UPDATE: Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett, who has been involved in city government for 50 years, will not seek re-election this fall.
“I’ve been in this for a long, long time,” Fausett said Monday. “I don’t have the best health anymore. I think I always wanted to be able to make a decision and not stay too long. Some people would tell you I’ve already stayed too long.”
He laughed at that last part, but he was serious about the longevity of his service and his health. The 81-year-old suffered a heart attack in October 2009 during a re-election bid.
And he has been Coralville’s mayor since 1996. Before that, he was a City Council member for 18 years. And before that, he served on various city commissions.
He moved to Coralville in 1959 – Fausett and his wife, Carol, have said the city is like a fifth child to them – and first became active in city government by helping create a public bus system in the 1960s.
“Jim is sort of an institution for Coralville,” said Alan Kemp, executive director of the Iowa League of Cities.
The league, which Fausett was president of in 2008, does not track longevity by mayors, and there have been longer serving ones in Iowa, Kemp said. But he said Fausett’s 50 years of service to Coralville is tremendous.
Coralville City Council member John Lundell seconded that, calling Fausett’s tenure “absolutely phenomenal.”
The Coralville mayor does not have a vote on the five-member council but does have veto power. Lundell said Fausett is a great leader behind the scenes and gets council members to fully understand an issue.
“We work together as a team, and he’s been a good coach or team leader,” Lundell said.
Fausett said among his favorite undertakings as a member of city government are the building of a public library, partnering with schools on projects, the building of Coral Ridge Mall and the current redevelopment of the area known as Iowa River Landing.
That last project has also generated criticism, with some people accusing Coralville of excessive use of tax increment financing to the detriment of other area governments and businesses.
Iowa City Mayor Matt Hayek has been among those detractors, but he had nothing but praise for Fausett Monday.
“Few do as much for their community as Jim has for his,” he said. “He’s a consummate gentleman, and I will miss working with him.”
Fausett has been a staunch supporter of Iowa River Landing, and on Monday he said the project is turning what was a former industrial site into a commercial success.
Coralville has seen huge growth in Fausett’s time.
In 1980, a couple of years after Fausett joined the City Council, Coralville’s population was about 7,700. Now it’s an estimated 19,700, a 156 percent increase.
“I can’t take credit for these” accomplishments, Fausett said, “but at least I’ve had a part in it.”
Fausett also cited the hiring of City Administrator Kelly Hayworth 25 years ago as another highlight.
Hayworth said Fausett’s long history with the city has helped him, and many others, put issues in perspective.
“It’s been outstanding,” Hayworth said of their relationship. “And Jim is extremely supportive of the community and the staff. He’d do anything to help out the community.”
The Coralville mayor serves a two-year term. The filing period for mayoral and City Council candidates started Monday and runs through Sept. 19.
Fausett said he planned to announce his decision at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, but he shared the news with The Gazette Monday.
Fausett said he knows of one mayoral candidate, and he plans to back the person. He declined to give a name, saying he wanted that person to make the announcement.
Lundell, whose council term expires this year, said he will announce his intentions in the near future.
Fausett will serve as mayor through the end of this year, and he plans to remain an active part of the community after that.
“There’s no question that the wife and I have thoroughly loved Coralville and still do so,” he said.