Postville remembers, but is moving on

Mayor Leigh Rekow poses for a portrait in his office in Postville on April 18, 2013. (Kaitlyn Bernauer/The Gazette-KCRG9)
Mayor Leigh Rekow poses for a portrait in his office in Postville on April 18, 2013. (Kaitlyn Bernauer/The Gazette-KCRG9)

Note: Postville Mayor Leigh Rekow submitted a rebuttal to Lynda Waddington’s column published Dec. 31:

Lynda, you are invited to visit Postville one more time to perhaps ease your mind. When you stated in your article there were no good guys in Postville, I hope you didn’t mean all of us.

Even Sholom (Rubashkin) did some personal good deeds during his long tenure in town. When the plant manager died suddenly, he was handed a “tiger by the tail” and it spiraled downhill rapidly.

Good guys and gals always have been in and around Postville. After the “raid,” we never looked back and got busy. We didn’t play the victim game. Postville is an agricultural town that has withstood all that nature and government has offered: fire, wind, hail, drought, crop failure, livestock disease and the Depression, to name a few.

Isolated as we are, we learned to accept different races and religions. Those who couldn’t, left. Illegals? We knew about them and accepted them as fellow humans. The law, local, county, state, federal didn’t want to know and were not equipped to do anything about it. Actually, in my opinion, the raid was inevitable.

Our school accepted their children with open arms. For that reason, some moved on to better local jobs. They bought homes, kept them up, were good neighbors, lived among us and sometimes intermarried.

Reporters come here for a story. Some locals did suffer financially, but the community as a whole has moved on. Many prefer not to give interviews.


May 12 will be the 10th anniversary of the raid. A parade and busloads of people are in the works, I assume, by St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, which became a refuge and bore the brunt during and after the raid. The plant is under a new owner and management. I don’t see a march in its direction as positive, but I do see a celebration of the part St. Bridget’s, all our local and surrounding churches and our food bank played in providing for those left behind.

Agriprocessors’ assets were purchased by Hershey Freedman, renamed Agri Star, and the chief operating officer is David Van Campen. The company has had to fight its way back into the kosher market because of the long closing. It has spent millions of dollars to meet Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Agency regulations, plus modernizing production lines. Agri Star uses E-Verify when hiring and competes with other plants to get and keep skilled workers.

It is interesting to note a large number of Muslims work in a Jewish plant. The plant is a good citizen to Postville, works with the city, supports our school, fire and police departments.

The city got grants and loans to build a $10 million treatment plant for Agriprocessors, repayable to the city. Agri Star took over the obligation.

In the past nine-and-a-half years, our good guys and gals never looked back. They took our general fund from more than $400,000 in the red into the black, paved streets, rebuilt sewer and water lines. We are redoing our city treatment plant at $5.5 million.

Our school remains independent and has grown each year. Students are offered free breakfast and noon lunch. There is a regular Jewish Yeshiva and one of higher learning that draws Jewish boys from larger cities.

We have two synagogues, a mosque, Lutheran, Catholic, Presbyterian churches and a number of smaller Latino congregations.

Lastly, in July thousands of RAGBRAI riders came through Postville and were amazed by our town and loved the hospitality.


I would much rather Postville be known as the boyhood home of Dr. John Mott, founder of the YMCA, rather than a town scarred forever by an ICE raid. By the way, we do have a YMCA with more than 1,000 members, enjoyed by Jews, Muslims, and Christians.

Postville has not forgotten the raid, but we have moved on. Perhaps Lynda should also.

• Leigh Rekow is mayor of Postville.



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