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Mount Vernon City Council Candidate: Kevin Carpenter
October 28, 2013

• Age: 53

• Education/military service: BA: Iowa State University, 1983, English; MA: Iowa State University, 1987, English

• Occupation: Adjunct professor, online English teacher, Kirkwood Community College; owner and developer,, a successful healthy food provider; owner, Helios Stitches N Stuff, the Mount Vernon fabric store

• Family: Husband, Leland Turner; three rescued Corgis, Barry (10), Dexter (8), and Annie (2), and one Corgi puppy, Seamus (8 Months)

• Community involvement/elected service: Benefactors of the local artist community, community theater and spring telethon; supporters of Mount Vernon festivals and CDG events; believers in the buy local lifestyle (we spend a good portion of our income in local shops and restaurants).

Why are you running for a position on the Mount Vernon City Council?

I'm not running because I hate something about the city council; I'm running because of how much potential Mount Vernon has to offer its citizens. Leland and I chose to move to Mount Vernon because this is a special place. And it's important to me that the things that make Mount Vernon special today are still here 25 years from now. That takes effort and vision on the part of our city council and I'm ready to step up and serve the community in this capacity.

What is the role of the city council?

It's important that our city council handle the day-to-day tasks of running our city while formulating a vision for what Mount Vernon will look like in the future. Do you think the city leaders of Mechanicsville, for example, thought 40 years ago that their thriving retail business district would be empty today? The city council needs to continue the current process of Comprehensive Planning to ensure that our city is attractive to businesses, young families, working adults, and senior citizens for years to come.

What experiences/background would make you a good city council member?

As a lifelong educator, corporate manager, and businessperson, I've always enjoyed public service. I've attended all the city council meetings since my narrow write-in vote loss in July and I am familiar with the issues that are currently in front of the city. My husband sometimes sits next to me at council meetings and wonders why I'm so fascinated with sidewalks and sewers. Honestly, I am! I believe that it's important to listen to all sides of any issue before making an informed decision and when I'm a city council member, I intend to do just that.

What are top three strengths of the City of Mount Vernon, and how should the city capitalize on those strengths?

Mount Vernon is unique in Eastern Iowa as our many events bring the citizens of the city together on an almost monthly basis. The city council should encourage the continuation and expansion of our annual festivals. These events introduce people to Mount Vernon and pump large amounts of money into our local economy. Is there any other town in Eastern Iowa that has as many opportunities for fun and fellowship as Mount Vernon?

The core of Mount Vernon is our intact central business district. Because of this, our town is a destination for people from all over the state. The city council needs to develop strategies to maintain our eclectic mix of retail shops and restaurants while encouraging expansion of the downtown business district whenever possible. And we need to be open to new and creative ideas for bringing businesses into our downtown.

Our citizens volunteer large amounts of their time to city committees. Our new dog park, for example, is a great quality-of-life addition to our community that became a reality because of the dedication of a group of volunteers. The city council needs to continue to tap this resource to allow our citizens to bring projects and ideas into the public forum. Mount Vernon should always be a place where a person can turn a great idea into reality.

What are top three biggest challenges facing the City of Mount Vernon and how should they be addressed?

Infrastructure. Infrastructure. Infrastructure. The current city council has been working on replacing aging infrastructure. The repaving of streets and sidewalks needs to continue. As our city expands, money will need to be invested in water and sewer upgrades. Fortunately, 55 percent of the new 1 percent increase in local sales tax revenues are devoted to street and sidewalk repair and should help the city cope with replacing aging infrastructure over the next 20 years.

Manage growth. I grew up in Coralville, and I would never want Mount Vernon to look like Coralville does today. We need to make sure that our building codes in the historic areas of town continue to reflect the aesthetics of our community. New housing needs to be built in a managed way that allows for young families to join our community and for senior citizens to stay in Mount Vernon when they no longer can live in their homes.

Let's face it: Iowa's population is aging. It's important that all communities invest today in activities that attract young people and retain senior citizens. People of all ages want to enjoy outdoor activities in the summer and move indoors during the winter. An affordable indoor pool complex and continued expansion of our parks and trails will help to bring these people to Mount Vernon and keep them here.

What should the top three budget priorities be for the City of Mount Vernon?

Prioritize which residential streets will be fixed next. Once this is done, inform the public when their street will be resurfaced and allocate money to complete those projects.

Use money that has already been approved by the public via ballot to move the community center/wellness center into the planning stages. It's important that we look at our budget and prioritize what we can actually afford to include in this facility, starting with an indoor pool and moving outward.

Provide resources to prioritize housing options for students, young families who want to move here, and retired people. Mount Vernon has a need for affordable housing options today so it is important that we start allocating resources now so we can identify and begin to meet those needs.

Often times council members have a niche - or an expertise - they bring to city government. What's yours?

I've always liked working with people and I'm great at finding a constructive middle ground. I always treat people with respect; even people who don't agree with me: over the many years that I've worked on committees, I've learned that people on the other side of an issue often have the best ideas that I've never thought of. As a corporate manager, a teacher, and a business owner, I've learned that it is important to focus on solutions instead of problems and that's what I intend to do when I'm a city council member.

What's your position on the proposed Mount Vernon community/wellness center?

The 2011 LOSST public funding measure in Mount Vernon passed with 65 percent approval and included a provision that 25 percent of revenues raised from the 1 percent increase in the local sales tax over the next 20 years would be allocated to the proposed community center. I support the building of an affordable indoor pool complex. We can argue about the nature of this building, the cost of this building, and the location of this building during the planning phase; we can't argue whether the people in Mount Vernon want it as they have already voted to fund the facility.

What should be done, if anything, to resolve sharing issues between the Mount Vernon and Lisbon police departments?

I was at the city council meeting where this issue was discussed and I could see how difficult this issue was for Chief Winder personally. Naturally, we all respect his nature to protect and serve any citizen in distress. It does not make sense, however, to put Mount Vernon police officers in physical and/or legal danger on a regular basis without some agreement with Lisbon on sharing police services.

If elected, what actions, if any, should the city council take immediately?

The issues outlined in the questions above all speak to actions the new city council should take up early in the next session. In addition, I do think the Comprehensive Planning Committee, which is going to be a huge asset to the next city council, should start to identify priorities and present them to the city council and public for action as soon as possible.

I also think that mayor Peterson's Saturday public forums should continue: the most recent forum, which I attended, was both productive and informative and I believe that all participants were able to express their views without anger. This type of public forum should be attended by all city council members and the discussions should be part of the public record.

Are you supporting either of the candidates for mayor, or any other candidates for city council? Who?

I support mayor Scott Peterson and council member Marty Christensen. Mayor Peterson runs an efficient meeting and takes his position seriously; he is not afraid to meet with the public and he gives of his time generously to anyone with a concern or question. Council member Christensen has been instrumental to the development of this town. If he and his business partner had not taken on the renovation of a central building downtown, there would not be a Lincoln Cafe or Silver Spider in town. As the owner of the local fabric shop, I know how valuable the Lincoln Cafe is to all of our businesses and it wouldn't exist here without the vision of Marty Christensen.

Why should citizens vote for you?

I look around Mount Vernon and I see a progressive community whose best days are in front of us. I don't wake up in the morning and think "no, we can't do that." I wake up in the morning and think, "Let's find a way to make that happen." We have the opportunity right now to set Mount Vernon on a path to a future where new residents will fall in love with Mount Vernon for the same reasons Leland and I did two years ago. With your support and vote, I look forward to representing the citizens of Mount Vernon.

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