Fruin ready to carve out his own niche

Geoff Fruin may have only started as Iowa City’s assistant to the city manager a week ago, but the Bloomington, Ill., native said he is ready to get situated in the city he hasn’t lived in for almost a decade.

Fruin, who started his position Nov. 28, said he has spent his first week getting acquainted and familiar again with not only the city and its residents, but also the city staff members he will be working closely with in the years to come.

So far the transition has been going smoothly, he said, adding that his first goal is building relationships with the city’s staff, residents and stakeholders.

“The staff here has been great, they’re very welcoming and helpful,” the 31-year-old said. “In that respect it has been very easy.”

Fruin was announced as the new assistant to the city manager in September, taking the place of long-term assistant city manager Dale Helling after 33 years at the position and three years on the Iowa City Police Department.

Fruin said taking Helling’s place was a little daunting, but added that he is excited to carve out his own niche.

“I can’t replace Dale. I think the city will be forever in debt to Dale and the service he provided for over 36 years,” Fruin said. “I’ll create my own path, but certainly knowing he has been here and being able to learn from him has been immensely valuable to me.”

Several Iowa City councilors said while they haven’t had many opportunities to speak with Fruin since his start, they are confident the new member to the city staff will mesh well with City Manager Tom Markus.

Council member Connie Champion said being new to a workplace is never easy but added that Fruin is in good hands with Markus.

“I think it’s got to be somewhat difficult when you’re new yourself to plan and what you’re going to do, but I think Tom has enough experience that he will make the right choices,” she said. “I think (Fruin) will be fine.”

The former Normal, Ill., assistant city manager, Fruin said his experience near Bloomington has some parallels to Iowa City issues including planning for an aggressive downtown revitalization and providing a passenger rail system. He added that during Normal’s downtown planning, city officials looked to Iowa City’s model for examples.

While those experiences should translate well into some of Iowa City’s future projects, Fruin said he is keeping an open mind and willingness to learn for Iowa City’s future.

“There definitely are some similarities but again every community is different and what we did in Normal isn’t necessarily the right thing here,” Fruin said.

Fruin graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor of business administration degree and went on to earn a master of urban planning and public policy, specializing in economic development, from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fruin said he hasn’t been a resident of Iowa City since he graduated in 2002 but is excited to be back into the area with his family.

“We’re just thrilled to be back in Iowa City,” he said. “We definitely look forward as a family to become a member of the community and raising our family here.”

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