Why I’m running

Educator Jonathan Grieder explains why he's seeking a city council seat in Waterloo. -promoted by Laura Belin

It was a cold February Sunday in 2018 when I became a dad. Holding my daughter for the first time was world changing. Here was this small human who looked so much like my wife that it took my breath away. And she would need us for so many things in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years ahead. And here she was in a tiny hat, wrapped in blankets. Parenthood is many things, but it certainly sets your priorities through a new facet.

It was the middle of May in 2018 and I was eating lunch in my classroom, enjoying the calm between my freshman U.S. history classes. And in my doorway appears a bright, young face, one of the first students I saw off and graduate in my time at West. We slipped comfortably into conversation remarking on this change or that change around the building, queries of majors and life events. But then I asked the obvious question, “What are you doing now that you’ve graduated?”

Silence. A stirring behind the eyes. A setting of the jaw. “I’m not sure yet. But it likely won’t be in Waterloo.” Realizing that I had struck upon something I gently questioned further only to find that this bright, young person could not move back to the community they loved, the community in which they had deep roots, because there were no opportunities in their field.

These stories represent turning points. They mark junctures wherein I was enlightened about the realities that surround me. I live in a wonderful community. Waterloo has been amazing for me and my family. It’s the birthplace of my daughter, it is the community in which I am incredibly privileged to help shape the future of my 1600+ other kids every day as an educator. It is where I worship while my wife presides as a pastor, it is where I have made incredibly dear friends. Waterloo is home, and it’s a good one.

But it is not without its challenges. As a 29-year-old with student loan debt, I know the struggles of stagnant wages and their impacts on families.

As a dad, I am very aware of the impact of the rising cost and falling accessibility of childcare in our community.

As an educator, I’ve spoken with families that struggle with lack of quality public transit, the demeaning struggle of trying to provide on a minimum wage that hasn’t been increased in our state since I was in high school, about the desire for their children to return home, but few economic opportunities for those who wish to return.

As a citizen, I am aware of the inequalities in our community; between those with plenty and those without, between races, genders, and orientations.

As a taxpayer, I know that our city services are stretched thin, and that some only want to tighten the budget without recognizing the reality on the ground. There are real challenges we face as a community. But they are challenges the community can fix with the right leadership.

That’s why I’m running for City Council Ward 2 in Waterloo. I’m running because while local issues like roads or zoning or economic development may not always be the most glamorous, they are fundamental to the lives and livelihoods of our community. Poor infrastructures, whether it is roads, bridges, or internet access, calcify and harden the economic arteries through which the lifeblood of our local economies run. Zoning that does not acknowledge the historical mistakes and divisions that it once sowed can only deepen the chasms within a community by spreading prosperity unevenly. Economic development without vision and long-term planning may lead to short term gains, but long term loss to the community as a whole.

I’m running because we need leaders with vision and a sense for seeking solutions built upon common ground. The challenges we teachers face in the classroom do not come with partisan labels, and neither do those confronting us as a city. It requires teamwork, effort, humility, vision and the ability to listen in order to teach and it takes those same skills to help lead a city. Waterloo needs more of those skills in the halls of power.

I’m running for our future. What we do now will impact the path forward for Waterloo. My daughter, my students, all of our children and grandchildren deserve a Waterloo that is prosperous, thriving and equitable. I’m running because I want to help build that community for my daughter and for all of us. And it cannot wait. Building that fair and equitable future begins today.

I’m very pleased to have started this new journey and very excited to run to make Waterloo a better place. You can find more information on my website, www.GriederforWaterloo.com, or my campaign's Facebook page.

Editor's note: Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts by Democratic candidates for office in Iowa. Please contact Laura Belin if you are interested in writing.

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