For the Record: Miculinich is Decorah’s youngest ever council member

Chris Miculinich is one of two new members recently elected to the Decorah City Council and serves as Ward Two representative. Public Opinion’s Denise Lana sat down with Miculinich to learn more about the budding council member. 

Background in a nutshell:

“I am a Decorah native and graduated from Decorah High School in 2017. I went to Hawkeye and was close to finishing my bachelor’s degree in Applied Human Resources when COVID happened. I decided I wanted to move back to Decorah and be closer to my family and the community where I grew up.” 

You participated in a 2020 presidential candidate’s campaign, and since moving back to Decorah, you have served on the Nordic Fest Board. Any insights?

“I’ve always wanted to be involved in some capacity in a variety of arenas, regardless of what they are. During the 2020 election, I got really involved with politics and worked with a presidential candidate and it was really interesting. I went to South Carolina to work on behalf of that candidate. I did a lot of volunteer work, and it was one of those life changing things — to see how the political scope works, not just in Iowa. A different perspective and different demographic. It was eye opening for me. 

Nordic Fest for me, has always been a pivotal event, a staple of Decorah, and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I did really well my first year and moved up the ranks quickly as well. When they needed someone executive, I was appointed vice-president. I am doing that again this year. A key reason I got involved is it’s such a community event, it’s something that makes me happy to be a part of. What it does for our community and what it does for people who come to our community.” 

What moved you to run for city council?

“What really got me interested in my political spear goes back to my elementary school days where history was my favorite subject. In high school, I focused on government and economy, and the wheels started turning. I liked seeing how things functioned. 

I always wanted to run for office. When I moved back to Decorah, I found a house in Ward 2 and I thought about running for council when I saw there wasn’t going to be an incumbent. I wanted to give back to my community, especially at a city level — not to just get involved but get to where my generation needs to have their voices heard.” 

Speaking of your generation, you are the youngest council member ever elected in Decorah. How does that make you feel? 

“When I was knocking doors, people were energized by having someone younger taking interest in running. A lot of people have said it isn’t going to be the easiest thing, but they are glad I stepped up. Ben Steines said I was the largest write-in candidate he had seen during his tenure — of 258 total votes cast in Ward 2, I got 216. That’s a lot! 

At the end of the day, I want to do right by that community and have that perspective of the younger individuals. I want to have the younger crowd know there was someone their age sitting on city council, speaking up for them.”

How has it been so far working with your fellow council members?

“I have some good working relationships already with individuals on council, but I know I am coming in as the outsider. I am a younger individual, and my ideals might not completely mesh with theirs. 

When I was running, I had a majority of council members reach out to me to give advice and assist me with working through the process. There is a natural relationship among the council members, but I do know there are going to be times when we won’t agree on the same policies. I was raised to share different perspectives with one another and find commonalities. Same with my fellow council members — we may not always agree but let’s find our common ground.” 

Are there any issues you want to focus on during your tenure?

“There are various divisions in Decorah — college and town, older and younger generations, local natives vs. emigrants, political and religious beliefs. I hope to bridge some of those divisions. 

I know it’s hard to get people focused and involved in city politics. One of my promises to my constituents is I am going to be present. I want to meet every quarter and want to meet everyone in my ward, regardless of division or background. I want to have community forums where everyone is welcome to come and join in with the discussions, and maybe we can all find commonality. 

I am trying to represent the individuals who live in Ward 2, and other council members are representing their respective wards. But at the end of the day, we collectively have to represent the greater good of the city and do right by our constituents. 

I want to be more visible and make myself available for my ward to voice their concerns to me. I don’t want my input at council to be based on my own personal biases, I truly want to hear everyone else’s concerns. I want a collective. I don’t want to represent my own personal agenda. They chose to vote me in, and I want to do right by the people who put me in place to do that.” 

Miculinich’s tenure runs through Dec. 31, 2027. Miculinich can be reached at cmiculinich@decorah.iowa.gov or 319-252-8245. 

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