It was a tornado that gave Nick Hasty his call to civic action. Three years ago, a tornado was five miles from his home, and the alarm didn’t go off. Hasty did what concerned citizens do: He ran for city council. When the sitting mayor built a home out of town, he filled in as Mayor Pro Tem. And at the next election, "I won by a landslide," he says, chuckling to note that he was the only candidate for mayor of this community of 1,050 citizens.
The quest for a better tornado alarm system was the tip of the iceberg for Hasty.
"You start looking at it, you see other issues and think, ‘I can do something about that,’" he said.
De Soto now has a working tornado siren, and is looking to get another. The police department is full time, there is a new fire pumper, the water system will soon be complete and the library is a superb source of information and reading programs throughout the year. The sense of community continues to grow.
"We have everything in place, the infrastructure, proximity to the interstate, soon a great quality of water" he says. "These are in place to draw development."
The city has rezoned almost 600 acres for commercial real estate. The city council is considering a tax abatement program for residential development of 250 acres on the southwest side of town.
"I never had an inkling of what could be done," the art teacher and, with his wife Christine, parent of two young children says. "But it is put before me, this opportunity. When you have that much potential for growth, what do you do? You go out there and get it."
There are great business opportunities in De Soto, with employers such as All States Ag Parts and Raccoon River Rental, AHeinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport, Caseys, Kum & Go, and a host of internet businesses, to welcome them. The thriving business community boasts diversity and ingenuity.
"And there is room for many more," Hasty points out. "Grocery stores, family restaurants, commercial businesses – we’re in a perfect location for development."
De Soto has recreational advantages as well. Blue Ridge Park on the south side of town offers ball diamonds and a covered picnic area for barbeques, picnics and graduations. Visitors enjoy the fire pit, horse shoes and volleyball nets. Again, that’s the tip of the iceberg.
"With development, we’re looking into walking trails and sculpture parks – funding and grants may become available," Hasty says. "We have a great city council, proactive in things. We’re looking at the future together."
As an art teacher, Hasty says his ninth grade students are baffled that he can teach art and be a mayor. He tells them, "Believe it or not, people like me do these things and are passionate about them!" The mayor refers regularly to the good advice he was given at the dawning of his civic career: "A community either grows, or it dies."
Clearly Hasty’s compassion, and DeSoto’s direction, is growth.