Lisbon City Council: Joe Nelson
October 28, 2013
• Age: 39
• Education/military service: Lisbon High School graduate, 1992; Kirkwood Community College-Associate of Applied Science Degree, 1994
• Occupation: Sales at Suburban Lumber in Cedar Rapids for 17 years
• Family: Wife, Melissa; son, Hawkeye
• Community involvement/elected service: Member of Lisbon Planning & Zoning Committee for one year.
Why are you running for a position on the Lisbon City Council?
Being a lifelong resident of Lisbon, minus five years, I have a strong bond to Lisbon. I have always been a proud resident that has been excited to see Lisbon grow from where it was when I was a youngster in elementary school to today.
I want to see Lisbon grow even further, but do it the right way. Lisbon has a chance, with the bypass forecast, to be going through in the coming years, to grow to the south with new residential communities and new areas for parks & recreation. We need to do it the right way and not all at once.
I feel I have a firm grasp from being in the construction field to help with that process and look forward to the bright future that Lisbon has ahead.
What is the role of the city council?
I feel the council is elected to represent the community as a whole and do what is best for the community. We need to listen to what the citizens are saying and try to follow through with their suggestions as well as a city council can.
I understand some of our decisions are going to be met with some resistance and we are not going to make the entire community happy with everything that we do, but if we keep an open ear I feel we can do what is best for the community and move us into the future.
What experiences/background would make you a good city council member?
I feel one of my biggest attributes is being a lifelong resident of Lisbon. I have seen it go from a community that was approximately 1,200 citizens to the community that is proudly approximately 2,100 strong. Granted, we have had some growing pains in the process, but I have seen what has worked and what has not.
I have been a traveling salesman in the construction field for 17 years. I have had the ability to drive through several smaller communities through the years, and I have seen what has made some successful communities successful and some not move forward. Several communities have been able to maintain their downtown districts with businesses that have stood the test of time. Some communities also have grown from their footprint of 20 years ago to where they are today with businesses that have decided to move to town because they have grown the correct way.
I have seen what businesses work and fail and I want to use my knowledge to help bring new business to the downtown district as well as the outlying areas of the "new" Lisbon footprint.
What are the top three strengths of the City of Lisbon and how should they capitalize on those strengths?
1. Lisbon is a smaller, tight knit community that is always there for each other in one another's time of need. Whether it is a benefit for someone with a health scare or a normal Friday night at the football field, we always seem to rally behind one another. With us being tight knit we are able to toss ideas out to one another easier and see what everyone is feeling would be the best for Lisbon.
2. Lisbon has one of the best school systems around. Whether educationally, athletically, or in the area of fine arts, Lisbon has always been at the top of their game. I believe the school system with all the kids being more or less under one roof gives all the students a greater sense of community and are more apt to show strong values because of it. The students are proud of the town that they are part of and would do anything to support it. We need to keep the school system growing to keep up with our growing town. I believe we are on the right track with this.
3. Our city employees are a great attribute to Lisbon. Just recently it has come to the attention of the community that we were able to keep a contract in house for a water main. Instead of "subbing" it out to an outside source our employees decided to try the work themselves. Lisbon, through the hard work of our employees, was able to save Lisbon tens of thousands of dollars. We need to look at how we can continue this in house work. The money that they save is going to go a long way to helping Lisbon with the financial constraints that we are presented with in this day and time.
What are top three biggest challenges facing the City of Lisbon and how should they be addressed?
1. Budget cuts. We all know it is getting tougher and tougher to find the funds to continue everyday life the way that we are accustomed to. Well, Lisbon is the same way. Government funding is not as easy to get as it once was. How do we fix this? One way like I mentioned before is to try and keep as many projects in house and not let them out to contractors that are making money on something that we are able to do. We need to streamline our government so that we don't have the three people doing one person's job. Times are tough and we need to save where we can.
2. This may be an oxymoron, but I feel if we are able to keep some of the projects in house and do them ourselves, it may take Lisbon to add city staff to help do this. Yes, it would cost money to make money, but I feel there is enough work that Lisbon is used to giving away to others, to pay for the extra city staff and in the long run make Lisbon money.
3. The bypass. Whether we believe it or not the bypass is coming. For Lisbon to take full advantage of the growth possibilities we are going to need to build our infrastructure to support this. We are going to need to apply for as many grants as we can and save money in other areas to move Lisbon to the future.
What should the top three budget priorities be for the City of Lisbon?
1. Like I mentioned before we need to start thinking of the bypass and what we need to do to be ready for it. Infrastructure is going to be a major funding issue. We need to plan now so we are ready later.
2. Water and sewer fees. We all know that these fees have been inching their way up over the last several years. We as a council need to find ways to stop this. The community can't keep absorbing these inflating costs.
3. The never ending need to improve our roads and water system. The roads will never be able to fix themselves and the water system needs to keep up with the times. Some of the water mains and even the water tower are In need of repair due to age.
Often time's council members have niche or an expertise they bring to city government. What's yours?
With being in the construction business and seeing communities in other areas, I have noticed what works and what doesn't. I always keep my eyes open to see what businesses have stood the test of time in similar communities our size. We need to recruit these businesses to our town with incentives. I also have seen communities grow and how they do it. Working with said communities you can see what their growing pains have been and what, if they have, have done to overcome these.
What should the City of Lisbon do, if anything, to replace its wading pool?
We must do something to replace our wading pool. I think the best alternative is a splash pad. We need to continue to find things that keep our younger generation around and out of trouble. A splash pad would be something that would work and be fun for the entire family. Sure, there are a lot of things that come with this that may be downfalls, but I believe that the good definitely outweigh the bad.
What should be done, if anything, to resolve sharing issues between the Lisbon and Mount Vernon police departments?
I quite honestly do not understand what has escalated this into such a big issue. As long as I can remember Lisbon and Mount Vernon have shared different departments, fire and police. It is an agreement that is between the two towns that we call in a time of need and they do as well. There may be times that Mount Vernon may need help or vice versa and we need to be there for each other. There shouldn't be a fee that needs to be charged if Mount Vernon is needed to assist us with a call. Lisbon is not going to charge a fee. It is give and take; take the good with the bad. I think whatever issues one has with the other needs to be resolved before something major happens and one is needed and they are not there.
If elected, what actions, if any, should the city council take immediately?
We need to look over the budget. Lisbon residents pay extremely high taxes and deserve to get better for what they pay for. Where does all the money go? I will admit I do not have that answer to that. I want to find out. I have heard from several people that with the money that they pay in taxes that we should be seeing more things improved throughout town. We need to fine tune the budget. We also need to revitalize our downtown. I am tired of seeing businesses with curtains or plywood over the windows. If certain property owners are doing this legally, then we need to help them form a plan to improve the looks of the fronts of these buildings. There are apartments that are part of the downtown streetscape now and I am fine with that. If businesses in the downtown are occupying their business in any sort of way that is deemed illegal, we need to push for a resolution. I am not quite sure what laws and ordinances are for if we do not enforce them.
Are you supporting any of the other candidates? If so, who?
I would like to support any candidate that is willing to put in the time and effort and whoever has the passion to move Lisbon forward into the future. I support a candidate who is going to listen to the citizens of Lisbon and willing to take their questions and suggestions and use them to make Lisbon a better place to live.
Why should citizens vote for you?
I am a citizen just like you. I have lived here my entire life and have passion for Lisbon like no other. I want to see Lisbon succeed and better themselves through ideas brought to the council by the citizens. Lisbon is only as good as the council and the ordinances that we try to enforce. I want to listen to the community and see what they feel needs to be done to make Lisbon a better place to live and a place where others want to come live.