Hastings Nebraska City Council
My name is Matthew "Mat Dave" Jones, and I am running for 3rd Ward City Council. I am a community volunteer, a father, a web developer, and I plan to grow old with my wife in our beautiful South Central Nebraska town.
Who am I?
I am a 32-year-old Nebraska native. I was born in Kearney, spent most of my childhood near the Platte River in Gibbon, went to high school in Grand Island, and found Hastings when I studied Graphic Arts at Hastings Community College. I fell in love with Hastings for its quiet neighborhoods, welcoming people, and wonderful parks.
I met my wife, Ellen, in Hastings in 2008. I had just started was working as a marketing director at A-1 Fiberglass, and she inspired me to purchase my first home here. Ellen and her parents, John and Charlotte Hamburger, own and operate the Back Alley Bakery. They have shown me the importance of supporting local businesses and introduced me to the vibrant community that has flourished in our downtown.
I worked for 6 and a half years at IdeaBank Marketing as the lead developer in their innovated web department. IdeaBank introduced me to many of the business owners, school administrators, and civic leaders that make our town great. They also pushed me to be even more involved in the community through attending programs like Leadership Hastings and Big Idea Hastings.
Ellen and I have two wonderful daughters, Roslyn (age 4) and Margot (born October '17). We also have three dogs, a cat, two chinchillas, and a fish we call Beta Betta (he's a betta). I now work from home in Hastings' historic district and get to enjoy an amazing opportunity to see my family every day. Hastings is a place I can truly call home.
Why I chose to run.
I have spent the last few years with friends and family telling me, "You should run for city government," so when I was first asked, "Why are you running for city government?" I was a little taken back.
Since moving to Hastings, I have spent my free time as an active community volunteer. I served on the Arts Council for 7 years and the most recent four years have been spent with a seat on the United Way Board. I have helped with the advisory board for Hastings CCC, as well as Career Pathways Institute in Grand Island. I also volunteer weekly at the Hastings Literacy Program, which offers free GED preparation courses to adults. I have seen first hand how amazing our town can be, and how people step up to causes when there is a need.
My experiences since moving here have inspired me to continue developing my place in this community. I have seen unbelievable growth in our downtown, growth in all of my amazing friends, and growth in my wonderful family. Hastings welcomed me here wholeheartedly, and I have embraced it with open arms.
The question on my mind is, "Why aren't more people running?" This term is going to be exciting as we see new faces in our city government, embrace a new era of cooperation between the city and the utilities, and usher in new technology to streamline how the city is run. I see these opportunities as a real chance at making a lasting impact in our town and I am ready to take on the challenge.
Fighting for community needs.
Over the next two years of my term on the United Way, I am going to continue working on a very important community impact project. It is our goal to find and grow more connections between our city and its citizens to keep Hastings as a great place to work, raise families and build memories.
The Hastings community is in an amazing state. Despite our lower than average income, we have lower poverty, more affordable housing, and lower arrests than the state average. We also have an outstanding 91.5% graduation rate, 2.6% higher than the state average. These are statistics that help us to stand out as a great place to live.
We need to keep these indicators high, but we also have to fight some real problems. In 2015, it was reported 47.4% of children are on the free or reduced lunch program, which is up 5.4% from 2010 and 7.7% higher than the state average. A lot of that can be pointed at wage issues, but it is important to address all angles of the issue when the fact is almost half our town's children need assistance to afford to eat.
It is easy to point the blame at people not working, but the hard part is examining the proof and statistics showing there are jobs, people are working, but they just aren't earning enough. This can be addressed through improving opportunities for financial education, improving higher learning opportunities for both adults and transitioning youth, and improving the availability of higher paying jobs. Those are hard goals and will take time and communication to coordinate and find measurable long-term solutions. However, it is important we start acting now, because our children are caught in a dangerous situation. It was reported in 2015, 6.7% of children under 18 don't have insurance, and in a 2014 survey of the 4-county area, 36.5% of 12th graders reported alcohol usage and, more shockingly, 13.5% of teens reported they had attempted suicide. That is more than 1 in 8 children.
Help me make Hastings a place we can all call home.
I am confident the answers lie somewhere in the citizens of our great community. I am constantly amazed at how well the people of Hastings can step up and come together when the needs are great. We need to work together to share our unique experiences and perspectives and discover the right paths towards the solution.
With your vote, I will continue working on these issues, and be a part of the solution. Let's make Hastings a place where it is easy for all people to call it home.