The mayor of one of Iowa’s flood-weary cities says his primary objective is giving residents of Cedar Rapids a sense of “security.”

Mayor Ron Corbett took the helm of Cedar Rapids city government at the beginning of January — about 18 months after flood waters swamped 10 square miles of the city. “If we have another major flood like that it would kill the psychology and the whole reinvestment. I mean, we have a window of opportunity to try and get this flood protection system, to give people that sense of security, the sense that they can move back and they can invest,” Corbett says. “That’s why we’re going to push hard for a flood protection system and we’re working with the Army Corps of Engineering to get it done.” 

Corbett, a former state legislator, surprised some of his fellow Republicans when he backed a move to pay those who’re working on flood recovery projects in Cedar Rapids the “prevailing wage” in Linn County.  “We needed to — we had the highest unemployment rate in the community. Labor is an important part of Cedar Rapids’ history. Most of these neighborhoods that were flooded were…middle or lower income and these folks need to get back to work. All they want to do is get up in the morning, make a good living and take care of their families,” Corbett says.  “And I have to look at the entire town of Cedar Rapids. I don’t have the shackles of a partisan label on me. I’m a nonpartisan guy trying to take care of our town.”

Corbett rose through the ranks in the legislature to become the youngest Republican to be elected House Speaker, a position he left in 1999.  Corbett says he’s “no longer that close to the party structure” and does not intend to endorse candidates in party primaries, like the current race among three Republicans who want to be Iowa’s next governor.  “We need partnerships in both parties at all levels of state government and it’s incumbent on me to have as many friends as I possibly can get,” Corbett says.

Corbett made his comments this morning during taping of the Iowa Public Television program, “Iowa Press,” which airs tonight at 7:30.