Meet the Candidates: Elkader City Council

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Tony Hauber is pictured here with wife Ketaki and their two pets.

Caleb Shea holds newborn son Emmett.

On Tuesday, April 20, Elkader residents will vote in a special election to fill a city council seat vacated by the resignation of Ed Josten. In February, the council appointed Tony Hauber to serve the remainder of the term, which is scheduled to end in November. However, due to the success of a petition, the decision will now go to voters, who will choose between Hauber and challenger Caleb Shea. Hauber and Shea recently shared their thoughts on key issues with Times-Register reporter Willis Patenaude.

 

Potential voters should be aware that the last day to mail absentee ballots was April 5, as was the deadline to register to vote. Upcoming dates to remember are April 19, which is the last day to vote absentee in-person, and April 20, which is election day. On election day, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Residents can cast their ballots at the Central State Bank Community Room, located at 200 N. Main St. Additionally, all absentee ballots must be received in the auditor’s office by 8 p.m. to be counted.

 


Tony Hauber

Tony Hauber is an Elkader native and Central graduate. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS in computer science and, after spending nearly 10 years in San Francisco, decided to move back to Elkader four years ago with his wife, Ketaki. The couple is expecting their first child in June. Hauber is an entrepreneur and software developer focused on growing his arcade business, which produces arcade video game cabinets, as well as working for a startup in San Francisco and contracting with a venture capital firm in New York. 

 

Q: Why are you running for city council?

A: I am running for city council because I believe in democracy and government. I believe that it functions best when people step in to do their part to make it function. I also think this city has given me so much—a home, an education, a close-knit community, a lifestyle I really enjoy. I want to help preserve those offerings for future generations and expand the things this community offers to people.

 

Q: What makes you a qualified candidate for the position?

A: My experience as a serial entrepreneur and manager has taught me how to tackle big problems starting with small incremental steps and growing the solutions to meet these problems. Being a manager has also made me a good listener, which is essential to building culture and community.

 

Q: What three issues are most important to you? Why?

A: Reducing the cost of our utilities by investing in solar, creating and fostering a strong professional network that focuses on entrepreneurial growth and continuing our town’s investment in infrastructure. 

 

Q: What is your long-term vision for Elkader?

A: I think, as we look forward, we also need to look back. This town has stood for 175 years, not because people thought about the value of their contributions in four-year increments, but in century increments. The people that built the bridge that is the cornerstone for this community did not expect to reap all the rewards in a year or two. They were thinking about the people who would be here celebrating 175 years later. These are the kinds of investments I want to make in this community. I’d love to see Elkader have a university, an expanded school and library and a state-of-the-art hospital. I’d love Elkader to have a co-working space that allowed entrepreneurs a space to start. Now, those are not things I can make happen (or that should happen) in a four-year term, but if we believe what Elkader can be, and we all work toward and invest in that belief, we can get a long way.

 

Q: Do you think our Main Street/downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

A: I would describe downtown Elkader as healthy and successful, but there are some things I think we need to focus on. The median age of business owners in the Main Street district is very high. I’ve heard it quoted at over 60. We have work to do to transition these companies to younger hands. This succession planning will be essential to keeping the economy strong for the next two decades, but it has its own set of challenges.

Firstly, younger generations are not accruing as much wealth as older generations, which is essential to starting a business. Also, our local banks, which used to act more like venture capital for the Main Street, are more restricted in how they can lend. I’d like to do an assessment with all store owners that are planning to retire in the next five years and start identifying people who are willing to take these businesses over. One of the things I’ve been trying to talk to people about is starting an Elkader Angel club—a group of people who might be willing to fund the future of Elkader store fronts for some stake in the venture. This could help the younger generation get their foothold in the Elkader economy.

 

Q: How do you plan to involve more residents in the decision-making process in Elkader?

A: I think the way we involve more residents is by making the process more transparent and making the officials more accessible. I’ve been holding weekly city council office hours, which is an informal opportunity for anybody in the community to approach me and talk about their issues with and dreams for the city of Elkader. I’ve even brought up to some city council members that we may want to start Coffee with the Council, which would be an informal time in which people could come in, meet their city council members and talk with them in a way that doesn’t have the solemnness and rigidity of most city council meetings.

 

Q: How would you attract investments, businesses and families to the community?

A: There is no one aspect that is going to win us businesses or families moving here. We need to provide a broad picture that highlights our infrastructure, our culture, our landscape and our resources. So, we need to repair our infrastructure, expand our culture, protect our landscape and grow our resources. 

 

Q: How do you get families and businesses that are already here to stay?

A: We need to listen to and address their concerns. Starting a business and settling your family are big life decisions that come with risks. Business owners spend years not making money building something here that will hopefully provide value for years to come. When people make that commitment to our town, we need to let them know that their voices are being heard and that we are capable of helping them.

 

Q: How have you already been volunteering or serving in the city?

A: I’ve been on the Elkader city board of adjustments. I’ve also dedicated some time to help people learn software development with the Clayton County BEST program.

 

Q: How would you secure a balanced budget and generate more revenue for the city?

A: The biggest line item in the semimonthly expense reports we get is electricity. Now, more than ever, is a time to invest in solar. I’ve already been talking to the Clayton County Energy District, to see what their ideas are, and they’ve already given me some targets for reducing the city’s energy cost: wastewater treatment plant and city wells. Similar projects that Marquette has done will yield over a million dollars in savings over 25 years. Imagine if Elkader had a million-dollar surplus right now because of the actions they took 25 years ago. 

 

Q: Any final words for the voters on why they should choose you?

A: Just vote. Being engaged is incredibly important to making this community work. I’m not here because I have all the answers. I’m here because the answers are out there among you, the people, and my job is to listen to you, engage with you and find those answers. 

 


Caleb Shea

Caleb Shea was born, raised and attended school in Elkader. After attending college in Des Moines, he made the choice to move back to his hometown to start his career and is now raising a family here with his wife Danielle. The couple has two sons, Isaac (22 months) and Emmett (one month). Shea is currently the product support manager at Mobile Track Solutions.

 

Q: Why are you running for city council?  

A: My wife, Danielle, and I have dedicated ourselves to serving this community because of amazing opportunities it has given us. We personally invested in Elkader’s Main Street district at the age of 25 and have received an unprecedented amount of support. I have been giving back to our community in many ways but feel that joining the city council will provide the best platform to be a servant to my community.

 

Q: What makes you a qualified candidate for the position? 

A: My professional career has provided me with skills in public relations, construction processes, civil bidding processes, asset procurement, fleet maintenance and budget allocation. This experience will further help me serve our community with the background and knowledge that it takes to make the best decisions for Elkader.

 

Q: What three issues are most important to you? Why?

A: Operating on a balanced budget, continuous improvement of infrastructure and cultivating a community and downtown district that attracts ambitious businesses and individuals. These three issues are the core of a growing and sustainable community.

 

Q: What is your long-term vision for Elkader?  

A: For me, this is very personal. Everything I do for the city and people of Elkader is in hopes that someday, when I have grown children, that they choose to live, work and raise their families in Elkader and are afforded the same opportunities I have been.

 

Q: Do you think our Main Street/downtown is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?

A: Elkader’s downtown district is one of our greatest assets, but it’s a living, breathing entity that needs constant support to sustain. As some of the business owners are approaching retirement age, it is important for the city to create an environment that supports younger entrepreneurs’ transition into the businesses as well as support new industries that are looking to make Elkader their home.

 

Q: How do you plan to involve more residents in the decision-making process in Elkader? 

A: As with any leadership role, I feel it is important to be approachable, so citizens feel comfortable discussing issues or concerns with me at any time.

 

Q: How would you attract investments, businesses and families to the community?  

A: By providing a clean, safe and fiscally responsible community.

 

Q: How do you get families and businesses that are already here to stay?

A: By creating such a strong economic, supportive and vibrant community that no family or business owner entertains the idea of leaving our community.

 

Q: How have you already been volunteering or serving in the city? 

A: I have served on the Elkader Fire Department for nine years and am currently the assistant chief. My wife Danielle and I also chair the Sweet Corn Days celebration. Since 2013, Danielle and I have volunteered countless hours through Main Street Elkader activities and efforts for the betterment of Elkader. Through my employer, I was recently involved in the dam restoration project.

 

Q: How would you secure a balanced budget and generate more revenue for the city?  

A: By taking personal responsibility in understanding the budget and voting to make sure our taxpayer dollars are used sensibly.

 

Q: Any final words for the voters on why they should choose you?  

A: The most important thing I want voters to know is that I will always set aside my personal thoughts, feelings and biases to make the best decisions for the community members, city personnel and city of Elkader.

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