University Park Mayor Plans Continued City Service While Deployed
University Park, Iowa – Service to your country comes in many forms, but an Iowa mayor intends to continue serving his hometown even while being deployed on active duty, nearly a half a world away.
George Toubekis serves his community as Mayor of University Park, and as a citizen soldier in the Iowa National Guard. Uncle Sam needed a few fresh boots to help relieve a group that has already been serving for a year, and Toubekis answered the call.
But what does a Mayor do when he’s just starting his second term in office and has been working ambitiously to help rejuvenate his community? This very situation had been on his mind when an earlier deployment didn’t come to pass. Toubekis worked with the city council to implement and adopt code to allow him to participate in meetings electronically, using software such as Skype.
The Mayor Pro Tem Arlen Phillips will handle the day-to-day operations of the city and “working as a team”. Internet has been put in place, and the council all logged onto Skype at the last meeting, making sure all the bugs were worked out. “The plan is, I’m going to try and run the meeting via Skype while deployed overseas,” Toubekis said. He will also handle all the emails he can while deployed. Toubekis plans to have daily contact with Phillips during his deployment.
Toubekis won’t be in military uniform while conducting City business. Instead of his military uniform, Toubekis will wear civilian clothing during the meetings. Toubekis wrote a memorandum asking for permission to remain the Mayor. “I had no intentions of resigning,” and Toubekis says he was going to take a leave of absence if the military found there to be a conflict. “They were OK with it as long as I could get approval on the civilian side.”
Once the city council was on board with the idea, Toubekis took his idea to the Mahaska County Auditor Kay Swanson. “I talked with her about it. Obviously we wanted to make sure we were legal here with everything we’re doing.” Toubekis says she had never heard of it before, “but she didn’t see a reason why we couldn’t.”
After Swanson ran the idea through the Secretary of States Office and the County Attorney, and agreed that as long as Toubekis could handle it, “they were OK with it.”
Reference to DoD (Dept. of Defense) directive on members of the military members and their political activities. “18.104.22.168. Serve as an election official, if such service is not as a representative of a partisan political party, does not interfere with the performance of military duties, is performed when not in uniform, and the Secretary concerned has given prior approval. The Secretary concerned may NOT delegate the authority to grant or deny such permission.”
Looking down the road, Toubekis doesn’t see any major challenges the city will be facing in the near future. During his remaining time before deployment, he’s been busy tying up and finishing projects, such as a cemetery expansion project, as well as continuing to work towards finishing the recreational trail through University Park.
“The people of University Park elected me to be their Mayor, whether I was in the military or not,” Toubekis says of his reason for continuing to be Mayor while deployed. His belief that he could do the job while deployed came while he was attending a class out-of-state, he lead a city council meeting from his cell phone at the time. “It was rough, but it went OK, and we got through it.”
Toubekis said that he believes that with today’s technology, there is no reason it can’t work. Toubekis has read about a few city council members around the country continuing to participate while deployed, but never a Mayor.
Toubekis will be departing for additional training at Fort Hood on August 28th, after a sendoff ceremony at Camp Dodge. Toubekis will be a part of the 1034th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion and will be deployed for approximately a year.
During his mission, Toubekis will be managing fuel assets and logistics.
Toubekis will be 3 months shy of 20 years of service before his deployment and says he’s, “looking forward to this challenge.”