Longtime Council Bluffs Mayor Talks About Decision To Step Down

By: Alex Hassel, LeAnne Morman Email
By: Alex Hassel, LeAnne Morman Email

A day after announcing he would not be seeking reelection, longtime Council Bluffs Mayor Tom Hanfan spoke Wednesday about his decision.

He said he wanted to announce his retirement now to give potential successors time to get a campaign going and emphasized several times the great job city workers do every day, but do not get credit for. As for his successor, Hanfan said whoever it is must be a good listener.

"I think the most important thing after that is let your people do their work. I'm not a police chief or a fire chief or a planner, that's not my job. It's let those people do their work and what you'll find is that they'll grow and expand and get better.”

Hanfan said micro-managing people is not his style and he has seen other government leaders who do that, but warned it does not work. He plans to find some things to do on a part-time basis, including serving on a few boards, which he currently does now.

Hanafan was mayor for 28 years, though actually has been the only person to serve as mayor over the past 65 years because for 40 of those years Council Bluffs used a "city administrator.”

"I remember the first year, most of my calls were complaints about streets, sewers and railroad crossings. I don't get very many calls on those anymore. I remember the fire chief called me and said our fire truck, one of the fire truck's doors fell off. We had to upgrade our equipment, things like that."

When he started as mayor his children were in high school. Now his grandchildren are in high school. Hanafan will finish up his term at the end of the year.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to have been able to serve the great citizens of Council Bluffs for so many years. This is a proud community with a rich heritage and as a lifelong resident I was always thrilled to be part of our success as a thriving city.”

Skip Thompson was exploring Bayliss Park Tuesday afternoon. He recently moved back to Council Bluffs after being away for about 30 years and said the city looks a lot different now. “You don't think too much about that stuff until you really come back and hey, this wasn't here."

The president of the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce says Hanafan has been a huge force in economic growth. “We were able to do a lot of things to kind of transform Council Bluffs to the community it is today and Tom laid the groundwork for that and then really helped to implement a lot of the programs that he started,” said Bob Mundt.

Just a few projects under Hanafan's leadership have been a new city library and the redevelopment of downtown. Small business owners say it means a lot. “He's just been very good," said Mike Sales, owner of A-Plus Printing. "Council Bluffs has really been updated. It's a lot more attractive and we get a lot of compliments."

In addition, there have been some enterprising companies as well, like the casinos and more recently, Google. Residents say Hanafan's legacy will live on with the city. “He just didn't leave it the way it was, he made it better,” said Thompson.

Since Hanafan was elected full-time mayor of Council Bluffs, Omaha has had seven different mayors.

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