New mayor voted into office


Dan Agnew will now inhabit the mayor’s office, which was previously occupied by Gordon Canfield for 18 years. Photo by Mahira Faran.

By Lily Hamilton

Dan Agnew was elected mayor of Grinnell in an uncontested election last Tuesday, Nov. 7. Agnew is a nearly lifelong resident of Grinnell and former president and CEO of Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company, a nationally-known insurance company and one of Grinnell’s largest employers.

Agnew has big shoes to fill given that his predecessor, Gordon Canfield, has held the mayoral seat for 18 years. However, Agnew claims that his 19 years of leadership experience as Grinnell Mutual’s CEO has prepared him for his new position.

“I think leadership is leadership whether it’s in business or in politics. The way that you lead, the manner, the culture is the same.”

Agnew plans to focus his efforts on economic development, and hopes to continue the city’s tradition of building relationships among prominent community organizations and sectors to create lasting benefits for all members of the community. “What we need to do is keep working with all of the major entities,” he said. “I’m talking about all of the players in the town, whether it’s the city, the chamber, the College or the business community itself, industrial as well as downtown, to keep communicating on the needs of the city.”

The mayor-elect pointed to a series of focus groups that the community of Grinnell conducted roughly a year and a half ago as a means of understanding some of the desires citizens have for the community. “From those focus groups came a lot of good ideas from the people, from our citizens, on the things they’d like to see the city doing, and several of those things have been initiated.”

Dan Agnew will now inhabit the mayor’s office, which was previously occupied by Gordon Canfield for 18 years. Photo by Mahira Faran.

The focus groups revealed that residents of Grinnell wanted a renaissance of the downtown bakery, a brew pub, an indoor activity center for youth and a pharmacy in the downtown area. Agnew credits the city, chamber of commerce, Poweshiek Iowa Development and local community members for filling two of those community wishes already with the imminent opening of the new Sunrise Bakery on Main St. and 5th Ave. and the recent opening of Peace Tree Brewing Company on Main St. However, he said he would like to continue pushing toward achieving the community’s other developmental goals by taking the expertise of community members into account.

Agnew appears adamant on continuing the efforts of the previous administration, though he definitely has plans of his own. “I can’t say I’m going in with an agenda,” he said. “I think it’s more about looking forward to the things we need to continue to do and the new things we need to do to keep Grinnell a vibrant community, and that goes back to the College because neither one of us can stand alone. The College can’t be vibrant if the town is dying, and the town can’t survive without the College.”

The College’s Zone of Confluence is an indicator that the relationship between the College and town will continue to grow, according to Agnew. The Zone of Confluence is the geographic area between the downtown and the Grinnell campus. The College hopes to transform some of the area’s underutilized properties into mixed-use spaces, according to the College website.

Agnew credits President Raynard Kington and the Trustees with taking initiatives to buy properties in Grinnell with hopes of revitalizing them. By updating the spaces, Agnew believes the College and community will transition seamlessly into one another, presenting observable evidence of efforts by both parties to develop their relationship.

Given the strong bonds the town and College have already formed through the Zone of Confluence project, Agnew looks forward to the opportunity to work with the College in his new position as mayor. “I think we will continue to constantly foster that good relationship,” he said.