MUSCATINE — Boasting the city's growing amenities and development, 2nd Ward Councilman Michael Rehwaldt said he believes "it's morning again in Muscatine."
Rehwaldt is seeking his second term on the Muscatine City Council. He has a challenger, Osmond "Oz" Malcolm, a newcomer to Muscatine politics.
Born and raised in Muscatine, Rehwaldt attended Muscatine schools and the University of Iowa. He is the former owner of Hotel Muscatine, then had a career working as an executive recruiter specializing in environmental talent. He also served multiple terms as a board member of Decatur Electronics, and CDM, an international consulting engineering firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Having traveled across the country, Rehwaldt eventually returned to his roots in Muscatine. He remembers his father serving on the city council around 50 years ago.
"My dad, Charles, was active in everything in the community, everything," Rehwaldt said. "He was just a good example to follow, a good man, and I always admired him."
Inspired by that example, Rehwaldt ran for election in 2013, unseating former 2nd Ward council member Mark LeRette.
"I thought my dad would be pleased if I did [run], so it's a wonderful tradition," he said. "I hope to be as conscientious as he was. He never did the easy thing. He always tried to do the right thing."
In part, he said he attributes the victory to his work helping the Muscatine Fire Department secure the longevity of its annual boot drive.
"The council before me banned the firemen from having their boot drive, and I was out campaigning and people...were very unhappy," he said. "I think that's how I won the election. I got that turned around, gathered the votes I needed and we got them back out where they should be."
In 2013 with LeRette still on the council, members approved allowing firefighters to collect donations on the streets for another year, according to the minutes. The city now allows the crew to hold the boot drive outside of Muscatine businesses.
Throughout his first term, Rehwaldt said he is most proud the city has avoided raising the city's tax levy. The city's tax rate is $15.67 per $1,000 of assessed value, according to the city budget.
"Seven years and no tax levy increase, that is phenomenal," he said. "You got to give staff a lot of credit for doing more with less. We give the order every year, no tax increase. And we find a way to make it work."
The councilman said he also worked to preserve Iowa Field in Muscatine. While not a park with the typical amenities, Rehwaldt said the field is used by residents each week.
"There was a proposal to build some(thing) on it, and the bottom line is, you can't build there because it's literally a flood plain," he said. "So I got it off the list to make it eligible for development and now it's in a lock box. It can never be used for anything other than what it is right now."
On Oct. 11, 2012, before Rehwaldt's term, the city council agreed to remove Iowa Field from a development proposal in closed session due to an outcry from Muscatine residents, according to previous reporting by the Muscatine Journal.
If re-elected to city council, Rehwaldt wants to keep the city's tax rate at the same level, plus better promote Muscatine's public safety departments.
"There's this culture in the fire department that they fight to see who gets to be the first one through the door when there's a structure fire," he said. "They all want to be the first one through the door to attack the fire. And it's that kind of attitude that makes them real winners."
Rehwaldt wants to provide the police and fire departments with the right resources, and also looks forward to the development of a potential container port on the Mississippi River.
"There's a tremendous amount of talent here because it's a headquarters town for some really vibrant enterprise that you don't find in other towns," Rehwaldt said. "We're lucky to have the resources we've got and the tradition of giving and community involvement from these companies."
The deadline for residents to pre-register to vote is Oct. 27. The Muscatine municipal election will be held Nov. 7.