Hiawatha City Administrator honored as ‘Woman of Influence’

Kim Downs, Hiawatha City Administrator

Hiawatha City Administrator Kim Downs does her best to make a difference in her community, and it shows. Downs was chosen as one of the Corridor Business Journal’s Women of Influence for 2018. downs and nine other women were honored at a banquet at the Hotel at Kirkwood April 12.

Downs was nominated for the honor by her coworkers, Kelly Kornegor, Patrick Parsley and John Bender.

Parsley, Hiawatha’s Community Development Director, said it was a team decision to nominate Downs for the honor. “Kim’s ability to create and develop a team approach in Hiawatha has been inspirational,” he said.

“Her enthusiasm and encouragement make her one of the best ‘coaches’ many of us have ever worked for. This attitude invades all aspects of her work day and her relationships, creating an amazing atmosphere in which goals are accomplished and people are appreciated!

It would be a rare day when we do not hear her infectious laughter at least once, and her great attitude is only surpassed by her strong work ethic.”
Kornegor, the City Clerk for Hiawatha, added that Downs’ positive attitude drives the entire team’s efforts to do their best.

“I fully believe in supporting and lifting up other women, and celebrating their successes,” she said. “Seeing Kim achieve this award encourages me to be my best and not to let anything get in the way of accomplishing my own goals and desires. It is always a great motivator to watch others be celebrated for their achievements. Kim deserves this recognition for being very dedicated to her profession, showing a strong sense of leadership and inspiring others with her positive attitude.”

Downs said she is humbled by the honor. “I have always tried to be positive and make a difference in my community. It makes me feel good that I make an impact in the lives of my coworkers, as well.”

Bender, Hiawatha’s City Engineer, said Downs is a worthy recipient of the CBJ Women of Influence Award, as she has displayed great leadership qualities.

“She works very hard to build consensus and maintain focus on established goals. This award is well deserved.”

Downs began her career as the city clerk in the town of Ryan 18 years ago, accepting a position as Hiawatha’s deputy clerk in 2005.

“I still thank Linda Dixon every time I see her for giving me the support I needed to succeed in my chosen career,” she said. “She encouraged me to go back to school and fulfill my dreams.”

Kim became the city clerk of Hiawatha in 2007, and accepted the city administration position in 2014.

“We hadn’t had a city administrator for a few years, and I was already doing a lot of the work associated with that position,” she said. “(Former Mayor) Tom Theis asked me if I would accept the position if he offered it to me, and I knew it was something I would have to think about. I asked my husband, Kyle, and my children, if they would be okay with the long hours I would have to put in, if I were to accept the city administrator’s position. They told me to ‘go for it!’”

Downs said she and her co-workers have accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, with much of the focus on improving streets, attracting businesses to the city, and creation of the Town Village Center.

“I have always been someone who does what is needed to get the job done,” said Downs. “When I became City Clerk of Hiawatha, the mayor trusted me, and gave me the freedom I needed to make things happen for the Hiawatha community. My co-workers have stood beside me as we worked together toward a common goal. They are the reason we have accomplished so much in just a short time.”


Trendsetter Place a One-Stop ‘Feel Good’ Destination

Hiawatha was incorporated 68 years ago with only a few city officials, a volunteer fire department, and a couple of businesses, including a trailer business owned by Fay Clark.

Today, the city boasts more than 300 businesses that includes restaurants, insurance companies, grocery stores, gift shops, banks, coffee shops, health care facilities, and a variety of other services.

According to the Hiawatha Economic Development Corporation (HEDCO) website, “Hiawatha is home to six of the Corridor Business Journal’s-Corridor’s fastest growing companies for the past three years.”

Comments made by members of the business community indicate that one reason Hiawatha is growing so rapidly is because of Interstate 380, which runs through the center of town. With the ability to go from the south end of Cedar Rapids to Hiawatha in a matter of minutes, consumers now have a variety of shopping destinations to choose from within both communities. The ease of access from the two major exit ramps, Blairs Ferry and Boyson roads, makes it easier than ever to locate what they’re looking for.

One Hiawatha business owner, who saw the potential for a growing business years ago, is Laura Frey, owner of Trendsetter Place, 1200 N. Center Point Road.

Frey sold homes in Hiawatha and Robins, while developing land and building homes with her husband for many years before deciding to open a boutique.

“A neighborhood boutique seemed like a natural fit,” she said. “Many of my clients who built with us, coming from other cities and states, would ask about shopping, and I thought the area needed more alternatives.”

Frey said she tends to think outside the box when it comes to women’s fashions. “I often go to LA and hand-select the clothing and accessories we sell in the store,” she said. “This way, we get the latest styles months earlier than if I were to order online or over the phone. The personal connections I make in LA also allow me to purchase items that would normally sell out before offered to the masses.”

Frey’s desire to help women in the community feel good about themselves is the motivation behind her venture. She opened her first boutique, LA Trends Addict, in 2015, and since then, has added several other shops to make Trendsetter Place a one-stop destination for ‘looking and feeling good’.

Frey owns several other business in the mini-mall including Luxe Salon (4 stylists – hair, hair extensions, lash lifts, mani/pedis and makeup), D’luxe spray tan, and Center Studio – a studio for rent, used for fitness and other meetings.

Other businesses occupy space in the building, including, Lashes by Colby, Frey Homes, and Hunter Appraisers.

When Frey isn’t looking for the next new fashion, she is hosting a variety of events, including girls’ nights out and fundraisers for charities.

“We participate in the boutique bus crawl that was an idea of Heidi Cordes from Lillian’s in Marion, with another coming up April 5,” she said. “Our last girls’ night out was a launch of Dollup beauty (locally owned by Nikki Hynek) as we are now selling her products at LA Trends Addict and Luxe. It was a successful and fun night.”

Frey is planning a new venture, which will be introduced this summer and will be launched this fall, called ‘Pop up with Purpose.’

“We also have vendor fairs with other stores, with the next one coming up April 22. I enjoy collaborating with the other boutiques and locally-owned businesses to support one another.”

City Administrator, Kim Downs, said retail shops like Frey’s are starting to pop up all over the city, including along Center Point, Robins, Miller, and Boyson Roads. They are joining the growing number of small businesses that see Hiawatha’s market potential, as well as a great place to raise their families. And with the addition of Town Village Center, the growing number of retail businesses are expected to rise even more.

“Supporting local businesses not only helps small business owners thrive, but it help the community, as well.”

A list of Hiawatha businesses can be found on HEDCO’s website at http://www.hedco.org. And for more information about LA Trend Addict, visit their Facebook page or website at http://www.latrendsaddict.com.


Be Safe this Halloween

The Hiawatha community held its last Farmer’s Market for the Year Oct. 29, which coincided with its Fall Festival. A costume contest, sponsored by Hi-Crew Kiwanis, a bouncy house, and trick or treating at the market, were also held to celebrate Halloween.

Though there were a lot of great costumes, the Fire Fighter, Dalmatian puppy, and the fire truck built from a stroller won the Most Original costume, which was presented by Hiawatha Fire Chief, Mike Nesslage.

Hiawatha Fire Chief, Mike Nesslage, presented the Most Original Costume Oct. 29 at the Fall Festival, during the last Hiawatha Farmers Market of the year.

The following tips are a few reminders on how to stay safe this Halloween!

Trick or Treating Safety Tips from the CDC

The Center for Disease Control and prevention has compiled a list of safety tips that parents should share with their children before they go out Trick or Treating on Halloween night:

  • Swords, knives, and other costume accessories should be short, soft, and flexible.
  • Avoid trick-or-treating alone. Walk in groups or with a trusted adult.
  • Fasten reflective tape to costumes and bags to help drivers see you.
  • Examine all treats for choking hazards and tampering before eating them. Limit the amount of treats you eat.
  • Hold a flashlight while trick-or-treating to help you see and others see you.
  • Always test make-up in a small area first. Remove it before bedtime to prevent possible skin and eye irritation.
  • Look both ways before crossing the street. Use crosswalks wherever possible.
  • Lower your risk for serious eye injury by not wearing decorative contact lenses.
  • Only walk on sidewalks whenever possible, or on the far edge of the road facing traffic to stay safe.
  • Wear well-fitting masks, costumes, and shoes to avoid blocked vision problems, trips, and falls.
  • Eat only factory-wrapped treats. Avoid eating homemade treats made by strangers.
  • Enter homes only if you are with a trusted adult. Only visit houses that are well-lit. Never accept rides from strangers.
  • Never walk near lit candles or luminaries while wearing a costume. Be sure to wear flame-resistant costumes.

The meteorologist forecasts the night to be chilly, so be sure to dress warm!

Have a Safe and Happy Halloween!

Source: cdc.gov

Hiawatha Fire Fighters Keep Community Safe

Hiawatha’s annual “Battery Up” day will be held Saturday, Oct. 21 from 9 am to 12 pm. The Battery Up program is open to anyone in Hiawatha. 

According to Hiawatha Fire Chief, Mike Nesslage, firefighters will branch out across Hiawatha to help residents replace smoke detector batteries.

 “We provide assistance to those who can’t reach their smoke detectors. We also check the detectors and do a quick safety check. Approximately 2,000 people die in fires every year; most of them in homes without working smoke detectors.”

It’s important to have a working smoke detector on each level of your home, and in every bedroom, said Nesslage.

“A working smoke detector, along with an escape plan, drastically improves your chance of surviving a fire.”

Smoke detectors should be tested monthly, the battery replaced annually, and detectors should be replaced every 10 years.

“It’s important to have an exit, or escape plan for your home and to communicate it with the people you live with. That plan should have two ways out and should account for helping young children that may live with you. 

Nesslage said a closed door can slow a fire spread and protect you if there is a fire. 

“We encourage people to close their doors at night.  Should a fire occur, the closed door will separate you from the smoke giving you time to wake and think before acting.  If trapped, a closed door can separate you from the fire.”

Hiawatha Firefighters will also be busy visiting Hiawatha and Nixon Elementary schools, where they teach the kids about smoke detectors and escape plans. 

“Dozens of kids will visit the fire station, and we will be out in the community doing fire extinguisher demonstrations for local businesses.”

According to Nesslage, the Hiawatha Fire Department was recently presented with a Life Safety Award for their fire prevention accomplishments in 2016 by the National Association of State Fire Marshals Fire Research and Education Foundation in partnership with Grinnell Mutual.

“The Life Safety Award has recognizes local fire prevention efforts that have contributed to reducing the number of lives lost in residential fires.” He said. “We are one of 160 departments from across the United States that received the award for 2016. In most cases it was presented to departments that reduced fire deaths by 10%. In our case, we were recognized for our active and effective fire prevention programs as well and a clear commitment to reducing the number of house fires in the community.

“The award would not be possible without the strong support of the members who support programs ranging from Touch-a-Truck and library story time, to smoke detector checks and home visits.  We touch well over 1,000 people through our events every year.”

Sign-ups for the Battery Up program can be done by email to Chief Mike Nesslage at mnesslage@hiawatha-iowa.com, or calling 319-393-4180.

Tanda Naturals Makes Being Healthy Affordable

Tana Studt believes being healthy shouldn’t have to be expensive. That is why she offers her health and beauty products at a price everyone can afford, while taking care of the environment, too.

Tana and her sister-in-law started Tanda Naturals in 2014. They were helping with her mother-in-law with her business, when they decided to go into business for themselves.

“We both knew a lot about natural products from helping my mother-in-law, and I thought it would be a great way to make extra money,” said Tana.

The two women started out selling their products at the Hiawatha Farmer’s Market, and branched out to the Cedar Rapids Downtown Market.

“I was hesitant to try it, because it was intimidating, with so many people, but I decided to just go ahead and do it,” she said. “We signed up that first year in April, which is considered a little late, but were lucky because a few people vendors backed out. We’ve been doing the farmers market every weekend during the summer since.”

Tana, who lives in Hiawatha with her husband, Alex, and two children, said that though Tanda Naturals offers a variety of products, two particular items seem to take turns at being the most popular.

“Our magnesium lotion and deodorant are the best-sellers,” she said. “Of course, everything we sell is 100% natural and does not contain any synthetic ingredients or fragrances.  We have a lot of other items that are popular, but those are the two biggest selling items.”

Tana started Tanda Naturals with just a few products, and now covers several shelves in her kiosk at the farmers market with her essential oils and sprays, bath bombs, natural cleaning products, magnesium lotion, all-natural lotion bars, natural eye and face creams, Ouchie Salve, Burn Out! Sunburn spray, Quit Buggin’ Me – natural bug spray and much more.

When Tana isn’t helping her customers at the farmers market, she is helping her clients at Benefits Solutions in downtown Cedar Rapids.

“I enjoy helping people,” she said. “Whether it’s at work, or helping people stay healthy, it’s what I love to do.”

Tana said the markets can be a lot of work, but said she can always count on her husband and daughter, Brooklynn, to help out.

“Alex is instrumental in helping with all of the market and vendor shows, along with making several of the products, and Brooklynn helps man the booth at every market, so I get a lot of help,” she said.

The last three Downtown Farmers Markets will be held Aug. 26, Sept 2 and 16.

For more information, call Tana at (319) 431-254 or email her at tandanaturals@gmail.com. A complete list of products can be found on Tanda Naturals’ website.


Little Free Pantry Helps Ease Food Insecurity

“Take a book, leave a book,” is the premise behind the Little Free Library concept.

But one little girl, who was returning a book she borrowed to a local Little Free Library, saw an even greater possibility.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there were things like this with food in them?” Annabelle, 7, told her mom.

Annabelle’s mom, Heather Spangler, got to work right away to see her daughter’s vision become a reality.

With the help of the Hiawatha Public Library, Home Depot, Hy-Vee, the University of Iowa Community Credit Union, and the Northeast Cedar Rapids Mom’s Club, four Little Free Pantries recently opened, with the intent to ease food security in those communities.

But this was not the first time Annabelle had come up with an idea to help others in need.

Annabelle was only 4 when she opened her Christmas presents and observed, “Mom, we have so many toys and there are kids who don’t have enough.”

Annabelle reached out to her friends, gathered the toys they no longer played with, and then donated to kids in need.

Heather saw the joy helping others brought to her little girl, and her friends, and created Kid-Powered Kindness, a Facebook page dedicated to spreading acts of kindness. Every year since, Heather, Annabelle, and their friends have completed a new project that benefits the community in some way.

According to Heather, Kid Powered Kindness is driven by the philosophy that kids can make the world a better place.

“The kids are the ones who come up with the projects,” said Heather. “I just help them figure out how to do it.”

Projects Kid Powered Kindness has completed include collecting books to promote literacy and collecting items that help the Humane Society care for animals in need of adoption.

According to Hy-Vee’s communications director, Kristy Stake, Hy-Vee donates $5 million annual to help those with food insecurity, and plans on continuing to help stock the pantries at their locations.

Hiawatha’s mayor, Bill Bennett, who was also on hand to help dedicate the Little Free Pantry, said he was amazed that a little girl can make such a difference in her community.

“She saw a need in the community and did something about it,” he said. “We could all learn something from her. “Every step we take is a step closer to making things better, for everyone.”

Donations for the Little Free Pantry are always welcome and appreciated.

Hiawatha Offering Free Fitness Classes

Fitness enthusiasts take advantage of the free Zumba class March 9 at the Hiawatha Community Center. Photo by Cynthia Petersen

Time is running out to try Zumba for free at the Hiawatha Community Center.

April 13 is the last time Zumba, an aerobic fitness program inspired by various styles of Latin American dance, will be offered at the center, 101 Emmons Street in Hiawatha. The last Zumba class will be held Thursday, April 13 at 5:30 pm.

According to several Zumba enthusiasts, the great thing about Zumba is that you don’t have to know how to dance to join in. “The important thing is to keep moving and have fun.”

Hiawatha Parks and Recreation director, Kelly Willadsen, said the city has been offering a variety of fitness activities to the community the past year, including yoga and Zumba, which the community can try for free.

“Not many people know what Zumba is so we thought why not give people the opportunity to see what it is about free of charge and maybe they will continue after our classes here,” said Willadsen. “Brooke Lentz does a great job and we have been impressed by the numbers we have seen over the last two months. We definitely hope to have her back next year.”

Brooke Lentz, Public Relations and Event Coordinator for Pat McGrath, is a certified Zumba instructor and leads the 30-minute class at the center. She became certified during a 1-day training session in Indianola last year, she said, simply because she loves to dance.

“I was in dance classes and show choir in middle school and high school. I was on the dance team my freshman year in college and the cheerleading squad my junior year at Wartburg College, as well. During the training we learned basic steps for four different rhythms: merengue, salsa, cumbia and reggaeton. My favorite is the reggae! The music is unbeatable. Zumba creates a community and make fitness exciting.”

Lentz said she was approached by Willadsen to lead a Zumba class once a month for the first four months of the year.

“I could not turn the opportunity down because city officials wanted to provide free fitness to the community. Amazing!”

Lentz also leads a weekly class for employees at the McGrath Fitness Center.

For more information, visit the city’s website at Hiawatha-iowa.com or the Hiawatha Parks & Recreation Facebook page.