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Burnett: First Week in Keokuk a "Whirlwind"

Daily Gate City
Aaron Burnett (L) looks on as Keokuk Mayor Tom Marion speaks during the Nov. 19 City Council meeting. It was Burnett's first in his new role as City Administrator.

Aaron Burnett has not had a lot of time to sit back and relax since arriving in Keokuk as the community's second-ever City Administrator. He says his top priorities have been to get a good understanding of City Hall and the city as a whole, and to meet as many people as possible.

"There's a lot of conversations you have to have with a lot of different people to give them an idea of who you are, [to] get an idea of what position they serve in the community [and] what kind of personality they have," said Burnett. "So the first week, and the first few months, there will probably be a lot of going out and meeting people and getting that connection with the community."

Burnett previously served as City Administrator in the town of Humboldt, a city about half the size of Keokuk. He said his family wanted to move closer to other family members, so he started looking for jobs in eastern Iowa, in proximity to the Quad Cities.

Burnett said the job in Keokuk looked like a good opportunity so he applied for it. He said his expectations grew as he traveled to the city.

"I saw that there was a lot of positive things going on and [that Keokuk had] city council members and a mayor who were progressive and looking to improve the community," said Burnett. "I felt it would be a really good fit for my family and myself."

Burnett said his family is in the process of moving to Keokuk. In the meantime, he's trying to make himself at home in City Hall. 

His office is starting to take shape as two large computer monitors sit next to pictures of his children on his relatively empty desk, though there is granola in one drawer in case he gets hungry. He plans to hang up the photos and other personal items laying on the floor once he gets the time.

One of Burnett's first projects is to make sure the employee manual is in line with the fact that Keokuk now has a city administrator, nearly a decade after it hired its first. He said it's things such as the employee manual and the city codes that will keep him busy early on when he is not meeting people.

Burnett said he will place an extra emphasis on economic growth, housing and ordinance enforcement, adding that people in Keokuk should get used to seeing him out in public. He said they should also be sure to approach him if they have a concern about city government or an idea to improve it.

“I didn’t come to the city of Keokuk to just sit in a seat and not make changes and not make improvements," said Burnett. "I hope that people will really engage with me and help me carry out my duties here.”

Jason Parrott is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.