Archive for November, 2008

There was a silver lining today in the dark clouds of the June floods that hit the Birdland neighborhood particularly hard and virtually shut down the Des Moines downtown for several days. Polk County Emergency Management Director A.J. Mumm was named 2008 recipient of ISAC’s Excellence in Action Award in the Outstanding Individual Category.

A.J. directed the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was the hub that coordinated all proactive and response activities surrounding the floods.  The EOC is a unified command that represented local governments within Polk County and Polk County government. Law enforcement agencies, the Polk County public health department, the Army Corps of Engineers, public works, fire departments, law enforcement, and other public service entities within Polk County comprise the team that coordinated emergency operational activities and the release of important information for the safety and well being of the public. Also involved in the EOC were entities outside the emergency management membership, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Homeland Security, state homeland security, and the Iowa National Guard.

In announcing the award, ISAC Executive Director Bill Peterson said, “Mr. Mumm’s organizational and leadership skills demonstrated during the flooding are certainly a great example of “excellence in action” in county government.”

Angela Connolly, one of my Board of Supervisors colleagues said, “Without the organizational and leadership skills of A.J. Mumm, Polk County would not have been able to operate as effectively and efficiently during this natural disaster. His calm demeanor and attention to detail brought all entities in Polk County together to work toward the common goal of ensuring the safety of our residents. We all owe a debt of gratitude to all who worked so tirelessly to save our community during this time of crisis. The efficient operation efforts exhibited through the EOC are the best example of regional cooperation this area has seen.”


I can attest to that.


In times of crisis, people turn to leaders who command respect and know what they’re doing. A.J. has been so effective as our emergency management director because of the respect in which he’s held by his peers within Polk County government, city governments throughout the county and the citizens who’ve come in contact with him.


His tireless work and steadying presence during the recent flooding only served to elevate that respect. He pulled people and organizations together and the ‘greater whole’ performed admirably. A lot of people would’ve expected some sort of recognition for this good work. Not A.J. He’s a humble guy and he is all about getting the job done right and getting it done quickly. Polk County is fortunate to have him.


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When it comes to good ideas, sometimes you still have to say “no.”  That’s the situation I found myself in yesterday as the Board of Supervisors voted on a $785,000 no-interest loan for the Southeast Polk school district to cover the costs for a pedestrian tunnel between its current high school and the new one still under construction.


My colleague, Tom Hockensmith, whose district includes the school, made a compelling argument in favor of the loan.  He said the project is a public safety issue, which makes it a top priority.


Jeff Riese, president of the Polk-Des Moines Taxpayers association, said the tunnel is a “wonderful project” but correctly noted that paying for school projects is outside the county’s mission.  While I’ve voted to provide some proceeds from Prairie Meadows to schools in the county, I know we have to avoid “mission creep.”  That’s what happens when a government takes on more and more duties – and eventually loses the ability to do well in the few areas it’s supposed to be focused.


That’s why I said the loan would have put us even farther down a slippery slope.  And that’s why I voted no.

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Change is almost always hard, but I was pleased to see Iowa Senate Republicans select Paul McKinley as their new leader.


Sen. Paul Wieck of Sioux City, who has been in the post since 2007, has been a capable leader during difficult times for our party. But, just as we’ve seen with the Iowa House, fresh leadership is what’s needed in the wake of the general election results two weeks ago.


I got to know Paul McKinley when we served on the board of directors of a bank not too many years ago. It was obvious then that Paul was very bright and has true conservative values.  He was also a focused and skilled businessman who led his Chariton textile firm, Neely Manufacturing, to success.  He’s since sold the company and now he sets his sights on rebuilding the Iowa GOP and increasing the ranks of his 18-member caucus.


Paul’s many fine traits are going to serve him, our Senate Republicans and all Iowans well as he brings his talents to bear over the next few years to help bring his caucus back to majority status.

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