Chris Nelson announced he is seeking a third term on the Ames City Council Monday.
Nelson, a sixth-generation Ames resident, represents Ward Four on the council, which includes Campustown and the Iowa State campus and has a high student population.
In addition to serving on City Council, Nelson is vice president of Nelson Electric Company.
Nelson, an Iowa State alumnus, said there would be no Ames without its student population.
“The reality of it is, the students are why Ames is what Ames is,” Nelson said. “Even looking back four years ago when I ran — and the two years prior to that — it’s always been very important to me to set the table to making Ames a place where A: students want to come and study and B: a place where they can live and work when they graduate.”
Nelson said he understands what it’s like to live in Ames as a student.
“I went to school here 25 years ago — I lived in a dump in a basement where I had complaints about the landlord — so, I’ve lived that student life," Nelson said. "It’s changed in some ways for sure, but in a number of ways it’s stayed the same."
The second-term incumbent said he feels his experience as a student here gives him an understanding of student issues, and his experience on council sets him apart from his challengers.
“I think I can represent the students, but I also have the experience and the institutional knowledge of the other things that are happening in the community to move a lot of projects forward,” Nelson said.
There are some things that council legally isn’t able to “tackle.”
“Can we effect change in some ways? Yes,” Nelson said. “We can’t do anything with tenant-landlord relations; contractually that’s all done at the state level.”
Nelson said he considers the development of the now-repealed rental cap a time when he tried to “come up with a balance” between the interests of students and permanent residents.
“Myself and [at-large City Council rep.] Amber Corrieri were two of kind of blunting forces that helped ratchet [the rental cap] back as far as we could,” Nelson said.
Corrieri was the lone vote against the final reading of the rental cap in 2018.
Nelson listed some of the highlights of his accomplishments on City Council over the years, including: workforce development, jobs, Campustown redevelopment and sustainability among others.
Ames has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the United States, at 1.5% in May, it was less than half the national average.
“We have Ames pointed in a pretty good direction,” Nelson said. “There’s a lot of pieces that are fitting together to make it a place that people want to live, work and play.”
Nelson said they have done a lot in alleviating the market constraint with student housing.
“Now as we work through our 2040 Comprehensive Plan, we’re looking at developing the workforce housing — that’s a common thing that we hear. … The workforce housing is an issue,” he said.
Nelson said the 2040 plan is “really why several us ran, originally.”
“We hadn’t done a comprehensive update of the plan since 1997 or 1999, so we’re 20 years into a 20-year plan,” Nelson said. “We had to take a couple of steps backwards to get ready and do it again.”
In order to keep the character of Ames the same, Nelson said the city should “grow up, rather than out” in some ways. He said urbanization like the development of taller mixed-use buildings in Campustown keeps students closer to campus — making getting there a lot more walkable, and preventing the sprawl seen in Ankeny or Waukee.
On home rule, Nelson said the state legislature has “overstepped … and there has kind of been an affront on home rule for the past several years.”
“A lot of the things that we do, we do because we know what’s happening in the community, and what’s best for the community," Nelson said.