In an effort to give back to his hometown, Austin Ascherl has announced his candidacy for the Clarinda City Council.
Ascherl and incumbents Craig Hill and Jeff McCall are the only candidates Tuesday, Nov. 5, election for the three seats. Each seat carries a four-year term.
Ascherl said he was encouraged to run for the council by some members of the community. After giving the idea some thought, he said he was excited about the chance to serve on the city council.
“I’m interested in the government side of Clarinda. I was born and raised in Clarinda, and now I’m back to where my roots are. Clarinda has given a lot to me and I believe it’s time to give back,” Ascherl said.
The son of Alan and Rebecca Ascherl, Ascherl graduated from Clarinda High School in 2009. He then attended Highland Community College for two years before completing his BA in agricultural business at Hastings College.
Ascherl serves as the manger of the grain department at Agriland FS. He is married to Denise Ascherl and played baseball for the Clarinda A’s.
“I’m excited about the fact I’m going in without an agenda and am open minded. I look forward to stepping into the meetings and learning what the citizens of Clarinda want to see done and what they need,” Ascherl said.
Previously, Ascherl served on the Page County Fair Board for four years. He said that experience should benefit him on the council.
“Serving on a board like that gives you a chance to communicate with non board members. You also learn to be part of a team and work together in meetings,” Ascherl said.
As a citizen of Clarinda, Ascherl said he supports the efforts the city council has made to improve the condition of the streets and the other aging infrastructure in the community. He said it is important to continue projects like that over the next four years.
Yet, at the same time, Ascherl said the council must remain fiscally responsible to ensure no undue burden is placed on the residents of Clarinda.
“Helping our taxpayers is my number one goal. As a council, we have to continue looking out for what’s best for the town,” Ascherl said. “I’m excited about this opportunity. I want to see what I can do and how I can help out.”
Hill was appointed to the council in January 2018, to finish the term of Lisa Hull after she was elected mayor.
Originally planning to run for the city council in 2017, Hill put those plans on hold when he saw the candidates that filed for that race. However, after Hull won the mayoral election, Hill said seeking the appointment to fill the vacancy was an easy decision.
“I planned to run in November, but when I saw who was running and supported them,” Hill said. “Then, when the vacancy was created, I knew that was my opportunity to see how the council worked. I’m just learning how to do this and starting to understand how city government works. By staying on, I feel I will be a better councilman moving forward and be prepared to make intelligent decisions.”
Having lived in Clarinda nearly all his life, Hill has served 18 years as the maintenance director with the Clarinda Community School District.
“I felt it was time to give something back. After attending school board meetings for so many years without being able to vote, I wanted the opportunity to become a difference maker in my community. I want to be part of making the decisions to make Clarinda an even better place,” Hill said.
Hill and his wife, Teresa, have two sons – Tyler and Brittney Hill and Casey and Megan Hill – that also call Clarinda home. They also have two granddaughters.
Therefore, Hill understands the importance of keeping young people in Clarinda and attracting other young families to the city. In order to do that, Hill said Clarinda needs to take steps now to ensure jobs, affordable housing, quality educational and varied recreational options exist so the community can thrive well into the future.
“I want to make sure my granddaughters have a future not only in Clarinda, but on the planet. I want to make Clarinda an even better place in the future so we continue to grow,” Hill said.
As a result of this background in maintenance, Hill is especially interested in strengthening the infrastructure of Clarinda. Hill said the city has taken positive steps in that direction with the construction of the new water plant, updating the sewer plant and continuing street improvement projects.
Since Clarinda has a couple of bond issues coming due soon, Hill said he supports reinvesting those funds in the continued maintenance of the city infrastructure.
“I want to be smart about what has to happen to maintain our infrastructure, while still remaining fiscally responsible. I don’t want to raise taxes if we don’t have to. If we need to fix things, I want to make sure we fix it right the first time and not just put a band-aid on it. If we do that, then we won’t have a big bill at the end that would raise taxes,” Hill said.
In addition, Hill said Clarinda has a strong industrial base with companies like H&H Trailer Company, Lisle Corporation and NSK Corporation. However, he said the city needs to continue to support the Clarinda Economic Development Corporation to retain those businesses and potentially expand the industrial market.
Likewise, Hill said the council needs to continue working to grow the retail community. He said the downtown façade project was a fine example of progress the city can make in that area.
“I’m not sure if this is a city issue, but I would also be willing to get involved with a project to make sure we are meeting the daycare and preschool needs of our young families. We are taking steps to make sure we can offer them jobs and homes, but we also have to care of those families when they start having kids,” Hill said.
After 12 years of service on the Clarinda City Council, McCall knows holding office can be an eye-opening experience.
“You are constantly learning stuff, especially about the budget. I learn something new all the time,” McCall said.
The most experienced of the three candidates seeking election to the council in the Nov. 5 general election, McCall is vying for his fourth term. McCall was originally appointed to the city council in 2007 to fill a vacancy after a council member moved away from Clarinda.
There are three seats on the council up for election this year. Since incumbent Gary Alger is not seeking reelection, McCall said having two brand new members on the council would have created a challenge for the city.
“With Gary not running, I felt it would have put the council in a difficult situation if I didn’t run. I believe I have the experience to help,” McCall said. “I enjoy visiting with people about their concerns to see if I can help come up with solutions.”
Over his career, McCall said the biggest test he has seen new council members face is grasping the nuances of the budget process for the city.
“There’s a big learning curve when it comes to understanding how the budget works,” McCall said.
A lifelong resident of Clarinda, McCall graduated from Clarinda High School in 1988. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons that are currently attending Clarinda High School.
McCall is also the owner of McCall Carpentry. As a result, he said there is an obligation to hold the line on taxes for residential and commercial property owners alike.
“We have to watch the tax dollars and that’s what originally drew me to the council,” McCall said. “I believe we have been very successful in keeping taxes in check. I don’t think taxes have gone up since I’ve been on the city council. We have either maintained or lowered the taxes.”
Beyond monitoring the taxes in Clarinda, McCall said there are several projects underway in the city he wants to see completed. The most significant of those projects is the construction of the new sewer plant.
In order to comply with strict regulations set forth by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, it was necessary for the city to construct a new plant. However, financing the project has forced to the city to increase utility rates for its citizens.
As a result, McCall said the city council is obligated to make sure the tax dollars and utility fees directed to the project are used wisely.
“I want to see it stays in check. We have to watch our costs because we’re the ones that have to pay for it,” McCall said.
McCall said his other primary focus is ensuring the city continues working to improve the condition of the streets in Clarinda.
“The number one concern of our citizens is the condition of our streets. That seems to bother them worse than anything else,” McCall said.