MANCHESTER, Iowa — Almost everyone living in Manchester knows Milt Kramer in some way.
In his 42nd year as mayor, Kramer always has made it a goal to get to know the people he represents.
“He was always going out to schools and events to talk to people,” said Dave Heiar, a former Manchester city administrator who now serves as director of Jackson County Economic Alliance. “Generations of kids have grown up knowing that Milt Kramer is the mayor of Manchester. It’s like it’s an established fact.”
Kramer, 79, has served as mayor since 1974, a span that covers 13 terms in office. Even though the term lengths changed between two and four years, the man holding the title never did.
Kramer ran for re-election unopposed in 2013 and started his latest four-year term in 2014.
He might be the longest-serving mayor in the state, though it’s tough to tell for certain.
Iowa Secretary of State’s Office staff said they don’t track mayoral longevity.
The Telegraph Herald (http://bit.ly/2ds12W8 ) reports that Alan Kemp, executive director of Iowa League of Cities, said Kramer’s start as mayor predates the organization’s current records. He said Kramer could be the state’s longest-serving mayor, though he knows of other mayors who passed the 40-year mark.
Kramer moved to Manchester in 1963 to teach social studies in the West Delaware County Community School District. He was 26 years old.
In 1970, he ran for City Council.
“I was a social studies teacher, and everyone thought it would be a good fit,” Kramer said. “I figured it could help me teach my class.”
Kramer said in 1974 he was encouraged to run for mayor. So he did.
He had no idea how long he would fill that position.
“I had students back then that are now mayors (elsewhere),” Kramer said. “I never would have guessed I’d be here this long.”
In Manchester City Hall, a wall is lined with photos of every City Council since 1988. In each photo, Kramer can be spotted in the bottom-left-hand corner.
“I was the first mayor in Manchester to appoint a woman as mayor pro tem,” Kramer said, examining the photos. “I’ve kind of made it hard for a woman to go that next step, though.”
In 13 elections, Kramer has run unopposed 10 times.
“One of the people to run against me was just upset with one of my decisions that year, I think,” he recalled. “Another one happened because a few guys at a bar decided that I needed someone to run against me. They decided I had it too easy, I guess.”
Kramer said he has never bought a yard sign and he’s never been a fan of running an election campaign.
Instead, Kramer prides himself on being a public figure that has a constant presence in his community.
“I like talking to people,” he said. “I like to be there for the community.”
Today, Kramer has become synonymous with Manchester.
His leadership was on display last week when Manchester was hit with flooding that blocked one of its major roads.
Throughout that day, Kramer visited the flooded areas to talk with local residents and business owners, updating them on the city’s planned response.
“He’s always at the schools, and he’s always talking with people,” said Erin Learn, 44, a lifelong city resident. “Milt’s been a fixture in the community. He’s a part of the city’s fabric.”
Every week, Kramer makes sure to visit the schools, he said.
He doesn’t need to schedule anything ahead of time. Everyone knows the mayor, and he comes and goes as he pleases.
“I’ll often visit during lunch,” Kramer said. “I’ll ask them, ‘Where’s the naughty table?’ and that’s the one I’ll sit at.”
In all his time as mayor, Kramer said, Manchester has changed in some ways, but it largely has remained the same. He described the city as a simple place that mostly keeps to itself.
He only remembered two events that were talked about by everyone in town that didn’t actually happen in Manchester — the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“That’s what I love about this place,” Kramer said. “It’s pure in its own way. There’s no place like it.”
Earlier this month, Kramer was inducted into the Iowa League of Cities Hall of Fame. The designation recognizes people who have provided exceptional public service to their local government.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Kramer said. “It was pretty nice to receive. I was nervous standing in front of all those people, though.”
Kramer is approaching the final year of his latest term. He is not sure if he will run again.
“If I keep going, I’ll be mayor going into my 80s,” he said. “I’m not sure if I want to do that, but I also really love what I do. It’s a tough decision.”
Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Telegraph Herald