Motivated by vandals
Former Mayor Lutz recalls accomplishments, challenges
Former Fort Dodge Mayor Terry Lutz had been in office for about six months when he and his wife came home one day to find a hole in a window.
Inside, they found shattered glass on the floor and on a table. They also found a rock in a corner of the room.
Lutz told a Fort Dodge audience Monday that the rock was evidence of change.
“That really fired me up to do a lot of different things that we ultimately accomplished,” he said.
Lutz, who was mayor from 2006 to 2009, recounted those accomplishments during a talk to the Fort Dodge Rotary Club during its meeting at Shiny Top Brewing, 520 Central Ave.
His term as mayor was one that was full of change, starting with the form of government. In 2005, city voters approved the switch to a system in which a fulltime professionally trained city manager is in charge of daily government operations instead of an elected mayor.
Lutz said anything other than a city manager form of government is “way too political to really make good long range city decisions.”
“Don’t ever get rid of the city manager form of government,” he said.
Lutz, who now lives in Des Moines, spent his first year in office leading the search to find a city manager. David Fierke was hired for the position in 2007 and has been city manager ever since. Lutz said he favored a more experienced candidate, and that Fierke was his second choice.
“You can see how wrong I was,” he said.
During his tenure, Lutz and the City Council commissioned a number of planning documents and were heavily criticized for doing so by those who thought the money should be spent fixing neighborhood streets.
“We didn’t really have a good short or long term plan for the city,” he said. “If you don’t plan, you plan to fail.”
The Envision 2030 strategic plan and the Corridor of Commerce Plan that transformed the look of Fifth Avenue South were among those completed.
And while he advanced all those plans, Lutz worked to stop one that was in the works – an effort to restart the Hydroelectric Dam, which has since been removed.
City voters had approved spending up to $7 million on the project.
The plan was the idea of Fort Dodge Hydroelectric Development Corp., based in Cedar Rapids. Lutz recalled that the first time he met with the two partners who made up that company, he asked them how much equity they were putting into the project. He said his question was met with blank stares by the two men. That prompted him to seek an independent analysis of the project. That analysis showed that the proposed project “made absolutely no financial sense at all.”
Lutz said that he is disappointed that the city has not continued to place utility wires underground along the Corridor of Commerce. Those wires were placed underground along Kenyon Road and along Fifth Avenue South between Eighth and 32nd streets. He said he believes the wires should go underground from 32nd Street to the eastern city limits as well.
He said while he was in office, he had a plan, which wasn’t widely known, to demolish the Warden Plaza in the 900 block of First Avenue South for $1 million.
“It needs to come down and the ground needs to be repurposed,” Lutz said.
Asked for some advice on how to grow the workforce in Fort Dodge, the former mayor replied “This is tough. We call it a war for talent.”
“Today, kids go where they want to live and then they look for a job,” he added.
Lutz said having quality of life amenities and being welcoming of a diverse workforce are essential.