‘I love it. So many things right here’

Source: Carroll Daily Times Herald

Ernst spends Saturday morning in Lake City

When the quilting bug hits Iowa’s junior senator she knows where to go.

And if U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, wants a respite, a calm place to escape the storms of an increasingly and bitterly divided Washington, D.C., she can find a spot with inspiring organ music close to the Capitol.

Ernst learned all this and more during a two-hour tour of Lake City Saturday morning. The Red Oak Republican visited businesses on the square and met with local development officials at City Hall.

Ernst, who picked up quilting skills herself from a grandmother, chatted with Towne Square Quilt Shoppes owner Christi Savage and her mother, Mary Ann Savage.

The senator doesn’t have as much time for quilting these days but is looking to reboot the hobby at some point.

What does she think of “charming” Lake City, the quilt store operators asked?

“I love it. I love it. So many things right here,” Ernst said.

To the northeast of the quilt store, Ernst visited Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, an internationally known creator of majestic musical instruments that grace churches from Los Angeles to New York City to Europe to Washington. D.C.

“I love the work because it’s all custom,” said Dobson craftsman Bob Savage, who noted that a church in the Rock Creek Park area of Washington, D.C., has a Lake City-built organ.

Ernst said she planned to visit the church.

At Celebrations To Go, a vintage store, Ernst delighted in buying Iowa-shaped cards for $3.85. She paid cash and noted a sales-tax contribution to the local economy with a smile.

Mary Sporleder, a volunteer with the community-managed Capri Theatre, showed Ernst the classic movie house and described a strong regional draw for the second-run films that play Friday, Saturday and Sunday for patrons.

“Some of them say, ‘I’m from Ar-We-Va, and we come here every weekend,’” Sporleder said.

Renee Stauter of Mid Iowa Insurance in Lake City talked with Ernst about challenges customers face with health-insurance premiums.

“I appreciate the stories because that’s what I take away,” Ernst said.

Paul and Judy Iverson of Cornestone Suites showed off some of their five suites, informing Ernst that 90 percent of their guests are tied to family in the region with 10 percent coming for business reasons.

“We really wanted to create a place that was unique,” Paul Iverson said amid the modern and classic blend of furniture and amenities from a suite that overlooks the town square to the north.

At City Hall, City Administrator Eric Wood and Jill Heisterkamp, executive director of the Calhoun County Economic Development Corporation, stressed that attracting workforce and developing affordable housing are the main challenges for the Lake City area.

“Our construction costs, a lot of the ordinances we have to follow, are the same as an urban area,” Heisterkamp said.

Ernst said she’s aware of special circumstances as a rural-Iowa native.

“We do have different things we need to think of than the metro areas,” Ernst said.

Heisterkamp said she wants to see development of housing spread out across the county, not clustered in one spot.