What drives you?

I’ve been really blessed in my career and I’m getting to a point in my life where what I find interesting is working with, mentoring young people. I’m really focusing on helping build the community bench of up-and-coming folks. These are things I can feel proud of and make a lasting impression on the community.

What’s your biggest accomplishment in 2017?

We’ve been working downtown here since 2011. In 2017 we really focused on getting people working in downtown (Cedar Falls). Our strategy has been live, work and play in downtown — our urban ethos. We have a vibrant and growing community of young people; they needed a really great place to work, so we really focused on the Mill Race project to accomplish that.

What are your goals for 2018?

2018 is going to be interesting. We are just in the process of completing the transaction of taking over Blackhawk Hotel. It’s a historic landmark in downtown (Cedar Falls). It has taken a year for us to put this whole deal together, so this year we’re going to focus on making that hotel great in downtown. We really are focusing on regional tourism in the Cedar Valley. We want people to see us as a place for vacationing and spending weekend getaways. That’s a big issue for us. And there’s another 130 rooms coming to downtown with the (proposed) Hampton Inn. We are very pleased to work with the Western Home (which owns the land) on that.

What makes the Cedar Valley a great place for business?

It’s always been about the people. If you look around the Cedar Valley, people are nice and there are interesting things going on. We have a great, casual lifestyle and we just don’t do enough to tell that story. It’s well known here and we all appreciate it, but what we have here is not that common anymore that there are simple, safe, ideal places where you’d like to spend your time. We have the makings of a lot of that. I moved away and spent years in other places. That’s what brought me back.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned in your journey?

This is the one I get on a soapbox about. There is a general sentiment that Iowans are not very good at change. I don’t think that’s quite correct. It’s not the most natural thing for us to think about doing something, but once we spend time talking and coming to consensus about things, we are very, very good at rallying around one another, putting our differences aside and volunteering and investing of ourselves. As a community, we do a really good job of that. We change and work as a community. There is so much national disunity; our unity as a community holds us up. That is our strength.