“You just have to want to do the job,” said Steven Wintermute, Creston’s current mayor who is running for reelection. “I want the job. I enjoy the job.”
Wintermute is an area native, growing up in Bedford and moving to Creston as an adult in 1982.
Wintermute served on the city council for four years in the late 90’s before moving outside the city limits. In 2015, when he moved back into town, he ran for city council again and became the at-large member. In May of this year after Mayor Gary Lybarger resigned, Wintermute was appointed to fill the empty seat for the rest of Lybarger’s term.
He has owned various businesses for 30 years, running a coffee shop, a tanning salon and pawn shop among others. Although he only went to college for one year, Wintermute said owning these businesses were an opportunity to learn about taxes and being frugal.
“You have to be vigilant in what you spend and save where you can,” he said.
The difference between running a business and running a city is getting approval. Wintermute said when he was in business and wanted to do a project, he just did it.
As mayor, everything takes a lot more time. He has to present the idea to the council and then convince them and the public that the project is worth the time and money it will take. Since the mayor doesn’t vote, except in the case of a tie, he feels he can guide the council, but doesn’t try to exert his influence over them.
Wintermute said that one thing he does for the city that citizens aren’t able to see is to write two to three companies every week to encourage businesses to come to Creston, a project he began as a city council member.
A more visible project he dealt with as mayor was the decaying building on the 100 block of Maple Street.
“That was let go by the owner,” he said. “We had to take care of it for public safety.”
During his tenure, the city council provided some of the funding to help get the Round House on Montgomery Street renovated.
“It’s turned out to be a great asset,” Wintermute said.
While still on the city council, Wintermute supported the city council’s efforts to begin taking care of streets where the repair had been lacking. The council be gain talking about the $5 million project in 2015.
Wintermute explained why the project took so long to begin actual construction, saying there are many steps involved. The spending amounts had to be decided and then the specific streets to be repaired. Each council member made a list and then they got together to combine the lists. Next the city had to hold public hearings on the issue. After the public hearings, the council was able to solicit bids and select the best choice to do the job. The weather played a role at this point, with construction having to wait until spring to begin.
“There’s no way to speed it up,” Wintermute said. “l those things need to be done because it’s the public’s money When you have 10 people looking at it all the time, there’s not going to be any waste.”
“I know people don’t really care for seal-coating, but we did 51 blocks,” Wintermute said. “Of course, it’s a lot cheaper and you can do a lot more.”
The repair of the Elm Street railroad crossing is set to begin later this month.
Wintermute’s goals for Creston include eliminating nuisance properties. He would like to help bridge the gap between community groups and those who need help. He said some of the nuisance properties are due to laziness and lack of pride, speaking of homes where residents leave furniture and toys in the yard and park in grassy areas, creating mud holes.
“It’s pretty hard to legislate pride,” he said.
Wintermute feels the creation of a nuisance officer position would be helpful in maintaining Creston. He hasn’t figured out the details such as financing the position, training or how to grant authority to the officer.
“If people have to be told to pick up their toys, then we’ll have to figure out something,” he said.
The bond issues
Wintermute declined to say if he was for or against the bond issues but did say the amount of money involved is significant.
“It’s a lot of money,” he said. “If they would all three would pass, it would put the city close to our debt limit. So if we had something catastrophic like a flood or a tornado, we’d have trouble getting any money to fix things.”