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Candidate optimistic about city's future

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | OCTOBER 16, 2013 5:00 AM

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A man in the “give-back stage” of life said he wants to better serve his community by taking his talents and running for a seat on the Coralville City Council.

Mark Winkler, the director of the Business Solutions Center at the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, said he is full of enthusiasm and ideas to help the city of roughly 20,000.

From Venezuela to New Zealand, the 56-year-old has gone across the globe in the business world. He said most of his career was spent doing strategic planning for businesses.

“I would see possibilities where others didn’t necessarily see them, and bring people together around a big idea,” he said.

In learning firsthand the mechanics of business, Winkler felt compelled to take his talents to the classroom.

Now, he’s taking a new step by running for an open seat.

“[I was] exposed to different areas of the community I could get involved in,” he said. “I really settled in on the city government as where my expertise would be of most benefit.”

Daughter Rachel Winkler said his enthusiasm for Coralville will make him an asset to the city.

“When people meet him, they’re usually drawn to his energy,” she said. “He has incredible personal skills, so he would work really well with the other [council] members.”

Out of concern for the city’s financial status — specifically a growing debt base —Winkler’s campaign centers on deficit reduction and economic cooperation.

“Left unaddressed, or without a really proactive plan [the debt] could undo a lot of the good things that have taken place in Coralville,” he said.

As of June, the city has the third highest debt in the state — $279 million — and Winkler said something has to change.

“When in a hole, stop digging,” he said. “It’s time to pause and understand the nature of the agreements and relationships we have with the existing entities.”

His plan is to stop city-financed construction occurring at the 180-acre Iowa River Landing by attracting private investors.

“I don’t believe the city should own and operate a hotel [or] a golf course,” he said. “Both of those businesses generate annual losses, which just worsen the situation.”

However, Mayor Jim Fausett said the city knew profit would not be made from the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center when it was built in 2006.

“We knew that the conference center would never pay for itself,” he said. “[However], we know that [it] will bring a lot of money into the community.”

Despite nearly widespread concern by candidates who feel that the debt is a true issue, Fausett remained firm that the city is moving in the right direction.

“I feel good about the city’s problems,” he said. “If you want to continue to develop in a migrant city, you’re going to have to have some debt.”

And although the city’s financial standings have been targeted over the course of the last several years, Winkler said he is confident the debt can be put under control.

One way of doing this is allocating city funding to public places that will benefit citizens such as parks, he said.

While optimistic in his approach, Winkler said he knows these issues have to be dealt with soon.

“I do think we have the resources to overcome the challenges that are ahead,” he said. “I just think it needs a more proactive and different type of solution.”


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