Rod Sullivan, Supervisor, Johnson County, Iowa

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September 29, 2015

Sullivan’s Salvos     9/29/15

In this edition:

*RIP Joe Johnston
*Happy 25th Housing Fellowship!
*1105 Project Kitchen
*Empty Nesting
*Iowa City Book Festival
*Swisher Visioning
*Did You Know?

*RIP Joe Johnston
         Former State Representative, former Congressional candidate, and local attorney Joe Johnston passed away earlier this week.

         Joe was a colorful guy with a colorful history, and I very much enjoyed the conversations we had. RIP, Joe!

*Happy 25th Housing Fellowship!
         I recently attended a reception honoring the 25th anniversary of the Housing Fellowship. It was created in 1990 by area religious congregations in response to the shortage of affordable homes in the area. (Sound familiar?)

         Fast forward 25 years, and the Housing Fellowship now owns or manages 171 affordable rental homes in Johnson County. The vacancy rate is only 2%. The average length of tenancy is 53 months. 75% of the tenants are employed at least full time; the other 25% have other sources of income. In 2015, the Housing Fellowship provided housing for 681 people, including 397 children.

         Congratulations to Executive Director Maryann Dennis and the Housing Fellowship on 25 years of good work in our community!

*1105 Project Kitchen
Several years ago, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors sold the old Public Health Building to the Crisis Center for $1. The Crisis Center then teamed with DVIP, NAMI, and Free Lunch to create the 1105 Project, a wonderful collaboration of social services agencies.

The Board did put a few restrictions on the sale, however, and one of them has just come to fruition. On Thursday the 24th, I joined several other people at a ribbon cutting for the grand opening of the 1105 Commercial Kitchen.

A bit of history: The Board had a contract with Jason Grimm of the Iowa Valley RC&D, who consulted with us on local foods issues. Jason had identified the lack of commercial kitchen space as a real detriment to the local foods movement.

The Board knew the 1105 Project would have to have a large kitchen in order to host the Free Lunch Program, so we set Jason up with Becci Reedus at the Crisis Center. We figured the 1105 Project could earn extra money renting to local entrepreneurs; a classic win-win situation.

Jason and partners Jesse Singerman and Jessica Burtt Fogarty took the opportunity to form IC Kitchen Connect. They then helped Becci to determine what items were necessary to create a kitchen that could be rented out after Free Lunch was finished for the day. Becci pulled it together, and IC Kitchen Connect created a checklist and contract producers could use. Now we are ready to get it rented. Meanwhile, IC Kitchen Connect is ready to take things even further.

IC Kitchen Connect links entrepreneurs with commercial kitchens in Iowa, allowing food entrepreneurs to start their businesses at a fraction of the cost and helping them to maximize profits when they need it most.

         For more info, visit:

*Empty Nesting
         It took a while to sink in, but Melissa and I are finally getting used to the feel of being empty nesters.

         I am a big softy, so I tend to get a bit melancholy when I step into empty bedrooms. Raising kids is and has been our primary charge for a long time, and transitioning can be tough.

         Meanwhile, I look forward to our new location on the circle of life!

*Iowa City Book Festival
         The Iowa City Book Festival is a four-day celebration of books, reading, and writing. The festival includes readings, discussions, and demonstrations. Presented by the UNESCO City of Literature, it all happens October 1-4 at a variety of locations throughout downtown Iowa City.

         I absolutely LOVE this event! Count me in! Meanwhile, you can decide which of the dozens of events you wish to attend by visiting:

*Swisher Visioning
         The City of Swisher recently held a community visioning exercise, and I was privileged to participate.

         Swisher is a city of about 930 people in the far north and west portion of Johnson County. Just off of Highway 965, Swisher is actually much closer to Cedar Rapids than Iowa City. Kids in Swisher attend College Community Schools (including Cedar Rapids Prairie).

         I am particularly fond of Swisher, because I made a lot of good friends there as a young adult. I went to college with a few guys from Swisher, I met their friends and families, I played softball with a bunch of them… it really does hold a special place in my heart.

         Some of the positives folks came up with regarding Swisher: It is in a GREAT location, really close to both CR and IC. Probably because of this, the median income in Swisher is quite high, far above the State and County averages. Swisher has room to grow in every direction. The train tracks that cut through town may be an asset some day. The city is in excellent financial health. There are several civic groups (American Legion, Men’s Club, etc.) that are active. Swisher is home to a bank, grocery store, coffee house, and a few other businesses. They have a wonderful town library.

         Of course, Swisher is like everywhere else – there are some negatives, too. Those mentioned included: The schools are not in town. There is no senior housing. Swisher lacks municipal water, sidewalks, storm sewers, and trails. There is a question as to whether or not residents are willing to make the necessary investments in their city. There is also a question as to just how welcoming the town is to new people.

         This was an interesting exercise. While some of the discussion was very specific to Swisher, I think the same discussion could be had in pretty much any of Johnson County’s smaller cities.

         I applaud the people of Swisher for taking an honest look at themselves. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (I know there are lots of Socrates fans in Swisher!) I give a great deal of credit for this exercise and this attitude to volunteer extraordinaire Laura Hoover, who has been and remains the driving force behind the Swisher Library; and Mayor Chris Taylor, who has proven himself to be an excellent young leader. I hope others in Swisher will follow the lead of these two outstanding individuals!

         Meanwhile, I think it would serve every level of government well to do a bit of self-examination.

*DID YOU KNOW?  The Swisher City Hall still has a single jail cell in the basement, a relic of the days when municipalities did their own jailing. Now used for storage, the key hangs to the side where Otis Campbell could reach it!

Anyone interested in learning more about County government should take a look at the County website-

"Sullivan’s Salvos" is sent once per week to any interested party. It will give a brief update on issues of interest to Johnson County residents.

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As always, feel free to contact me at 354-7199 or I look forward to serving you!



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