Loney, longest-serving mayor in Iowa history, dies at 92

Dan MikaAmes
Tribune
Loney, longest-serving mayor in Iowa 
history, dies at 92

Wallace “Wally” Loney, Iowa’s longest-serving and oldest mayor, died July 1 at Story County Medical Center in Nevada. He was 92.

Loney first won election as mayor of McCallsburg in 1987 on a platform of “cleaning up the town.” At the time, most of the buildings in the city were considered blighted by the state. Scott Anderson, a 25-year veteran of the McCallsburg City Council and Loney’s long-term mayor pro tem, said the city established multiple TIF districts to replace old buildings and build new infrastructure in the town.

“When I joined the council, the roads were mostly gravel,” Anderson said. “Now, they’re mostly paved.”

Under Loney’s 28-year tenure, McCallsburg built a new water tower, fire station, public lagoon and gained access to cable television, Internet service and natural gas.

Story County Supervisor Rick Sanders remembered Loney as “a legend,” who took a hands-on approach to public service, picking up sticks in the local parks and maintaining public property as he went about town.

“I would walk with Wally around town and he would sometimes stop and pump the water main,” Sanders said. “He would figuratively and literally get in the dirt for McCallsburg.”

City Councilman Chris Erickson is perhaps the best example of Loney’s longevity as a public servant. After retiring from Story Construction, Loney took a job driving a school bus, picking up and dropping off schoolchildren during the school year. Erickson was one of those children, and he eventually grew up to serve with Loney during his last six years on the council.

“He’d drive around town with his old GMC Sierra pickup and help people,” Erickson said. “He gave a lot and never asked for payment.”

He was also a father figure to several stepchildren, including Jacki Meimann, who was a councilwoman while Loney was mayor. Meimann was 29 when Loney married her mother, and she described Loney as a wonderful person whose “Wallyisms,” phrases of emphasis that Loney tended to used around town, were both highly revered around town and “can’t be in print.” One of her favorite Wallyisms, she said, was “If brains were dynamite, he couldn’t blow his nose.”

Another was, “That water is so hard you can pert-near chew it.”

Meimann said Loney was intensely focused on helping the town’s citizens in any way possible, and he never had a crass word to say about it.

“He tried to solve the world’s problems, and when he couldn’t do that, he had fun trying anyway,” she said.

Because he wouldn’t accept payment for his odd jobs, the citizens of McCallburg often showed their appreciation for Loney in unorthodox ways. When the town needed to choose a theme for 2012’s Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, some people said he should be the theme.

“We started joking that Wally is our historic piece of pride, and the idea took flight,” said Robin Pruisner, a former councilwoman.

The town held a vote as to which Wallyisms would go onto the town’s shirts for the ride, and Loney sat on Main Street to autograph every shirt sold.

“He got an immense kick out of it,” Pruisner said.

On the verge of his retirement last year, the Story County Board of Supervisors gave Loney the first Story County Citizen of the Year award, something he took pride in. In early January, he handed the mayoral gavel to former mayor Bill Lytle, who only took the job after nobody ran to replace Loney.

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” Loney said during an interview with the Nevada Journal last year. “But I just can’t give it my all anymore, so it’s time for me to step down at the end of my term.”

Anderson said he doesn’t know if the city plans to formally memorialize him, but his presence will remain in the town for some time.

“You couldn’t find anyone more genuinely concerned about the people he lived and worked with,” Anderson said. “He was the most tender-hearted person.”

Loney is survived by his wife, Marie and his five stepchildren. Funeral services were yesterday at Bethany Lutheran in McCallsburg.