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High expectations for Hayek

BY CHRIS CLARK | JANUARY 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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The two years Regenia Bailey held the title of Iowa City mayor seemed like an eternity.

Some of the reasons were out of her control — for example, the flood of 2008. And it’s not fair to blame the City Council’s anti-student reputation on Bailey alone, but as the mayor, she naturally took the heat of the discontent.

My hope is that newly elected Mayor Matt Hayek will help change that perception. I believe he has the mindset to act as a fresh breath for the community — especially the student population.

Hayek grew up in Iowa City, then went to Ann Arbor to earn undergraduate and law degrees at the University of Michigan, which he called “classic college towns.” Hayek left a law firm in Chicago to return to Iowa City in 2001.

“I am thrilled to live in a community with a vibrant university, a youthful population,” he said. “It makes Iowa City what it is.”

What disappoints him, he said, is the lack of involvement students have in local government. While he said he understands students are busy and even admitted to limited involvement in government during his undergraduate years, he hopes students understand that there is more to government than alcohol laws. And he hopes to be accessible to students who are seeking answers.

Besides holding an office downtown (next door to Bo-James), Hayek takes advantage of the student-based arts and culture community.

“I’ll go see a live show and be standing next to a 20-year-old and a 50-year-old. It’s an activity that brings various age groups together for a common purpose,” he said.

His love for the music scene goes beyond just his personal interests. Hayek served on the Englert Theatre’s Board of Directors; he also served as its president. The thriving cultural community is a major source of revenue in Iowa City, and he recognizes the economic value it can have.

Beyond his work with the Englert, he is also part of a council that helped jump-start former UI student Andre Perry’s Mission Creek Festival.

His admiration for the arts, combined with his drive to bring in businesses could prove to be highly valuable. He hopes to see more theaters and other venues come to Iowa City as an alternative to drinking.

Realistically, though, his stint as mayor will more likely be determined by how he handles issues in which many students show no interest.

Analyzing and balancing the budget, which he called an “annual and critical process,” are on the top of his to-do list. Next up? Filling the vacancy former City Manager Michael Lombardo left when the council fired him last April.

“My highest priority is to help the council land a top-shelf, permanent manager,” he said. “The manager runs the entire city operation. All things flow from that. It’s critical.”

During my few months on the City Council beat for The Daily Iowan, Hayek stood out to me as the most level-headed of the councilors. Maybe his strong analytical skills — probably thanks to his law degree — helped him see issues from all angles. Maybe his casually professional attitude made me think he’d be a fair leader.

But I think my expectation for his success is largely due to his well-rounded mindset. He thinks things out. He cares about the people of this community. And he wants to keep Iowa City the “classic college town” that it is.


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