Three new mayors on the Iowa side of the Quad-Cities are looking forward to a year ahead of growth, filling key jobs, and continuing to help improve the quality of life for residents in their respective communities. Eldridge, LeClaire and Riverdale are distinctly different Scott County communities. But their new mayors all bring a wealth […]
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Three new mayors on the Iowa side of the Quad-Cities are looking forward to a year ahead of growth, filling key jobs, and continuing to help improve the quality of life for residents in their respective communities.
Eldridge, LeClaire and Riverdale are distinctly different Scott County communities. But their new mayors all bring a wealth of experience to their roles.
The Quad Cities Regional Business Journal spent time with the new mayors – Eldridge Mayor Frank King, LeClaire Mayor Dennis Gerard and Riverdale Mayor Anthony Heddlesten – and other officials to hear plans for their communities.
The new North Scott Community YMCA quickly rising on Eldridge’s main thoroughfare represents the kind of development that can draw new businesses and residents to this community in the northern part of Scott County.
It also shows, says new Mayor Frank King, the level of cooperation that exists in Eldridge. The project is coming together because of funding from the city, North Scott Community School District and the YMCA of the Iowa Mississippi Valley. A community fund drive is underway to buy equipment for programs and services for the facility that is expected to open in the fall of 2022.
“It took a lot of work and a lot of effort to get to this point,” he said.
Mr. King, owner of King’s Quick Lube and K&K Storage in Eldridge, served on the city council for eight years before defeating three-term incumbent Marty O’Boyle in November. Mr. King now oversees a community that has seen its population grow from 5,651 in the 2010 Census to 6,726 in 2020.
New subdivisions planned or already under construction on the east side of Eldridge – on the north and south sides of Lincoln Road – ensure healthy population growth will continue. There is a large demand for residential lots, said Eldridge building official Ray Nees.
Growth also brings increased demands for more police and fire protection, and Mr. King and the city council are in the midst of budget discussions that will determine the levels of funding in the coming fiscal year.
He said some residents last year did research showing that Eldridge’s police department was understaffed compared to other cities its size, especially as the community began experiencing more break-ins and car thefts.
While Police Chief Joe Sisler initially called for five more officers in a wide-ranging, five-year plan he presented to the public safety committee in late January, he submitted a revised budget to focus on paying for two new officers hired last year, according to the North Scott Press.
Fire Chief Keith Schneckloth also has asked for funds for the department’s first full-time staffer.
Last year, the Eldridge council approved a new gas franchise fee that is expected to generate $80,000 annually, Mr. King said. Council members have agreed to divide that between the police and fire departments.
“I’m a big supporter of the police and fire departments,” Mr. King said. But additional funding “can’t happen overnight.”
One issue that could affect the city’s financial picture is a lawsuit filed by former City Administrator Lisa Kotter, whose employment was ended by a 3-2 city council vote in September. The lawsuit asks the Scott County Court to nullify the vote. She also is asking for reinstatement and to assess damages.
A trial on the lawsuit is set for November. Mr. King said the search for a new city administrator will begin after the litigation ends. Tony Rupe is the acting city administrator.
This small community of 379 residents has the distinction of welcoming thousands of people each day into its borders to work at the sprawling Arconic Davenport Works plant or to attend classes at Scott Community College.
It’s a point of pride for new Riverdale Mayor Anthony Heddlesten, who ran unopposed in November, succeeding former Mayor Mike Bawden. Mr. Heddlesten had served for four years on the city council.
“Our population changes dramatically from night to day,” said Mr. Heddlesten, chief of the Civil and Environmental Engineering Section for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rock Island District. “It’s a surprisingly big town during certain parts of the day.”
The community still has the potential for some residential growth, with the development of Woods Estates, which can ultimately double Riverdale’s population with 117 new home sites. With its entrance just across U.S. Highway 67 from Arconic, Woods Estates is advertising homes starting in the low $400,000s. There’s plenty of construction activity occurring in the subdivision, which is up the hill from the busy highway and boasts panoramic views of the Mississippi riverfront.
The development also includes plans for some commercial development at the bottom of the hill.
“The city is pretty much built out,” Mr. Heddlesten said. While the city owns a few parcels, “every other piece of land is either owned by Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, (Pleasant Valley) high school or Arconic.”
As with other Quad-Cities communities, Riverdale is putting efforts into its trails and parks, a draw to both young families and retired people focusing on health and recreation.
The city finished an extensive parks and trails assessment last year that listed a number of recommendations. They include connecting existing trails throughout the community, which is surrounded by the City of Bettendorf on three sides and the Mississippi River on the fourth.
“Personally, the trails are very important,” Mr. Heddlesten said.
After six years on the city council, new LeClaire Mayor Dennis Gerard is well-versed in the lengthy list of priorities established for the riverfront community whose population has grown by more than 65% since 2000, to just over 4,700 residents.
The explosive growth has brought needs in a number of areas, particularly public safety and fire service, said Mr. Gerard, who was elected mayor in November, succeeding former Mayor Ray Allen. Mr. Gerard retired from KONE Inc. in 2014 as senior vice president after a 34-year career.
“We’re fortunate we don’t have major crime issues, but we do face the challenge that most communities face in keeping our current police,” he said. “There are two openings now that we’ve struggled to fill.”
The city hopes to address that by restructuring salary levels to become more competitive.
With more commercial and residential development, the city also is outgrowing its volunteer fire department. Mr. Gerard said a recent analysis shows the city has grown to the point where it needs at least one or two full-time staff in the department. The city’s priority list includes hiring a full-time chief and then a captain. Refilling the volunteer ranks also is on the list.
Maintaining a full volunteer force has been a struggle, Mr. Gerard says. It’s more difficult for younger fathers and mothers to free themselves up for a commitment to the fire department. And since volunteers generally are working outside LeClaire, that poses another issue.
As the population has grown, so has the need for more recreational programs, and the city will be looking at hiring a full-time parks and recreation director and creating a long-range plan in that area. Mr. Gerard points to the development of Huckleberry Park, which several years ago was just an open field. Today, it offers pickleball courts, a pavilion, playground equipment and soccer fields.
“We know there are more programs we can develop,” he said. “We need someone to focus on that full-time.”
A major project looming for LeClaire is Phase II of the city’s downtown improvement project which will extend the current streetscaping north along Cody Road (U.S. 67) to encompass more businesses, allowing better pedestrian access in the popular tourist shopping area.
“We have businesses up there that are hard for people to get to,” Mr. Gerard said. A $3.5 million federal RAISE grant is financing most of the project costs, with the city contributing $1.5 million. Construction is planned for 2024.
“This strengthens the downtown business area,” he said. “This is a critical part of our planning for 2022. We’ll be getting input from business leaders, property owners, developers and stakeholders.”