As someone who has lived in Polk City virtually his whole life, Polk City Mayor Jason Morse has experienced the development of the area first-hand. A graduate of North Polk School District, Morse would later go on to work for his family’s business, Morse Equipment Company, and become Polk City Fire Chief before running for mayor.
“I was really lucky I was able to work with my family as long as I was. I worked with my father, my mother and my grandfather. Working in a family business is not easy, let alone three generations, but I was really lucky to be able to do that and spend as much time with them as I was,” Morse said.
Founded by his grandfather back in the 1950s, Morse Equipment Company is a manufacturing representative firm located in Ankeny. Specializing in the sale and distribution of industrial equipment and supplies for the waste water field and grain and seed industry, the company mainly conducts business in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“I’ve been around the community a long time. To see Polk City growing and booming is exciting for me. It’s exciting to help shape the path where Polk City will be in the future,” Morse said.
Mentors and Influences
Surrounded by both a supportive family and community, Morse cites many mentors and influences that have helped shape who he is today. However, it was his parents’ commitment to giving back to the community that have played an important role in his path to becoming mayor.
“My dad has always been involved in Polk City. He’s been volunteering for this community ever since I can remember. And, my mom was very involved in that as well,” Morse said, “At a very young age, my father told me ‘If you’re going to live in a community, you’re going to give back to the community,’ and that has always stuck with me.”
After applying and becoming accepted to the fire department at the age of 18, Morse later went on to complete his EMT, firefighter and officer certifications, along with various others that are part of the field, before working his way up through the ranks to captain, assistant chief and ultimately the fire chief of Polk City. As one of the youngest chiefs in Polk City as of that time, Morse helped to reshape the bylaws, standard operating procedures, replace old equipment and more in order to help the fire department change along with the times.
However, this would not have occurred without the support of various members of the community.
“I had a very supportive council and mayor at the time, and I surrounded myself with a really good team of people and officers below me,” Morse said, “We had a very strong team. This included Dan Gubbins and one of my closest friends, Roy Bingham, who passed away in 2010 of cancer. Our department and whole community really rallied together at that time. In fact, his wife and kids are still a very important part of our lives.”
Now, as he begins his second term as mayor, Morse continues to face the challenges that come with a rapidly growing city.
The biggest issues of Polk City today
One of the biggest challenges faced in Polk City today is growth. Finding a balance between not growing too fast and not taking advantage of the opportunity to grow can be quite a difficult task.
“Everyone has a different opinion when it comes to growth. It’s trying to maintain a small-town feel for people who have lived here a long time, as well as being welcoming to people who want to find Polk City home,” Morse said.
So then, how does the mayor of Polk City help to maintain this small town feel?
“Our town square is important to us. It’s the center of town and as Polk City continues to grow, it’s driving people to the square and having community events on the square that are still the small town feel. We definitely want to take advantage of the square being our focal point in the center of town,” Morse said.
Having such rapid growth does not only mean changes to the city, but to the North Polk School District as well.
“One of the important things as mayor that I’ve been able to accomplish is working with the school, in particular with Dr. Dan Mart. Dan and I have both worked hard to stay in regular communication on the school level and on things going on in the city — just trying to bridge some gaps between Polk City and North Polk. I’m pretty proud of it and I know Dan is as well,” Morse said.
Coming up, Morse is hoping to expand this growth into the commercial base, while still continuing to maintain that small-town feel.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not doing something to think about the future of the community. I don’t see us trying to attract multiple fast-food restaurants or big box stores,” Morse said, “We will continue to attract the niche, small family businesses, the things that make Polk City unique.”
This addition to commercial development around the town will also bring about future discussions regarding challenges in infrastructure. How such challenges are addressed will also have the potential to shape the town of Polk City in the years to come.