Mayor Frommelt hopes to create new momentum

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Mayor Bill Frommelt and his wife, Mary, were raised in Guttenberg and have recently returned. The mayor looks forward to the challenges and rewards of his new role and hopes to galvanize the community and engage youth. (Press photo by Shelia Tomkins)

By Molly Moser

For the first time in seven years, residents of Guttenberg are transitioning to a new mayor. Bill Frommelt was sworn in on Monday, Dec. 5, and took over for outgoing Mayor Russ Loven at the start of the new year. Frommelt is a Guttenberg native who has returned to the area and hopes to revive the liveliness the community held in his youth. 

“When I grew up in Guttenberg the city was very vibrant and active. We, as kids, had the feeling of freedom to go where we wanted without fears for our safety, drugs or other ‘bad’ things. It was pretty much carefree.  We had spontaneous activities such as ice skating, fishing, riding bikes, etc. We also had places to go to enjoy things like bowling, playing pool or going to a movie within walking distance of where we lived. When we wanted to communicate with someone we actually called them on the phone or went to their house or met them at the ball field (an empty lot).  Going to Dubuque or other larger city was somewhat infrequent and treated as an ‘event,’” recalled Frommelt. 

“Unfortunately today we have been conditioned (whether it is reality or perception) to look at most everything we do with some concern for our safety, fear of fraud with our finances or knowledge of drugs. We all know our city is not as vibrant as it once was. There are fewer retail stores, fewer activities for the younger generations that don’t require scheduling or don’t involve electronic communications. Traveling to a nearby city for shopping has contributed to the decline of our retail stores.”

When Frommelt was young, his father, Claude, managed the button factory and then worked as an agent for Blue Cross Blue Shield. Bill and his wife, Mary, both had the benefit of full-time mothers, and Mary’s father, Mike Jaquette, owned the DX station. Frommelt’s grandparents lived just 30 minutes away. 

After leaving Guttenberg to attend Iowa State and Upper Iowa Universities, where he studied electronics and marketing, respectively, Frommelt made his living as a hands-on technician, a product development leader, and an entrepreneur. He also served as an arbitrator for the Better Business Bureau for 15 years and served on its board of directors. “This experience allowed me to listen to both sides of a dispute and to find an equitable solution to resolve the disputes. The BBB is known for its high standards of ethics and integrity,” Frommelt noted. 

“In my downtime, if I have any, I do residential remodeling and woodworking. As a licensed general contractor, as well as a licensed plumber, I can be as busy as I choose to be.  However, some of my time is taken up with my business of spa repair, whirlpool bath repair or stairlift installations,” the new mayor told The Press. He and his wife have two children, one living in the Twin Cities area and one near Denver, and three grandchildren. 

Frommelt looks forward to the challenge of being Guttenberg’s mayor. “I want to continue the progress our leaders started and listen to the citizens to gather ideas for improvements that may benefit all of us… I like to gather a lot of information about many different things and develop plans that provide a benefit to others,” he said. 

“I can see opportunities for Guttenberg, but it will be a slow and methodical process.  We can never get Guttenberg back to the way it was when I grew up – and we shouldn’t expect to.  We are in a different time with many technological and environmental changes that have ‘advanced’ us but yet have ‘isolated’ us through technology,” Frommelt told The Press. 

Without recreating the past, he’d like to try some of the community activities that brought people together during his early years in Guttenberg. “I would like to engage and challenge the youth to become involved through community activities and to get out and participate in the public activities that they create,” he explained. “I would like to see more ‘destination’ businesses and activities that are the reason visitors come to our city. These may be small steps but collectively they can create the momentum needed for growth in housing, jobs and businesses.”

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