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MASON CITY | Citing "a new beginning" for Mason City, Mayor Bill Schickel struck a consistently positive tone in his state-of-the-city message Tuesday night.

He asked residents to work together on things that matter, even if they disagreed at one time, and used the River City Renaissance Project as an example.

"As you know, I advocated for the Gatehouse plan," he told the City Council. "I know all the arguments for that plan because I have made them myself.

"But the plan I supported didn't have the votes on the council to pass. The current G8 plan did. That's our process, which means I am now 110 percent behind it because I support the overall project," said Schickel.

"My commitment is to keep it on track, on time and on budget."

Schickel said new faces in city government are also a part of the new beginning as he welcomed At-Large Councilman Tom Thoma, Second Ward Councilman Will Symonds and Fourth Ward Councilman John Jaszewski.

Taking a cue from recent national State of the Union messages, Schickel singled out people in the audience for their contributions to the new beginning.

He said the "Mason City Says Yes" campaign in support of two public issues in the Nov. 7 election drew 75 percent voter approval and was "a totally positive campaign." He asked Loni Dirksen, campaign chairwoman and members of the campaign to stand up and be recognized.

Schickel said the new beginning is also shown in the 1,000 jobs, ranging from minimum wage to six figures, available now in Mason City. Also, he said, Chad Schreck, head of the North Iowa Corridor EDC, and his team are working on 24 leads that could result in 600 more jobs and a capital investment of $250 million.

"Our challenge is to make sure we have the workers with the skills to fill them," said Schickel.

He said the Vision North Iowa project, which started a year ago, had a goal of using community input into putting together a five-year plan for economic prosperity.

"Preliminary recommendations center on bolstering entrepreneurship, supporting existing businesses and effective workforce development," said Schickel.

He said the opportunity for a new beginning is already attracting families to Mason City, including 50 from Puerto Rico.

Others coming into the city, he said, are former Mason City residents who have returned. He cited Todd Leet, his wife Jennifer, and their three children who recently moved back to Mason City from Tampa, Florida. 

Leet, who works for Thrivent Financial, and his family were in the audience and Schickel invited them to stand and be recognized.

He cited recent clean-up efforts along the Winnebago River and challenged residents to make Mason City the cleanest city in Iowa.

He closed with one more challenge: "Let's become the first community in America to finally overcome the national modern-day epidemic of non-stop denunciation," said Schickel.

"Denunciation is easy," he said. "But in all seriousness, is it making anything better? Is it solving any problems? Mason City is better than that.

"Vigorous civil debate makes things better. Non-stop mutual denunciation makes things worse. Let us resolve right here tonight to always be doing our part to make things better." 



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