WATERLOO — Despite hinting he might want to run for reelection, for the open at-large seat or possibly for mayor, a Waterloo City Council member announced this week he would not seek any of them.
Pat Morrissey, who currently represents Ward 3, told The Courier on Wednesday he will not run for a third four-year term, endorsing newcomer Nia Wilder for his seat instead.
“She is smart, active, caring with a positive youthful perspective and a platform for progress,” Morrissey said in a press release.
Wilder and Todd Maxson have both filed to run for Morrissey’s seat. The deadline to file is Thursday.
“Nia’s great — she’s so gracious,” Morrissey said, noting he met with her for several hours to discuss Ward 3. He said he had not been approached by Maxson.
Morrissey, 72, a retired child and dependent adult abuse investigator for the Iowa Department of Human Services, had hinted as recently as last week’s council meeting that he was still mulling over his options.
“I haven’t decided — do I want to be mayor? Do I want to be council at-large? Or do I want to be the Ward 3 person?” he said during the Sept. 7 meeting, after a constituent accused him of putting forth a contentious resolution without having to run for re-election.
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Morrissey, who describes himself as a “very proud Democratic Socialist“ raised in a union family, was first elected in 2013’s four-way contest for the seat vacated by 30-year councilor Harold Getty, for whom the city council chambers was named in 2014.
Endorsed by both the Black Hawk Union Council AFL-CIO and the Iowa Labor Councils, Morrissey claimed nearly 60% of the vote, easily avoiding a runoff election.
In 2017, Morrissey raised $6,309 to easily swamp the $300 his challenger, April Leadley, raised, and trounced her in the voting tally with more than 73% of the vote.
But he told his family and constituents he was limiting himself to two terms, and ultimately decided to stick to that promise.
“My son especially, he and my wife — she would look at me. Looks are pretty telling,” he said. “I just didn’t see myself going around and knocking on doors again.”
The self-described political junkie said he’s not sure what he’ll be doing in retirement.
“It’s gonna be different,” he said. “I’ll miss it partway; another part of it, I’m glad to move on.”
Morrissey said he was most proud of creating the payday lender ordinance in 2014, which limited where such businesses could be located.
He also said he was proud of the city’s urban animal hobby farm ordinance, the complete streets policy that led to bicycle lanes on Park Avenue, keeping the convention center and historic preservation efforts, including helping to save the Wonder Bread building from the wrecking ball.
He also was proud of the fair chance initiative, the so-called “ban the box” ordinance that was the first in the state and has survived court challenges mostly intact.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Morrissey held monthly public meetings of the constituents in his ward, sending them robocall reminders in advance. He’d get anywhere from a half dozen to a couple dozen people telling him about their problems and ask questions, occasionally confronting him, he said.
“People are basically decent, I really believe that,” he said. “But that was the whole concept: Bringing yourself to the people, rather than having them to come to a council meeting where they’re constrained.”
He got a reputation for asking a lot of his own questions of the various officials bringing proposals to the council over the years.
“There are a lot of questions to be asked, if you do your homework,” he said.
He’s also gotten a reputation for frequently and publicly sparred with Margaret Klein, elected in 2017 and now running against incumbent Mayor Quentin Hart for mayor.
Morrissey, who unsurprisingly backs Hart over Klein, said it still irked him that Klein in 2020 “led the charge” against a man hired to be a city mechanic who had quit his job in anticipation of the city council’s stamp of approval, as well as another time Klein was accused of threatening Morrissey.
But there have been “rare” times when the ideological opposites have agreed, most recently on wanting to find a way to relocate a downtown strip club, and in the past against hiring a city administrator.
“I’ve never agreed with a city manager,” Morrissey said. “Somebody running the city needs to be elected.”
Ultimately, Morrissey said he has been proud of his outspoken reputation.
“I can be a good person, but I can be confrontive at the same time; they’re not mutually exclusive,” he said.
And he believes he did right by Ward 3 for the last eight years.
“I am so satisfied to have played a role in making my Waterloo better — better for all people,” he wrote in his announcement.