Silvius named to Iowa League of Cities Executive Board
Red Oak Mayor Shawnna Silvius has been selected as a Southwest Iowa member of the Iowa League of Cities Executive Board.
Silvius also received designation as a Certified Elected Municipal Official through the League’s Board. Silvius said her involvement with the League’s Executive Board came about after direct contact from the Executive Director, Alan Kemp who contacted her.
“Alan Kemp, the executive director, contacted me to inquire of my interest and consideration to submit my name to the nominating committee because they were needing to fill a few seats and he felt I’d make an excellent board member. He mentioned that while I may submit my application, the nomination committee has the final say. In conversations, he’d also acknowledged all the adversity, challenges and progress that he’d noticed Red Oak and our Council have accomplished in a short time under my leadership.” stated Silvius.
On Sept. 20, the Iowa League of Cities Executive Board held its annual business meeting, and Silvius was officially elected to the board by her peers after the nominating committee recommended her for a seat appointment during that meeting.
“They want to have a specific number of elected officials. They have a certain number of mayors, councilpersons and administration, and it’s also determined by the size of the community and its location in the state. As it stands right now, I’m the only elected official serving along with City Administrator, Michael Holton of Treynor and City Clerk, Barb Barrick of Atlantic representing Southwest Iowa officially on the board,” commented Silvius.
The latest appointment follows Silvius’ nomination last year to the Iowa Mayors Association Executive Committee, which took place in September 2022.
“I was nominated by Mayor Matt Walsh of Council Bluffs. The Iowa Mayors Association is new as of 2020 and requires a two-year term. The state is broken into seven districts, and they have one mayor to represent each of those regions. I was elected to represent 17 counties of mayors in Southwest Iowa,” said Silvius.
Being part of both of the boards, Silvius said, has been a very remarkable feeling.
“I feel very honored to be elected to both. Much like the Iowa League of Cities, I was nominated because they were aware of what I’ve done in Pottawattamie County and Mills County, and Matt Walsh had worked with me before. They acknowledged the work that we’ve done in Red Oak with housing, fiber, the wage adjustment study, and review of our ordinances,” explained Silvius. “They also noted the fact that we had to replace a number of key staff positions in city hall to create a new city hall team. They saw all the adversity I went through for the first 11 months with the previous administration and how I handled it. I turned to them a lot for advice. They saw I approached being mayor with a vision for the community to increase valuation, business attraction, and resident attraction and retention, that long term will impact the overall economy of the city, and overall, change the valuation and budget of the city, as well as my interest in the policy and legislative side of things to represent local government.”
Silvius’ position and the work she has done with city hall staffing have led to other communities seeking her advice.
“As communities are struggling with council and administrative issues, the League is sending people to me. I tell them they need to focus on the duties, roles, and responsibilities of the mayor, the administrator, clerk, and council, and make sure everyone knows what their roles are. In Red Oak, those were not clearly defined or understood in the past. I made sure the council understood their authority,” advised Silvius. “My position is that I always want to educate the community and the council, and most importantly, I want the council utilizing the authority they are elected by the people to use in decision making.”
Silvius said the Iowa Mayors Association’s responsibility is to make sure they are comnecting all mayors.
“We have a mayor’s mentoring program and have created an emergency management symposium so mayors know what their role is during an active shooter or natural disaster situation. Mayors have authority to take command of the police and to govern the city by proclamation when determining an emergency or public danger exists and to work with emergency management and national guard and other agencies. It’s to support the local mayors in my 17 counties and make them aware of webinars and the services the association offers and get them involved. I’m hopeful we can do a quarterly regional meeting this next year,” Silvius commented.
Silvius expanded on her duties as part of her selection to the Iowa League of Cities Board.
“I’ll be offering guidance to the executive director for his work. We don’t monitor or supervise the staff, but we set the vision for what the organization does, acknowledge the events we’re having and the educational opportunities provided to grow elected officials and determine if they’re sufficient or if we need to add or change them. We also have a fiduciary responsibility of overseeing the Leagues budget. I went through a pre-orientation with Kemp when he came to Red Oak Oct. 30 and we went through everything. Having never been to Red Oak, I enjoyed giving him a three hour tour through town which he really enjoyed.”
In addition, Silvius has been appointed to the Iowa League of Cities legislative and policies committee.
“I will be very involved in all of our work with the legislature. We are a 501(c)4, which means that they can lobby on behalf of the cities, and there are three staff people that do all that at the Capitol. We will also have board meetings in Des Moines, and we will go to the Capitol in February to meet with our state officials and other agencies. The board meetings go from 10 in the morning to as late as 4 in the afternoon. Of the more than 900 communities in the state, 840 of them are members of the Iowa League of Cities,” Silvius stated. “With this legislative policy appointment, this is an opportunity for me to be an active voice to our legislature about how what they do in Des Moines impacts us locally.”
The Iowa League of Cities is partnered with the National League of Cities, and she and other members of the League can participate in workshops and conferences on the state and national level.
Silvius said she’s excited to be a part of the legislative process through the Iowa League of Cities.
“I believe they need some strong, confident people who understand things to be able to represent active voices for municipal government, and I feel we need to bridge the relationship between the state, the counties, and the cities more than it is. I was surprised it was so competitive. I look forward to trying to bring everyone together,” Silvius commented.
As for the process to become a Certified Elected Municipal Official, Silvius said there was a lot of legwork involved.
“I attended all of the municipal leadership academy sessions, as well as a full day of the emergency management symposium and attended multiple small city and budget workshops, more than 50 hours of city government education, and shared my experience with economic development education. I submitted an application, and I was approved,” explained Silvius.
Silvius joined Atlantic Mayor Grace Garrett, and councilpersons Elaine Otte and H. Lee Sisco of Atlantic, as well as Vinton councilperson Rylie Pflughaupt in earning a Certified Elected Municipal Official designation. Silvius said council person Tim Fridolph is also very close to obtaining that designation as well.
The certification, Silvius believes, shows a dedication to continuing education and shows our communities we are actively educating ourselves on ways to make our communities the best they can be.
“It’s a designation that goes behind our names, and shows we’re going above and beyond what some elected officials do. We can bring what we’ve learned back to our council, staff, and communities to try and educate them as well, and try to make our community better,” Silvius said.
Outside of the appointment to the Iowa League of Cities, Silvius said she’s looking forward to the completion of the townhome and middle school (1917 Lofts) housing projects being completed, and the potential for fiber optic internet to every home, as well as expansions to the city’s parks.
“I want to take a close look at recreation in our parks. I think there’s a lot of opportunity if we upgrade them to new types of equipment that would appeal to and attract youth of all ages as well as offer something for those with disabilities. I want to see more families and kids using them by giving families more places to go to spend time with others. Having our parks enriched like that will bring more people to town to shop, eat and buy gasoline or potentially live here, the way the municipal pool, theater and other amenities do.”
While there are many potential projects for the city, Silvius said they all hinged on being able to do them in a fiscally responsible way, while also keeping track of what would be happening in the near future based on actions at the Iowa Statehouse.
“We need to think strategically long-term, so we can continue to move the community forward and keep engaging people that have heart-based passion and positive vision for how to grow our community and tax base,” Slivus said.