Jan 2, 2024 - Politics

Des Moines' first woman mayor takes office

A photo of Connie Boesen.

Connie Boesen at the grand reopening of McRae Park last year. Photo: Courtesy of the City of Des Moines

Connie Boesen starts work as Des Moines' mayor on Tuesday at noon as the first woman to lead the city in its nearly 180-year history.

Why it matters: The transition marks the first change in DSM's top-elected position in two decades, as Frank Cownie had been mayor since 2004.

Catch up fast: The East High School graduate and former buyer for Younkers department store now owns and operates Applishus and Salad Bowl concessions at the Iowa State Fair.

  • She was a DSM School Board member for 14 years before being elected to City Council in 2017.

State of play: Tuesday's transition to mayor gives Boesen more ability to influence the council's agenda but doesn't change her voting power.

  • The city's form of government does not grant her a veto, meaning she remains one of seven votes on the council.

Yes, but: The council's procedural rules give the mayor more power to bring ideas up for discussion or vote, making it easier to call attention to her top priorities.

Driving the news: Improving city processes required of businesses will be among her first 2024 agenda items, she tells Axios.

  • For example, she says a common criticism among developers is that building codes can become overly burdensome and delay progress, especially for redevelopment in older structures.

What's happening: The city will soon hire an economic development employee to help small businesses navigate things like construction permitting.

  • City staffers are also soliciting feedback from developers about how to streamline regulatory processes to bring solutions to the council in the coming months, Boesen says.
  • The goal is to make doing business in DSM simpler and more efficient, not to roll back building and public safety standards, she says.

Plus: Boesen wants to focus more attention on underdeveloped properties to boost DSM's tax base.

  • "When I see an empty lot or a boarded-up building, I see opportunity," she says.

Of note: Boesen's official swearing-in ceremony will take place during the Jan. 8 City Council meeting.

  • The council will decide whether to hold a special election or appoint someone to the at-large seat that she previously held.
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