Ottumwa’s two mayor candidates talk diversity, mental health

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 4:41 PM CDT
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OTTUMWA, Iowa (KYOU) - A race of two Ricks - Rick Bick, and Rick Johnson.

Rick Bick is currently the pastor of New Life Center, chaplain to the police department, and President of the Heartland Pregnancy Center board. Bick says he didn’t seek politics, but that when the door opened, he fell in. “Ever since I’ve kinda gotten involved, I’ve just had people being helpful and friendly from every angle.”

His pitch is written on his campaign signs - Unity in the Community. Bick explains that means “becoming a community that moves forward, and that we’re a community that is known for helping people, not needing help.”

At a recent League of Women Voters forum, Bick spoke on diversity, saying he has a hard time giving special preference to LGBTQ groups. “I understand that’s a group of people, but that’s a group by sexual preference. So I have a hard time identifying it as a race or ethnicity and giving it special preference that way.”

On the more logistical side, Bick wants to see Ottumwa become debt free. The 20-20 audit for Ottumwa shows an outstanding debt of $38.7 million. Bick believes it’s more than possible. “There’s a way that we can become debt free which we will attract businesses and all things we want to do.”

At the forum, he was asked about mental health and drug problems in the City. Bick said he sees a lot of those issues around Ottumwa, but doesn’t know what a mayor of city could do, “except offer programs or school programs that start teaching self-worth and self-value to people so they don’t feel neglected and they have to resort to that sort of thing to medicate life.”

And while he acknowledges roads are a problem around the City, he also wants to be open with the public - maintaining the 170 miles of roads in Ottumwa takes time, and, Bick notes, has to be done right. “It’s gonna take a while. And it’s not cheap. But we’ve got to get this other part done, otherwise we’re just wasting our time.”

Overall, Bick is excited to have the chance to serve Ottumwa. “I just want to see us all come together, moving forward - the community.”


Rick Johnson is retiring as River Hills’ CEO after 16 years in the position. More recently, he was appointed to the Ottumwa City Council, and now is pushing for Mayor. At the forum, he said he’s running for one reason alone: “I believe in Ottumwa and I believe Ottumwa has terrific potential that still needs to be worked on in the future.”

Johnson says he wants to see economic growth in the City, but points out it can’t be done without a place for new workers to live. “If we’re going to try and bring new industry and business into Ottumwa, we really need to make sure there’s available housing.”

He mentioned options the City could offer, such as tax abatements, or assisting developers in looking at locations to build. “There’s a lot of technical assistance and cursory things that the city can do to help any new perspective developer,” Johnson notes, though came out against moves like the 20-year TIF being considered for new workforce housing on Bonita Avenue.

Johnson says residents need more to do. “We need to look at those quality of life things that a lot of people are looking for.” He spoke on the sports complex planned to come to Greater Ottumwa Park, or the hotel being built next to Bridge View Center.

Johnson notes many of his positions align with the 2040 Ottumwa Comprehensive Plan, including his stance on LGBTQ groups and diversity in general. “The LGBTQ community is obviously part of our community. That’s part of our diversity,” Johnson explained at the forum. “I think we need to look upon that group of people just like we would all the other ethnic and minority groups in Ottumwa.”

On the topic of mental health, while Johnson says he doesn’t think the City should be directly involved in funding human service programs, “I think they should be supportive and provide some guidance and provide some leadership in making sure that we have the necessary programs available to help the people in our community that have those issues.”

Johnson says as Mayor, he would be the face of the City, and he believes he’s well-equipped do to that. “I feel like I have some strong leadership skills that hopefully would be beneficial to me if I was fortunate enough to be elected mayor.”


Polls open on November 2nd for Ottumwa’s General Election, with the mayor’s office and three council seats open.

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