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Longtime Alderman Mike Matson announced his decision to run for mayor of Davenport on Tuesday night, becoming the first candidate to publicly declare candidacy for an open seat that will likely draw more challengers in the months to come.

As the city’s mayor, Matson said he would focus on ways to spend tax dollars efficiently and expand educational opportunities for area residents. He said his career in the U.S. Army makes him “uniquely qualified to be a leader and strong voice for the Rock Island Arsenal,” the region’s largest employer. And if elected, he said he wants to create a safer Davenport by reducing crime, saying public safety would be his “No. 1 priority.”

“As your mayor, I will be a voice for everyone,” Matson said, speaking to a small gathering of supporters from a short stage inside Modern Woodmen Park. “We must invest in our people and our community. I see Davenport as a place where businesses want to grow and where every citizen is able to enjoy that prosperity. I see Davenport as a place to come and live the American dream.”

Matson’s decision to run comes two months after Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch made a surprise announcement that he would not seek a third term, laying the foundation for a wide-open field to become the city’s next top elected official. In making his decision not to run again, Klipsch, whose term expires in 2020, said he wished to spend more time with his family.

Matson, an Army veteran and Junior ROTC instructor with Davenport’s Central High School, began his political career representing the city’s 8th Ward in 2008. After the ward map was redrawn following the last U.S. Census, he won election to represent the 7th Ward, a position he’s held since.

Other supporters talked up Matson on Tuesday ahead of his announcement, including Bill Churchill, a member of the city’s Riverfront Improvement Commission. Churchill, also a veteran, pointed to Matson’s military career as an example of his ability to lead, saying Matson “has been in the trenches both literally and figuratively.”

Also coming out to bat for Matson was Jazmin Newton-Butt, a local attorney and community leader who’s involved with organizations including LULAC Iowa and the Greater QC Hispanic Chamber. Explaining her decision to support Matson, Newton-Butt recalled a contentious proposal in City Hall that would have taken a lot of power away from the city’s Civil Rights Commission, which later collapsed under the weight of staunch opposition led by several community groups.

“He stood against that instantly,” Newton-Butt said, adding that Matson’s position did not reflect the majority opinion of council members at the time.

The bid for mayor isn’t Matson’s first try at a higher office.

In 2017, Matson briefly sought the Democratic nomination for governor but dropped out of the primary race early. Wealthy Des Moines business executive Fred Hubbell won that contest only to be defeated by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds during the November general election.

With the next round of municipal elections still months away, there’s plenty of time for other mayoral candidates to join the race. The Scott County Auditor’s office hasn’t even begun accepting nominating petitions for candidates, and filing deadlines are usually in August.

While Matson has the field of declared candidates to himself at the moment, he could see a challenger emerge soon. Alderwoman Rita Rawson, 5th Ward, says she’s exploring the possibility of a run, a decision she plans to make by mid-February.

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