BRITT | When Mike Ostercamp decided to run for city council in the early 1990s, he hoped to make Britt a better place to live.
And now, near the end of his fifth and final term on the city council, he looks back satisfied with what’s been accomplished.
“That’s always been my goal - to make Britt a community people want to live in, and I think to a certain extent we’ve succeeded,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of young people who’ve come back and a lot more who want to come back if they can make it work.”
Ostercamp, a lifelong resident of Britt, was first elected to the city council in 1993 after his employer, Jim Trulson, a former longtime council member, convinced him to run for an open seat.
“I didn’t know what I was getting into,” he said.
Ostercamp said the first two years were “a daze” while he learned the intricacies of local government, but once he became familiar with them, he enjoyed being part of the decision-making process.
He ran and was re-elected to the city council for two additional four-year terms in 1997 and 2001. In 2006, Ostercamp decided to take a break from local government before running again in 2010 and 2014.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said.
But earlier this year, Ostercamp decided not to run for re-election.
“This is my swan song of politics,” he said. “I’ve given my time. It’s time for young folks to make the decisions now, because, realistically any decision I make now, 20 years from now, it’s going to be [them] paying for it, I’m not going to be here.”
During his time on the council, the city completed an upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant, opened the aquatic center, completed several “major street projects” and began work on a nine-lot commercial park off Highway 18 as well as a number of other projects throughout the city.
Ostercamp said making improvements within the community has been the highlight of his time on the council, but being a part of the decision-making process has also posed challenges and caused frustration.
The biggest challenge of the council, he said, has — and likely will continue to be — managing the city’s budget.
“You know if people stop and think, their expenses go up, their insurance goes up, their heat goes up, their lights go up, and cost of fuel goes up,” he said. “Well, ours do, too, and our revenue doesn’t go up as fast as our expenses.”
Ostercamp said one of the biggest disappointments during his time on the council has been the “lack of community input” on city issues.
But, all in all, he’s going to miss it.
“You can’t do something that long and not miss it when you’re done,” Ostercamp said, “but I don’t see myself missing it enough to want to do it again.”
Over the years, Ostercamp said he’s worked with “a lot of good people” while serving on the city council, including city staff and fellow council members.
“When you serve with someone like that you develop a different type of a friendship. It’s hard to describe what it is, just the fact that you’re with someone with similar interests and they’re doing the same job you are,” he said.
Ostercamp said he is comfortable with the direction of the city, and he’s looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Rhonda; adult children, Zac and Abby; and grandchildren, Brody, Bo and Ivy, as well as hunting, fishing and taking up golf again. He will continue working at Winnebago Industries twice a week, too.
When asked what piece of advice he’d give to new or returning council members, he said, “Always vote what you feel is in the best interest of the city whether you personally feel that way or not. Put the city’s interests first.”