As you may have heard, Lone Tree Mayor Jonathon Green caused a bit of a stir a few weeks ago when he called for a different form of government for the city.
Green, who was elected in 2017, thinks Lone Tree ought to hire a full-time city manager to handle city business.
A bit of background: Lone Tree sits in the “panhandle” of Johnson County, just south of Highway 22.
Lone Tree is about 15 minutes from Iowa City and 20 minutes from Muscatine, making it a great location for a “bedroom community.”
Unlike many cities its size, Lone Tree has its own K-12 school all on the same campus on the south side of town.
The city enjoyed some decent growth from 1990-2010 but has stayed right around a population of 1,350 for the better part of 10 years.
Recently, the town’s only grocery store closed, its newspaper went away, and many locals fear for the ongoing viability of the school.
Clearly, there are strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Mayor Green has handled the role of mayor admirably. Serving as mayor of a small town is the single toughest elected office to hold.
You get to listen to every complaint, and there isn’t a staff upon which you can lean.
After doing this for a while, Green decided the best way to move the city forward was to hire a city manager.
A city manager would be a professional with experience in areas such as sewer and water facilities, road maintenance, economic development and more.
She or he would be dedicated to advocating for Lone Tree for 40-plus hours every week – something Green admits he cannot do.
Sounds great, right? Well, not all citizens are jumping on board.
The problem appears to be the price tag. A decent city manager is going to cost at least $100,000 annually and may be closer to $150,000.
That is a lot of money in a small town with a small tax base.
Here is where I get frustrated. If you are one of the people who is concerned about growth and maintaining the school, then you should either: A) embrace Jon’s plan, or B) come up with another idea.
Simply complaining without action is worthless.
If you think it would cost too much? That is fine. That is a totally legitimate position to hold.
Come up with something cheaper that gets a similar result. Or stop complaining. But you don’t get to have it both ways.
This ongoing debate will be interesting. Certainly Johnson County wants to see Lone Tree thrive. And we are willing to consider helping where it makes sense.