Tom Hanafan reflects on 25 years as Mayor of Council Bluffs

Nov 22, 2013

Council Bluffs’ first new Mayor in 25 years will be sworn in January second.

Matt Walsh was elected earlier this month to the seat currently held by Tom Hanafan. Council Bluffs’ longtime Mayor is retiring. During Hanafan’s tenure, Council Bluffs has weathered two natural disasters---a July 1988 tornado, and the 2011 Missouri River flooding. The tornado injured 83 people and caused more than $50 million in damage. Hanafan says the support and response following the disaster were “remarkable.”

“We got through a tragedy in a very short period of time because people spent their time and effort to make a difference. And it was a metro change. It wasn’t just us versus them, it was all of us got to make it happen. And that kind of changed the complexion of what happened in the community.”

Council Bluffs was under a flood threat for 114 days in 2011. The city lost one of its pump stations, and the levee system had to be reinforced. But Hanafan says the situation could’ve been much worse.

“We were lucky, the whole area, I mean, you think about the economic loss that we could’ve had in this metropolitan area, it would’ve been phenomenal. When you think about it, it was incredible.”

Hanafan says the community’s response to those disasters are among his proudest moments as Council Bluffs Mayor.

Hanafan was elected in 1988, and says he learned right away from residents that infrastructure and opportunities were most important to them.

“They would sit down and say, these are the things that we think we need to do to make it better in our community. And economic development, obviously, more jobs, better-paying jobs were always one of those, a better street system and sewer system, combined sewers were a problem we had at that time, we needed to have better shopping and opportunities, better quality parks, and a new library was always something that was out there.”

Council Bluffs built a new library, as well as new housing. Retail business and casinos brought jobs and opportunities to the city.

Hanafan says being Mayor of Council Bluffs has been an “amazing opportunity.”

Hanafan’s comments came Thursday at an Omaha Press Club Noon Forum. You can hear the complete Noon Forum January 13th on KIOS.