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Kamal Hammouda challenges Dan Agnew in Grinnell mayoral race

Dan Agnew has been Grinnell’s mayor since 2017. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Tuesday, Nov. 2 is election day, and this year, that means the biennial Grinnell mayoral race is nearing its end. Incumbent Dan Agnew is facing off against first-time mayoral candidate Kamal Hammouda.

Agnew’s journey into the mayoral office was an unorthodox one. His friend and former coworker at Grinnell Mutual Insurance, Gordon Canfield, served as mayor for 18 years before a few individuals approached Agnew, who at the time had been president and CEO of Grinnell Mutual for 19 years, about a potential run.

“I said I wouldn’t run against him,” Agnew said. Luckily, he didn’t have to. Canfield contacted him saying he would not be pursuing another term. Agnew ran unopposed, and he has now served as mayor of Grinnell for four years.

The mayor before Canfield, Bob Anderson, served for 13 years, a similar legacy to Canfield’s 18. This year, after only two (unopposed) two-year terms in office, Agnew is facing Hammouda, local chef and restaurant owner at Relish.

Asked what he is proudest of during his tenure as mayor so far, Agnew said “I’m not a person that sits there and looks at what I’ve done in the past.” He went on to elaborate on the projects he has in the works that he wishes to continue in a third term and beyond – namely, a recently signed contract to tear down a “dilapidated” building at 11 11th Avenue and erect an apartment complex in its place, and a mission to replace the city’s current privately contracted 911 response system with a community ambulance service, a decision that would ideally save the city money while simultaneously making it more self-sufficient.

Agnew also mentioned continuing anti-bias training for all city staff, which will begin November 1. “I like to see growth,” Agnew said. “Not dramatic growth, but growth.”

Hammouda’s decision to run was motivated by disruption and representation. In addition to wanting to break the cycle of “hereditary politics” in Grinnell after living in the city for almost 30 years, Hammouda says he’s running to show people that “what we have here is inclusion and diversity, even if it doesn’t look like a diverse town.” His primary goals, if he’s elected, revolve around revitalizing the labor force and local economy and addressing food insecurity.

Kamal Hammouda previously ran for the Iowa House of Representatives unsuccessfully against Rep. Dave Maxwell in 2020. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Hammouda said he is emphasizing out-of-the-box solutions to food insecurity on his platform, looking especially towards community members (including college students) and public-private partnerships that extend into the community. He pointed to the renovation of Central Park – for which Hammouda held a fundraising campaign at Relish – as a prime example of these partnerships.

Hammouda’s current project is an organization called Iowa Kitchen that has been operating since February. Any individual can call into the restaurant during the week and place an order for as many meals as they need, which they pick up midday on Saturday with no means test and no questions asked.

“We’re never going to rise unless the lowest of us economically is comfortable. You can’t study on an empty stomach,” Hammouda said.

He said that this kind of inclusivity and care for the Grinnell community is what he wants to further as mayor. He extends this towards economic inclusivity as well. “One of the biggest challenges for the longest time with Iowa is lack of labor,” Hammouda said. “The state, population-wise, is very stagnant. The only way to grow our population is through immigrants. Because of the political environment, our young people are leaving.”

“In order to sustain our growth, I want to recruit immigrant families and show that Grinnell is welcoming to immigrants,” he continued, pointing out Grinnell College’s Dining Services and the Mayflower Community as examples of institutions struggling with understaffing. To facilitate immigration, Hammouda plans on heavily prioritizing affordable housing, including a project to get neglected properties into the hands of young people willing to renovate them, in turn raising home ownership rates.

The mayoral election takes place this Tuesday, Nov. 2nd. Check your registration on the Iowa Secretary of State’s website or register at the polls with legal ID and proof of residency. For Grinnell College students, proof of residency can be obtained through a letter from the Office of Student Affairs or by emailing More details about documentation can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

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Lilli Morrish
Lilli Morrish, Arts Editor
Lilli is a second-year something-or-other major with a linguistics concentration, hailing from a small town in Oregon where the movie Coraline was set and whose main industry is theatre. She would like to talk to you about children's books, multilevel marketing, and your favorite bugs (preferably with pictures).
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