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Remembering Alex Kuhn: Sculpture outside Mason City library will be memorial to former councilman (with photos)

MASON CITY | Bobbie Carlyle is already known to many art enthusiasts in Mason City and North Iowa for her participation in the River City Sculptures on Parade.

Now, she's been hired to complete a sculpture of immense importance: one of Alex Kuhn, the former Mason City councilman who committed suicide in 2016.

Carlyle has already built a miniature model of what the sculpture will look like: Alex, sitting on a bench reading to his two sons, Rylan and Collan. She said the bench will be about 6 feet long, allowing people to sit down and interact with the piece.


The tentative location is in the green space in front of the main entrance to the Mason City library — but Mark Kuhn, Alex's father, said plans are still being finalized. He and councilman John Lee will update the library's board of trustees at its meeting May 15, detailing fundraising efforts and other logistics.

Carlyle, who lives in Loveland, Colorado, said fundraising and organizing for the sculpture has been a community effort — and its purpose is to serve as a reminder of Alex's impact on Mason City and North Iowa.

"It will get used, it will get seen," she said. "And it will make an impact. It's not just about a kid sitting by himself reading. It's about a parent, and about families, and about enjoying your time together."

John Lee said the statue will remind the community not only of how Alex served his family, but also Mason City residents in general.

Ashley Miller / File photo 

Alex Kuhn reads "Pinkalicious" to a Roosevelt Elementary School kindergarten class in 2012. 

"Alex, in the short amount of time, got to know a lot of people," Lee said. "A lot of people felt he represented him, and I think a lot of us can learn from Alex … not just politics, but volunteering and reading for the kids … he’s a good representation of what you do to serve a community."

Mark Kuhn, a Floyd County supervisor, said just over $30,000 has been raised for the sculpture from hundreds of local businesses and citizens. The total price tag will be $50,000, and the meeting May 15 will serve as a kickoff to raise the rest of the money. 

Kuhn and Lee said discussions began late last year about adding the sculpture near the library. Developments are being made to include it in the River City Sculptures on Parade route, according to officials.

Robin Anderson, board president of the River City Sculptures on Parade, is pleased the statue will be part of the collection.

Steve Bohnel / STEVE BOHNEL, The Globe Gazette 

Sculptor Bobbie Carlyle stands with her model of the Alex Kuhn statue. She hopes to have the life-size sculpture installed by the end of this year.

"It's a pretty daunting task," Anderson said about the commission process. "We’re really pleased the family has chosen a sculpture to memorialize Alex and all the work he did."

Carlyle, who has created hundreds of sculptures, hopes to have the piece completed and installed by the end of the year.

She was emotional when asked about what building the sculpture will mean to her.

"It's been special, and it's been difficult," Carlyle said. "I have seven children, I can't imagine leaving them behind. They're all grown, and I have 20 grandkids. I appreciated being a part of this whole process here."

Photos: Mason City Councilman Alex Kuhn

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, it was stated the sculpture would be separate from the River City Sculptures on Parade. Officials clarified that plans are actually for it to be included in the Parade. The Globe Gazette apologizes for the error.

Ashley Miller / File photo 

Alex Kuhn reads "Pinkalicious" to a Roosevelt Elementary School kindergarten class in 2012. 

Mason City woman accused of driving drunk, fleeing law enforcement with two toddlers, infant in car

CLEAR LAKE | A Mason City woman was arrested Wednesday for child endangerment and other charges after she allegedly drove drunk with three children in the car.

Natalie Marie Green, 26, was charged with several misdemeanors including three counts of child endangerment, operating while intoxicated, eluding, interference with official acts and driving with a suspended license.

At about 6:55 p.m., Cerro Gordo County dispatch received a report of a reckless and possibly intoxicated driver traveling westbound on Highway 122 from Mason City in a tan 2007 Buick Rendezvous.

A Cerro Gordo County deputy stopped the vehicle about 7 p.m. near the intersection of Highway 18 and North Eighth Street in Clear Lake.

The deputy identified Green as the driver and suspected she was intoxicated due her bloodshot, watery eyes and an odor of alcohol coming from the vehicle, court documents said.

Green, who law enforcement said did not have a valid driver's license, had three children in the vehicle -- ages 3, 2 and 5 months. 

She fled the scene with the children in the vehicle as the deputy made arrangements to have the children picked up by family, according to officials. 

The deputy then began to pursue the vehicle with with lights and sirens as the speeds “were no more than the speed limit," court documents said. The pursuit continued on Buddy Holly Place, where Green turned into the Meadow Lake Apartments parking lot.

She stopped the vehicle in the parking log and then allegedly refused to exit the vehicle when ordered to do so, the deputy noted in court documents. 

“She did not comply and was forced out of the vehicle by law enforcement,” the deputy wrote in charging documents. “During an attempted apprehension of Miss Green, she still was not complying with instructions until finally being forced into handcuffs and placed into the back of a patrol car.”

Green was then taken into custody without further incident. No one was hurt -- including the children -- and no property was damaged, the sheriff's office said in a news release. 

Her blood alcohol content was .155, according to court documents. The legal limit in Iowa is .08. 

She was booked into the Cerro Gordo County Jail and released the same night after posting a $8,300 bond. Green is scheduled to appear in Cerro Gordo County District Court May 25.

The Clear Lake Police Department and Iowa State Patrol provided assistance. 

Jeff Roberson 

FILE - In this April 11, 2018, file photo, Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Josh Hader throws during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, in St. Louis. Hader’s most important role with the Brewers might be that he doesn’t really have any defined role at all. Hader makes quick work of high-leverage situations, no matter when they occur. A humble, team-first attitude helps. So does a 95-mph fastball and filthy slider.(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

Immigration authorities arrest 32 in Mt. Pleasant raid

MT. PLEASANT — Federal and local law enforcement officials arrested 32 men on what they described as administrative immigration violations during a raid early Wednesday.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials wouldn’t confirm where the raid took place, but at about 11 a.m. Iowa State Patrol officers blocked off the entrance to MPC Enterprises — Midwest Precast Concrete — at 2001 W. Washington St. in Mt. Pleasant as relatives of workers waited outside and watched it unfold.

Agents with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations and deportation officers with ICE executed the search warrant and conducted the enforcement operation as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, according to ICE officials. The nature of the investigation was not disclosed.

The men taken into custody were loaded into vans and taken from the plant during the raid.

A dozen onlookers were gathered outside the fence at MPC Enterprises, awaiting word from family and friends.

“A lot of families with kids will be separated,” one said. “Now they won’t have their parents by their side.”

Others were just sitting on the side of the road, waiting to see what happened.

Shawn Neudauer, regional public affairs officer for ICE, said there was no threat to the public and no further information was being release Wednesday afternoon.

The 32 men included one from Honduras, two from El Salvador, 22 from Guatemala and seven from Mexico, officials said. These men will remain in custody pending removal proceedings or the outcomes of their respective cases.

The Mt. Pleasant Police Department, Henry County Sheriff’s Office and Iowa State Patrol also were on the scene.

According to its website, MPC Enterprises was founded in 2006. It said its concrete products — such as beams, pillars, wall panels and stairs — are used in projects throughout the Midwest, including at the Cedar Rapids Convention Center and City Services Center.

Wednesday’s raid comes just days before the 10th anniversary of the now-defunct Agriprocessors meatpacking plant raid on May 12, 2008, which was one of the largest workplace immigration raids at the time. There were nearly 400 illegal immigrants arrested then in Postville.

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Aide to Iowa governor touts Apple deal, gets job at company

A top aide to Gov. Kim Reynolds took a management job with tech giant Apple months after helping promote a $208 million incentive package for the company's planned Iowa data center as a good deal for taxpayers.

Tim Albrecht left as Reynolds' deputy chief of staff to begin work at Apple in March as a regional manager of strategic initiatives. Albrecht's position is "unrelated" to the $1.3 billion complex the company is building outside Des Moines, a deal the administration negotiated, announced and defended when Albrecht was Reynolds' senior adviser, according to the governor's office.

Supporters of the Apple project have argued that it's a landmark development for the fast-growing city of Waukee that will strengthen the state's tech industry. Critics, including some economists and Democrats running for governor, have blasted the $208 million in tax breaks pledged by the city and state, saying they're far too generous for a project that will only create 50 full-time jobs once construction is complete.

Albrecht, a longtime GOP public relations professional, was involved in planning and reviewing information for an Aug. 24 press conference in which Reynolds and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the project to applause outside the Capitol, the governor's office confirmed.

"Welcome to Iowa, Apple!" Albrecht tweeted along with a photo from that event, among more than two dozen tweets he sent from his personal account over a one-month period promoting the deal.

Many of those were retweets of news articles and state officials characterizing the deal as a "win-win for Iowa" and great investment.

Reynolds' press secretary Brenna Smith said Albrecht is working in Apple's education department, which has contracts to sell products to K-12 schools, universities and other government agencies. She said the office didn't publicize Albrecht's departure because it hasn't announced personnel changes since Reynolds took office last year.

"Tim is one of the most respected communicators in Iowa, and the governor is grateful for his many years of service to the state," Smith said.

Albrecht, who made $121,000 annually in his state job, referred questions to Apple representatives, who declined to comment on Albrecht's hiring, job duties and salary.

Megan Tooker, director of the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, said Albrecht is not barred from working for Apple but must comply with laws designed to prevent ex-state officials from cashing in on their influence. For instance, for two years after leaving state employment, officials cannot lobby their former agencies or be paid by companies "in relation to any case, proceeding or application" with which they were involved in government.

Albrecht, 40, spoke by phone with Tooker on Feb. 20 about his prospective employment, according to an email exchange obtained under the open records law. Tooker sent him links to applicable laws and the board's key prior opinion on the matter. She said she hasn't heard from him since and that he didn't request a formal opinion for his situation.

The prior opinion she sent him addressed the employment of Jeff Boeyink, who resigned as chief of staff to Gov. Terry Branstad in 2013 and became one of Iowa's most powerful lobbyists. Boeyink, who worked with Albrecht in Branstad's office, was paid by Apple to lobby on its behalf during the legislative session that concluded Saturday, records show .

Albrecht's position at Apple might be legal but will look problematic to the public, said attorney Gary Dickey, former general counsel to Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack.

"A person who uses his state employment to financially enrich a company — and then goes to work for that company — certainly violates the spirit of the rule," he said.

Apple chose Iowa to build two data centers on 2,000 acres of land that will serve users of Siri, iMessage and other products. Iowa was attractive because of its wind energy production and location typically free from earthquakes and blackouts. Waukee agreed to cut Apple's property taxes by 71 percent over 20 years — a break worth $188 million. A state board approved $19.6 million in tax credits through its High Quality Jobs program. Apple has pledged to fund millions in public improvements in Waukee in coming decades, beginning with a youth sports complex.

The incentives have been criticized for months by some members of both parties as overly generous, including a former Republican primary opponent of Reynolds. Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell has run television ads that display the words, "Apple played Iowa for suckers." A tax bill approved Saturday by the Republican-controlled Legislature requires the state to review all tax credit programs related to economic development.

Iowa State University economist Dave Swenson said the Apple deal comes at the expense of all other taxpayers. "As to Albrecht's good fortune, why am I not surprised?" he said.