You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.
That’s why Alleman Mayor Carmella Jones, 58, loves it living at the edge of Alleman, where she’s surrounded by fields of crops each summer. “I have my little piece of the world here (in Alleman) and that’s all I need,” she said.
Jones is originally from the rural area of Bondurant, Farrar and Ankeny. “I’m a graduate of Bondurant-Farrar High School … and went to church in Ankeny,” she said of her younger years. She considers Bondurant her hometown.
She grew up in the country and loved the outside and watching things grow. So it’s probably no surprise that she’s spent her entire adult life working with one of the most beautiful things that grows outside — flowers. She is part owner of Carmen’s Flowers in “uptown Ankeny,” a place where she’s been working since just after high school.
She graduated in 1977 and then started working for a flower shop in Des Moines. But in 1978, there was an opening in the Ankeny shop, owned by Carmen Zimmer, who the shop is still named for. “I got started there, and it (staying there all these years) went from there,” she said. She now owns the shop with her business partner, Debbie Groff, and to this day, she still loves what she does.
“Every day you get to help people celebrate birthdays, anniversaries… and you have to help people at sad times too, when a loved one’s passed. It’s a variety of interacting with people,” she said. But she enjoys that every day is different.
City business can be like that too…something new and different all the time.
Jones entered city service by first being a member of the Alleman Planning and Zoning Commission. Because of her involvement in that group, when longtime mayor Bill Bodensteiner was going to move out of Alleman before the end of his term several years back, Jones was asked if she’d be the interim mayor to finish that term. “The council members were all wanting to keep their seats, so I figured I could do it. The mayor really kind of facilitates the meetings.”
That’s how it started and now Jones is in her third year of her second elected term, being elected twice following her interim stint as mayor.
Right now, she said, she has an involved and committed council. Council members include John Hathaway, who is the mayor pro-tem; Perry Smith; David Wilcox; Bill Stevens and newly elected member, Arlene Sampson.
“We’re on a path now that we’re trying to be pro-active in what developments might come our way, and we’re trying to learn more about, what can we do to keep our town how we want it, especially with any future progress — being next to Ankeny,” she said of the ever-growing community to the south.
Part of Alleman’s charm, she said, is being a small town, where people know each other and there’s a lot of interaction with your neighbors. “Everybody wants that openness that we’ve got.” While it’s important to accept growth and change, Jones said many in the community want to be careful about those things too, as they love their small-town life in Alleman.
The city of Alleman has two employees, Rick Long in public works and Kathy Larson, city clerk. “They get the job done,” Jones said. “Rick’s been here over 30 years to my knowledge, and Kathy has been here about eight years. She’s taken it on and handled it.”
The town also has an active group for parks and recreation, which is helping get citizens more involved in community activities. That’s one of the things that is going really well in the town at this time. “We’ve done the Christmas tree lighting; a movie night on the side of the coop (an old-time event that was brought back this past summer) and we did an Arbor Day event,” Jones said. She said the group is looking at more events for the year ahead.
One of the great annual gatherings is the summer party. The town held its third summer party this past year, where there was plenty of food, games for the kids and socializing. “This event has grown from a couple people who lived across the street from each other … to a bigger town event for all residents.”
Since the party is held at a residence, that brings up something else on Jones’ mind. She really wishes Alleman had a city park. “We currently have no city park. We can use the playground equipment at the elementary school, but as far as a park to gather … that just doesn’t exist right now.”
What does exist, however, is a desire to bring Alleman into the modern digital era. The town started a website and Parks and Rec has a Facebook page. “We eventually want to have all the city’s policies and ordinances accessible to everybody through the digital world,” Jones said. “Hopefully this will let citizens of Alleman … be more informed.”
Jones said the city’s resources, as a residential town, will always need to be watched, and the town has to make sure it’s always living within its means. She’s interested to see how the upcoming Polk County Local Option Sales Tax vote will go and whether that will help the town. If money comes in from that measure, she said, “we have dedicated that we’d use it to pay down debt and do some city improvements.”
As mayor, Jones hopes people know that she’s someone they can come to if they have an issue and that she will try to find an answer for them.
She’s lived in Alleman since 1999 with her husband Bobby, who graduated from Ankeny High School. The couple got married in the backyard of their two-acre lot in Alleman. They’d met at her flower shop.
Together they’ve made Alleman their home. They love their big lot, where they have gardens, trees, shrubs … all kinds of things to be outside with. They like to ride both bicycles and their Harley, and they like to travel and check out national parks.
She believes the residents of Alleman love the town as much as she and her husband do. She said, it’s a great, quiet little town, with great people. She aims to keep it that way.