When Bethany Wirin started her campaign for city council in 2005, she had no idea her term would last 16 years.
“I never thought it would last this long. I wasn’t thinking that far, ”she said. “How can I?”
Thinking about the time she spent in the council chamber, acting as acting mayor for four different mayors and various other councilors and city staff, she fondly recalls what she learned along the way. .
Wirin was interested in the political process and government as a whole when she was in middle school and high school. She grew up in Marshalltown and graduated from Marshalltown High School, but it wasn’t until she lived in Minneapolis several years later that she found herself more involved in local government.
“I was in my mid to late twenties – I volunteered to be an electoral judge,” Wirin said. “I was paying more attention to the election process and how it worked. I saw all the road signs in my neighborhood. All the names on the signs, I didn’t know them. They were just ordinary people to me. I thought, ‘I would do that.’ It would be great to serve that way.
When Wirin returned to Marshalltown in 2005, she joined the local group of young professionals. Mayor Floyd Harthun, who was not running for re-election, was trying to get young residents more involved in local offices, boards and commissions. He visited the young professionals, addressing a room that can accommodate up to 100 people, explaining how a rich opportunity to serve on city council could be.
A few weeks later, Wirin saw the mayor downtown and asked if anyone had taken the advice to run for council. Only one person had responded to his call to action and was not seeking a seat on the board.
“I said, ‘OK, I’m pretty interested, but I haven’t lived here for many years and wouldn’t know where to start,'” said Wirin.
Harthun put Wirin in touch with a few people to help him on his way. They sent her to talk to more people, then more. Before she knew it, Wirin was in full swing. She won her race and on January 1, 2006 began her first term. Soon his ideas would start to stand out among his colleagues.
“I hadn’t been on the board for a very long time. Maybe months, ”she said. “We were talking about sewage tariffs. At the time, we weren’t doing a professional study. We did it ourselves. We talked about five or six different options. One of the options, Mayor (Gene) Beach, when we were voting, called it “Bethany’s option”. This is what we ended up doing. It was really cool. I really felt like I was helping and serving the community as I expected.
One of the issues Wirin most wanted to address as a board member was the upkeep of the property. Along with his colleagues, the city has focused on removing dangerous and dilapidated buildings and the property maintenance code to ensure properties are maintained to an acceptable standard.
Wirin could often be seen walking into the council room with his twin daughters. As her fourth term drew to a close, she heeded her daughters’ words as she decided it was time to leave the office.
“My kids said, ‘Don’t run anymore, Mom,’” she said. “They are 11-year-old twins. I was so privileged. I dragged them to meetings. They have always been well received. I took them to all kinds of events. They need me in a different way now. I love that new people want to step in and do this work and serve the community in this way. “
Mayor Joel Greer had a long list of adjectives in mind when considering how to describe Wirin – naturally intelligent, thoughtful, kind, unfazed, conscientious and considerate were just a few. He hopes her example will inspire other women in the community to consider running for city council.
“I really regret our city council and the mayor will all be men. We have a city that has a lot of women in leadership. We need their experience and advice on voting, ”he said. “I challenge the next generation of women in our community to step up and do what (Wirin) has been doing. She did so with full-time household and family responsibilities, and with a full-time job running a Christian school here in town. I will truly miss his advice and advice.