The Iowa City Council has narrowed the field from five candidates to two. After Larry Delo declined to continue in the interview process, Assistant City Manager Mike Matthes of Des Moines and Union Station CFO and former Jackson County, MO administrator Art Chaudry were asked to be back on March 1st for a final round of interviews.
In speaking with both of these candidates, there are strengths to each as their profiles show:
As a Chief Financial Officer for a county of a million people, Art has had many years of experience in administrating the functions of a large urban county and corporations. In his current position, he has the additional experience of working for a economic development project that Iowa City would likely love to develop (at a smaller scale) to add tourist dollars to our local economy. Additionally with his corporate experience, he may appeal to potential companies considering Iowa City to do business with.
He is a good people person and seemed to genuinely enjoy connecting to residents as they asked important questions. Seemed to have the kind of personality that could withstand the withering challenge of a disagreeing public without being disagreeable.
Minuses: Perceived by some as "overbearing". Where is the challenge in running a small city? He's been there, done that. Long in the tooth, he is in his sixties. Are his ideas for city governance and fiscal policy in keeping with a younger, vibrant community? His understanding of housing issues was not at all apparent.
While lacking the many years of experience that Chaudry has, Matthe's strength is clearly in understanding affordable housing and generally having a better sense of Iowa governance. He had a good sense of understanding about Iowa City as a community and how his experiences might fit. As a 30-something, his ideas for city management may be a good fit for sustainably growing the community.
He is also a good public relations person, he was the only candidate that actually said he'd look forward to hearing what residents thought were important issues. He has a professional demeanor that belies his experience.
Minuses: Relatively inexperienced and was perceived by some as "cocky"? Untested in running a city, can he handle the barrage of inquiries? His knowledge of economic development appears to be academic. Is he in it for the long haul? How will he work with department managers who are significantly more seasoned?
Good luck to our City Council in making their deliberations. In either candidate are excellent opportunities and challenges. As I've said before, they will have substantial shoes to fill.