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Allen balances duties as mayor, lobbyist


Charles “Chaz” Allen says his responsibilities in state and local government, from being mayor of Newton to his work in government relations at Iowa Telecom, have provided new meaning to the word work.

“I don’t consider either one of them employment,” he said, laughing. “It’s a lifestyle. For either one of them, anything can happen in 24 hours.”

Allen, 34, was elected mayor of Newton in November 2003 and took office Jan. 1, becoming the youngest mayor in the state. He is in his third year at Iowa Telecom, conducting conversations with state lawmakers regarding telecommunications issues.

But after more than eight months of split responsibilities, Allen said he is now able to understand his priorities and give 100 percent to two jobs.

Allen decided in August 2003 to make a run for mayor and use his years of work at Iowa Telecom to benefit the city.

“Hopefully, Newton will get more recognition as I’m running around the state and around the Capitol talking about Iowa Telecom and Newton,” he said. Though he acknowledged there was a learning curve upon taking office, the process was shorter because of his familiarity with state government.

Allen has been working with other city officials to get the U.S. Motorsport Entertainment Complex project into full gear and was able to pass a resolution through the Newton City Council to collaborate with Chariton, Monroe, Knoxville and Williamson to expand Iowa Highway 14 to four lanes between Newton and Chariton. He said Newton-based Maytag Corp., and Hy-Vee Inc., whose main distribution complex is located in Chariton, could both benefit from an improved highway.

In June, Allen was faced with a town torn by a United Auto Workers strike at Maytag, forcing him to deal with the issues from both sides of the table.

“My whole goal was to be an honest broker for both sides,” he said. “I wanted to make sure both sides had what they needed during that tough period, then help the United Auto Workers and help Maytag get through it.

“I wanted to make sure I could walk into the union hall any time I needed and walk into Maytag any time I needed.”

With potential for growth in Newton’s future, Allen hopes citizens begin to see their mayor as proactive, not reactive.

“We’re pro-growth and proactive getting growth, and that permeates out so people can see that,” he said. “I want to make sure we change our reactive ways to development to 100 percent proactive.”

Allen also hopes that, whenever his time in office comes to an end, he has changed the image of the position in Newton and encouraged others to step forward and make a run for office. “There are people with great ideas who need to share them,” he said.

Despite a relatively early entry into politics, Allen said he has not decided whether he’ll run for a higher office in the future, and is unsure when he’ll step down as Newton’s mayor.

“I like being mayor of Newton,” he said. “I don’t know that I want to move on to be one of 100 in the House or one of 50 in the Senate.”

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