Webster County Communities

Upward and onward; Webster Co. towns focus on improvements, housing, community

-Messenger file photo
Deegan Bair, 13, of Lehigh, at left, managed to stay on the log a split second longer than Jack Walker, 13, also of Lehigh, on June 19, 2022, during the log rolling contest at the annual Lehigh River Days celebration.


As Webster County’s second-biggest town, Gowrie is looking to expand even further, Mayor Bruce Towne said.

“We’re trying to keep things going like anywhere else,” he said.

The city has some property in the Wiley Addition on the town’s east side that are lined up with Origin Homes builders and Hubbell Realty of Des Moines to build new homes there, Towne said.

There are new housing forgivable grants available for those properties, he added. Those grants include up to $40,000 or 10% of the cost of new value added, whichever is less. There are also residential tax abatements over 10 years for new home construction available.

-Messenger file photo
Ezrah Smith, 3, of Duncombe, is somewhere under the helmet, water spray and turnout coat as he gets a little help aiming from Duncombe Firefighter Jamin Stuhr during the Duncombe 150th anniversary celebration in July 2022.

Gowrie is adding even more incentives for new home construction, including waiving the construction permit fee and providing free family passes to the Gowrie Municipal Golf Course, Gowrie Municipal Swimming Pool and the Wheels of GYC Roller Skating Rink.

A big change in Gowrie this year is the restaurant at the golf course. Mulligan’s is under new management and will be reopening in time for the Super Bowl.

“They’ve just spent the last two and a half months remodeling the place and getting it up and ready to open,” Towne said.

The city is in the process of updating the city vehicles, including purchasing a new police car this year, Towne said.

The city and the Gowrie Development Commission are also working on their downtown facade program with forgivable grants for downtown property upgrades, Towne said.

“We’re looking to keep our business district active instead of letting it go deserted,” he said.


The City of Clare bid farewell to two long-time city employees in 2022. Sharon Gross, who had served as the city clerk for over 35 years, and Mary Fitzgerald, who had spent more than two decades reading the town’s water meters, both retired last year.

The Clare Community Center is getting back to being used regularly for the first time since COVID struck, Mayor Barb Passow said.

The town also built a new city shed for the town’s maintenance vehicles in 2022, Passow added.

The Clare Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting its annual pancake breakfast on Feb. 12 at the fire station, 123 Front St. The pancake batter hits the griddles at 8 a.m.


The small northeastern Webster County town of Vincent has been focusing on its infrastructure lately.

“We’ve been working on our drainage on the northeast side of town as an ongoing project,” said Mayor Lynda Adson.

In 2022, the town also built a new building for the city snow plow.

“We’re always working on community beautification,” Adson added.


Last year marked the conclusion of a multi-year update to Lehigh’s water treatment plant, City Clerk Theresa Grossnickle said.

“Our filter for our water plant was replaced,” she said. “It was a large project.”

With the water treatment project complete, Lehigh doesn’t have any large capital projects on the horizon, Grossnickle said.

“We’ll just have our typical stuff like our normal road projects,” she said.

In June, the town held its annual Lehigh River Days.

“This year, we’re going kind of retro because it’s our 40-year anniversary,” organizer Brett Smith told The Messenger before the 2022 event.

Lehigh River Days is something that Smith and the rest of the planning committee take great pride in.

“I think it’s a good tradition because it gets the community together and it’s a beautiful little town for people to come visit,” Smith said. “It’s a good time for everyone to get outside and enjoy the outdoors and do fun activities.”


The City of Duncombe celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2022. The town was founded in 1872.

In July, the Duncombe Betterment Committee organized the annual Duncombe Days to celebrate 150 years of Duncombe.

In April, Eric and Joline Klein, two longtime members of the Duncombe Volunteer Fire Department, retired after a combined 62 years of service, leaving a lasting legacy in the rural eastern Webster County town.

Eric Klein’s introduction to firefighting was an abrupt one — he was outside doing yard work when his brother-in-law, who was the Duncombe fire chief at the time, came by and dragged him to a fire he needed more hands for.

That was 1987.

Over the years, Eric Klein has worn many different hats for the local fire department. He’s been everything from a firefighter to emergency medical technician, from secretary treasurer to captain to assistant chief to chief.

Joline Klein joined the Duncombe department in 1995, and it was Eric’s brother-in-law who brought her in as well. She had been giving him a hard time for not having any women volunteer.

“I always give the guys heck about how old they were and how they didn’t have any women in the department,” Joline Klein said. “Ten or 15 minutes later, I had my own bunker gear.”

She was the first female volunteer at the department, but since then it has seen a few female firefighters and EMTs.

She also served as a secretary treasurer, but most recently served as the emergency medical services director.


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