housing programs to help improve that side of things.”
The value that MIDAS brings to the communities it serves is twofold – people and expertise, Pfiffner said. Some of the smaller municipalities MIDAS works with don’t have very large staffs, and often don’t have a city planner or even a full-time city clerk on staff.
“So our value is providing those governmental assistance services that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own,” she said. “And here at MIDAS, my staff has very significant expertise in governmental topics that they can provide as a resource to these communities.”