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Davenport's Next Mayor: Matson or Rawson?

City of Davenport Website
After placing first and second in the primary, Mike Matson (left) and Rita Rawson (right) are the two final candidates running to become Davenport's next mayor.

Two candidates are in the race to become the next mayor of Davenport. 7th Ward Alderman Mike Matson and 5th Ward Alderwoman Rita Rawson are running to replace Mayor Frank Klipsch, who has served since 2016 and is not seeking reelection.

Zach Wilson has more.

Rawson has been on the city council for four years, while Matson has served for 12 years.

Matson is a 20-year veteran of the Army who teaches at Central High School. He says he'd like to be mayor because he believes, with his experience, he would help the city thrive. 

"I would like Davenport to be a safe, stable, and welcoming community. Whether you're a business, a family, people coming here, young folks... I think I could help Davenport grow and prosper."

Credit Mike for Davenport Website
Mike Matson with one of his campaign signs.

While he has served on the city council, Davenport has been recognized as the top small business city in Iowa and a top 10 military community in the nation. He says he has been instrumental in a number of projects for kids in the community.

"I came up with the kid's summer pass for kids to go to the different entities here: the Figge, the Putnam, the River Bandits, and riding on the bus. I helped with getting free city bus rides for kids during school so we can help with transportation and attendance."

Rita Rawson is a business owner who graduated from Grinnell College before receiving a Master's degree from the University of Iowa. She also taught a class on cultural diversity for the University of Phoenix for seven years.

She says she has on-the-ground experience and business experience that makes her the right person for the job.

"I have an extensive educational background, and a lot of time and experience in the community working with various organizations, so I think that's very handy as far as being mayor."

Among others, those community organizations include the Neighborhoods Energized To Succeed Unit of Davenport's Crime Prevention Bureau, and a local garden plant food exchange.

One of the most essential problems to address as mayor, she says, is Davenport's lack of population growth.

"If we have no population growth, we don't have growth in other areas, such as our taxable base or growth in businesses. So, for me, for the city to thrive long-term, we really need to address what is going on there, and analyze and assess what are we doing that's working well and where are the gaps."

Credit Herb Trix, WVIK News
Rita Rawson announcing her candidacy in April.

Both Matson and Rawson made it clear that public safety would be their number one priority, with Matson having served as the chair of the city council's Public Safety Committee. They both want to give the police department adequate resources to fight crime so that the people of Davenport are safe. They also want to improve the city's infrastructure.

"Certainly infrastructure and streets [are important]. We've got to put some more money in and find some more innovative and out-of-the-box-thinking ways to address our infrastructure and street concerns."

Rawson says one way to address the issue, at least in certain neighborhoods, would be to uncover the old brick streets below the pavement.

"Then, we wouldn't be spending millions of dollars on repaving our streets in these areas. Plus, brick streets are beautiful to look at, they're aesthetically pleasing. Research shows across the country that if your house sits on a brick street that it can raise the property value by 25%."

She also noted that brick streets are permeable, which would be useful in a city historically known for its flooding. Its a clear issue that needs to be addressed, especially around Davenport's riverfront. Matson says Davenport has a good flood plan in place already, but he'd like to seek additional counsel.

"I'd like to also have some engineering group that has some expertise in river towns and floods tell us what a permanent flood control system looks like."

Rawson, who says she has researched the issue, agrees.

"I think it's worthwhile, absolutely, to bring in representatives from other cities that have experienced a similar, or even higher level of flooding and get their feedback, and to research what other cities have done."

Absentee and early voting is already underway, and the Davenport mayoral election will be held on Tuesday, November 5th.