A task force of concerned citizens looks to be forming soon in the community of Hamburg as folks with a passion for the town are looking to maximize its positive points and work to counter areas of concern.
John Peterson, a former city planner of 38 years at Ankeny has volunteered some of his time to help with that process.
Peterson was in town recently for a day filled with meeting community members individually as well as business leaders and community groups.
At the end of the day, a longer public meeting allowed for a lot of citizen input.
Peterson said his take away was that there were a lot of people in Hamburg who are seeing some decline in the town and want to counter that slide.
Peterson said the initial effort was about gathering information and getting ideas from all walks of people as to what Hamburg’s highlight points are and where the areas were that might need some work.
“Hopefully, we will be able to put some ideas together and some direction together and get a plan they can start working on,” said Peterson. “Based on what I heard, there will be quite a few elements to it.”
Although the initial conversations involved people from lots of groups, Peterson said he thinks a task force of people representing a cross section of the community will eventually form.
With information gathered now, Peterson and a possible task force will work to prioritize a list and add data to areas of interest/concern.
Then the group can begin to tackle problems, maybe with some grant funding or maybe just with some very directed energy.
What were some of the concerns at the meeting?
People talked about the town losing its high school, about the housing issue with a lot of the town’s housing in a flood plain and about the need for a grocery store.
Peterson said he was impressed with the city’s infrastructure plan and its industry and feels that Hamburg has room to grow.
Goal number one, Peterson said, is to make sure to retain current citizens. Changes could also make Hamburg an attractive place for people looking to move.
“My hope is that I can bring some tools and resources to the table and help out a little bit,” Peterson said. “This is the work of my heart. Iowa has a lot of small towns and those towns are going through the same kinds of changes that Hamburg is.”
Optimism is what brought Peterson to Hamburg. Each year, Peterson said he looks to volunteer his time on a few projects.
Dr. Mike Wells, the Hamburg Public Schools superintendent, was one of the main reasons that Peterson chose to come to the southwest corner of the state.
Peterson said Dr. Wells has a great positive energy for the school and for the people of the town in general. That inspired Peterson.
“I just feel this is something I should put some time into,” Peterson said.

Dr. Mike Wells released the following statement in regard to his connection to Peterson.
“Last spring our students did a farm school presentation at Iowa State University and I was able to connect with John Peterson.  
“John was a long time city manager in Ankeny serving 38 years in this capacity.  
“He is an expert city planner and a tremendous person.  He wants to provide assistance to our community and help us improve life in our town for all citizens.   
“We all understand a large portion of our city is in the flood plain so if we don't take some progressive steps the city will continue to decline in population.  
“Our hope is to work together with community partners to build a plan that will improve services and life in our community.  
“This was the first step, gathering input from community members about what is going well, what needs improvement, what is missing in our community and finally what obstacles are in our way.  
“Mr. Peterson will take the information gathered and begin developing further talking points.  Eventually, we will have committees assigned with action plans in each identified area.  
“Mr. Peterson spent an hour with each of the major group in our community: hospital, school, Kiwanis, city, Hometown Pride, Hamburg Community Betterment, and Manildra.  
“We completed the night with a two hour dinner and discussion.  
“I am very proud of the people, approximately 100, who attended the meetings and provided feedback.  If we all work together we can do some wonderful things for our community.
“If rural communities do not become proactive they will continue to decline. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful town to live in.  Any citizens interested in being involved in this process can contact Mayor Cathy Crain or Dr. Wells at the Hamburg Schools.”