Aaron Kooiker started work as Hull’s city administrator on Dec. 3, so he is still learning about his new workplace. He sat down with the Index-Reporter recently to talk about his first impressions of Hull, its strengths, the things that are being worked on, and his thoughts on what the city needs to do to prepare for its future.
“It’s going well,” he said of his first month on the job. “It’s all been fast-paced and very enjoyable. I’m getting to know the people and how things are done. It’s different work than I’m used to,” the former Iowa state police academy instructor and volunteer high school football coach said.
Kooiker grew up in Sioux Center and holds a newly minted master’s degree in public administration.
Despite being the very new city administrator, he agreed to answer a few questions from the Index-Reporter.
Q. What is your impression of Hull so far?
A. I’m surprised by the growth of the town. In 1991 (as a teenager, living in Sioux Center) my impression of Hull was that it was not a very progressive community. I came back 20-plus years later and couldn’t believe how progressive and growing it was.
That’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back. The HIDC (Hull Industrial Development Corp.), the industrial park, the residential development and the community — the way the community works together.
Q. What do you see as Hull’s biggest challenge?
A. Our biggest challenge is going to be our water. In order to continue to grow, we’ve got to put water at the forefront. We are a member of the Lewis and Clark Rural Water System. Lewis and Clark was suppose to get to Hull in 2014; now it’s 2017. We have paid our portion of what’s expected. We just need to get the federal government to pay its share.
Q. Are there things you’d like to do that Hull isn’t already doing?
A. I want to get a five-, 10- and 25-year plan together, to have a plan and an idea of where we want to go. We’d adjust the plan (every year.)
Q. What’s the biggest surprise for you so far?
A. The people have been great. I wasn’t shocked at that. I expected the people to be welcoming and friendly. The people who work for the city are really good people and they do a good job.
My job will be to guide. The last thing I want to be is a micro-manager. (Kooiker oversees a staff of eight full-time city employees.)
Q. What’s the status of the sewer ponds? (Because the environmental standards have changed and the three-pond system produces more ammonia during the cold months than new regulations allow, it no longer meets federal regulations.)
A. I have just met with the (DGR) engineers. They have designed a (mechanical) system for Hull. Grants have been applied for.