116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
NORTH LIBERTY — For Chris Hoffman, running for elected office has “really just been about helping people.”
Hoffman said it’s been about helping residents and business owners in the community understand what the city is doing and also supporting city staff.
Hoffman moved to North Liberty nearly two decades ago with his wife, Valerie. He got involved with local government by serving on a city commission and got elected to the North Liberty City Council a few years after that in 2007.
During his 14 years on the council, Hoffman served alongside four mayors and 11 different council members. Now, he’s stepped into a different role after being elected last November as the city’s mayor.
Hoffman and former Mayor Terry Donahue were elected the same night to their first terms on the City Council. Donahue, who served a four-year term as mayor starting in 2017, decided not to seek re-election.
“When he announced his retirement, it just made a lot of sense, not just for me but also for our council,” Hoffman said about running for mayor, adding that he was “patiently waiting for the right moment” to take that step.
As mayor, Hoffman no longer has a vote during council meetings. He said this was a common question he got from residents while campaigning.
“That was tough for some people to let me not have a vote anymore, and it's tough for me as well in some ways, but I think that having a vote is important. As important, though, I believe is having someone in the mayor's role that guides and helps that conversation,” Hoffman said.
North Liberty’s growth
When Hoffman was elected to the council, the city was in the middle of “tremendous growth,” he said. North Liberty saw its population increase by 53 percent in the past decade, from 13,374 in 2010 to 20,479 in 2020.
The growth and the city’s response to it is something he’s proud of during his time on the council.
“For the rest of my life and the rest of my kids’ lives, they're going to be able to drive around this community and they're going to be able to see things that developed — their elementary school, their high school, businesses that we go to, restaurants, homes that they live in, that their friends live in — during my tenure,” Hoffman said.
Earlier this year, the city launched a yearlong effort called “Connected to Tomorrow” that will gather public input and build a vision for the city in 2040.
The last time the city updated its comprehensive plan was in 2013. Connected to Tomorrow will help the city build a new comprehensive plan that will work to turn ideas into a reality.
Hoffman said he’s looking forward to hearing the feedback and having an in-depth conversation with the community about what the needs and ideas are.
“I just love the interaction so far, and we couldn't do this (type of interaction) in 2013,” Hoffman said.
Residents are able to take an online survey to share their priorities and suggestions, as well as submit their ideas on the city’s interactive map.
While campaigning for mayor, Hoffman said there were two priorities he focused on that are “well within our grasp.”
The first is continuing equity and inclusion work. The city hired its first outreach and equity coordinator last year. Micah Ariel James started in the role last November.
Hoffman said James’ work will be a huge part of the effort and making sure the city continues making progress.
The second priority for Hoffman is renewable energy. Hoffman is the vice president of sales at Moxie Solar.
“We need to set in motion plans to address ways to be more energy-efficient,” Hoffman said.
He said the city once had a committee that focused on energy efficiency, and that is a committee he wants to reestablish. He said he wants to engage business owners, residents, schools, utility companies and other stakeholders in these discussions.
North Liberty also has some big funding decisions to make. In addition to discussing the fiscal 2023 budget, the city has been allocated $2.9 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“The goal of these dollars is not to replace an annual operational expense that we should be budgeting for anyway,” Hoffman said. “But to try to use them in a way that allows us to pick off a capital project that might have required us to increase the tax rate.”
The city has already committed to using a portion of the funds for the Domestic Violence Intervention Program and the North Liberty Community Food Pantry.
“By supporting those two organizations, we know that we’re going to have a lasting impact on residents and businesses in our community by making those investments,” Hoffman said.
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