La Center has a new mayor after the city council picked a relative newcomer from among its membership to lead the city ahead of an election for the position later this year.
During its April 26 meeting, three of the five La Center City Council members chose fellow councilor Tom Strobehn for the position. Strobehn succeeds interim mayor Liz Cerveny, who took over the position after the resignation of mayor Greg Thornton earlier this year.
Cerveny was familiar with the mayoral role, having served in the position from 1997 to 2003. She was most recently elected as a city councilor in 2019.
Cerveny received a number of endorsements for the position, which included past members of the council.
“She has the experience and knows the workings of our city, and more importantly, she knows our city staff,” former councilor Dennis Hill said.
Though Cerveny represents a time-tested ability to run the city, the rest of the council decided to change up La Center’s leadership by picking Strobehn. Another former councilor, Al Luiz, brought that potential into focus during his testimony.
“If you’re satisfied with the way things have been going for the last four to six years, then I imagine … we don’t need to do a mayor change,” Luiz said. “If you’re not satisfied with the direction that we’ve been going, or the citizens have been represented the way that they wanted to be represented, then it’s time for a change.”
Strobehn was initially appointed to the council in 2018. He ran unopposed in the 2019 election to retain his seat.
Strobehn said he asks tough questions that community members want answers to.
“Some have agreed with this and some haven’t, but I’ve never stopped working for all the residents of La Center,” Strobehn said.
He mentioned the city’s ongoing discussion of its police force, something he said could not be addressed with the current financial state of the city.
“Our cardrooms have provided the majority for the city, (for) which we will always be grateful, and we’ll continue to work with them for years to come, but we must diversify our income so that we are not reliant on one source,” Strobehn said.
Strobehn highlighted a divide among community organizers and city officials over the last few years, which is something he would like to see fixed.
“Communities that work closely together thrive, which makes them the strongest and most desirable,” Strobehn said.
Taking advantage of the city’s natural resources is among Strobehn’s main focuses, he said. He wants to expand the city’s trail system, add a non-motorized boat launch, and install turf for athletics fields.
Councilor Melissa Fox noted this year’s election will provide La Center citizens with a chance to have their voices heard. The mayoral position will be placed on the August primary ballot if more than two people run.
“I think that that’s the most important piece, later,” Fox said. “Right now it’s just (that) we have an opportunity to try something new.”
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