Mike Bawden, Mayor of Riverdale

Well, this is the end of my last, regular meeting of the Riverdale City Council, and I have a few thoughts on the past four years I’d like to share with all of you and enter into the official record.  It’s been an interesting period in our nation’s history and a most interesting time to serve as your mayor. It’s been more of a challenge than I had expected or led to believe.

But while it’s been a bit frustrating from time to time, the experience has been instructive, rewarding and, at times, even fun.

Not every idea I brought to this office was a great one. Some were good. Others probably could have stayed on the pad of paper where they originated. But I think one thing I can say quite honestly, is that I wasn’t afraid to try something new if I thought it could improve the quality of life in our little city and, if possible, save us some money in the long run.

Unfortunately, we ran into a few obstacles along the way. You know, little things like floods, water main breaks washing out roads, a volunteer firefighter passing away, occasional blizzard conditions, a summertime drought, our first murder, a pandemic that killed hundreds in Scott County, a pandemic response nearly shutting down our economy for months, a derecho that wiped out trees across the city, and a little controversy over a strip of land at the end of Kensington Street in Havens Acres.

None of that was in my plan. But somehow, we got through it all.

Thanks in no small part to our part-time and full-time staff members like City Administrators Tim Long, Lisa Kotter and Kent Royster; Clerks Ron Fullerlove, Mary Francis Blevins, Scharlott Blevins and Katie Enloe; our amazing volunteer fire department including retired chief Floyd Bruns, our new chief Chris Bernard and chief “burr-under-the-saddle” Brian Ballard; professional advisors like Paul Macek, Mike Walker, Greg Jaegger, Pat Callahan, and Chris Cooper, and Colin Wellenkamp and Brandt Thorington (from the MRCTI); our many board chairs and commission members of P&Z, the ZBA, invasive species task force and other groups.

That especially includes frequent Council Meeting guests, social media friends, Town Hall meeting attendees and other friendly inquisitors: Teri Stickler, Steve Townsend, Dallas Paustian, Judy Krell, The Glews, Lois Kempton, Heather Wren, Don and Pat Fisher, Beth Halsey, Athena Smith, Adam Guillon, and Eric and Wendy Syverud.

Of course, I need to pass along a special thanks to the members of the Riverdale City Council. Some who aren’t on the Council anymore, like Dean Halsey and Cheryl Channon to those currently serving: Doug Littrel, Kevin Adams, Kelly Krell, Paul DCamp and our next mayor, Anthony Heddlesten.

I’d especially like to thank my buddy, Paul, who talked me into running for mayor in the first place. This is all his fault.

I’d like to thank my family for keeping me “real” (casting the only write-in votes for “Mayor McCheese” in the history of Riverdale elections), and to my wife for her patience with me as I took on this challenge and most of all for her support when I was down.

And, finally, I’d like to thank all the citizens of Riverdale for the opportunity to serve and to be of service. It’s been a gift. And I mean that sincerely. Your kind words and gentle support – and, occasionally, not-so-gentle reminders that I can do better – are all greatly appreciated. 

More than you might ever know.

You see, some people, I think, run for political office because they want or need the recognition. They relish the opportunities to be recognized, to read a script for applause, to sit through media interviews or to talk with other important people. That’s not me. Really.

I’m not into public recognition. I don’t need it and don’t actively seek it out. I suppose that’s why I’m lousy at publicly recognizing others. It’s not natural for me. As a result, we’ve probably only had four or five mayoral proclamations while I’ve been in office. If I could be so bold as to make a recommendation to Anthony – do more to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of the people of Riverdale to this community. The last mayor wasn’t so great at that.

But in all honesty, what gets me going is helping other people. I’ve made a career out of that character trait. In my job, it’s usually my responsibility to ask “why not” or “what if” and then figure out a plan to do things people might have otherwise thought to be impractical or down right impossible. Between my optimistic nature and love of change, I’m the kind of guy who thinks we can always do better. 

And that’s what I’d like to leave as the parting thought of this four-year political odyssey:  Riverdale can do better. It can be better.

Our city deserves to be better and it’s up to all of us – in political leadership or private life – to work hand-in-hand to make the kind of community we want in order to avoid getting the community we’ll deserve. Because thinking we’re as good as we can be, that we’ve done all we can do, that there’s nothing left to be done … those are the things that lead to malaise and inefficiency. Frustration and deep disappointment.

People stop talking. Deals get made out of public view. No one is willing to be held accountable. And nothing that matters ever seems to get done.

So, I implore you all to get and to stay involved.

We’re blessed with leaders who care about you and care about Riverdale – but it’s difficult to set a course for the community’s future if the community itself remains silent. I’ve already told Anthony, Kent, and the Council that I’m happy to remain engaged and volunteer my time. I’ll stay involved.

And I won’t be silent.

I ask you all to do the same. Together, we can keep making Riverdale better than it’s ever been before.

So, thanks for the memories … let’s make some more.

– Mayor Mike Bawden