KEOKUK — Keokuk Mayor-elect Tom Richardson said it took the city’s residents to convince him to run for office.
He ran a campaign alongside opponents three opponents — Carl E. Morgan, Patricia L. Whiteside and Daniel Winn.
However, those residents who convinced him to run elected him last week with a 62 percent majority, 1,153 votes out of the 1,858 cast.
“I knew so many people and was overwhelmed with their support,” said Richardson. “It’s just been amazing to me the number of people that stepped up to say ‘I’ve known you forever and want you to be our mayor.’”
Richardson was born and reared in Keokuk, and after eight years of higher education and three years at a first job in Wisconsin, his heart led him back.
He worked as an independent insurance agent until he retired at the end of 2015. Since then, he briefly stepped in as the interim CEO at the Keokuk YMCA.
While not a city council member, Richardson has participated in many local civic organizations, including as past president of the independent insurance agents of Iowa and a lifetime member of the Salvation Army Board.
He helped start a group home for mentally challenged adults that was present in the city for several years, before it merged with Hope Haven.
Richardson said a next step as mayor made sense.
“I love this community, and I’m doing it for the right reasons,” said Richardson. “I’m retired. I don’t need the money. I don’t need the job. I’m doing it because I love the community, and I think that’s the right reason.”
Three questions with Mayor-elect Richardson
What is the biggest challenge Keokuk currently faces, and how do you plan to begin fixing it?
“We have a lot of challenges in Keokuk — declining population, jobs we are losing. I think our biggest challenge is to keep our people here, to find more economic development, to find affordable housing for people to come back and live here, to get a younger generation back involved in our community, to come back to Keokuk.”
What other main goals do you have for Keokuk in the next year?
“My first goal when I get into office is to go around and talk to all of the department heads, and talk to a lot of employees, and find out what they feel. Ask them how we can make this city a better place to work, a better place to live. Most of them have been here and are longtime employees themselves, so they have some definite suggestions and ideas on how we can make this a better place, and I’m going to listen to all of them.”
What about the next five years?
“Beautification of the community is important. We are getting rid of a lot of old and uninhabited structures. I think that is wonderful. The place looks better. I’m all about restoring buildings if we can, but if we can’t I think it’s time to get rid of them, and we are doing that. I think that is a great long-term goal to make this community more attractive for people to come into town and live.”