Dick McAlister

Richard_McAlister.jpgIt would be impossible to overstate Dick McAlister’s impact on Cedar Falls. Through his four decade career, he has quietly led our
city institution exercising excellent judgement while balancing political and organizational realities. Dick McAlister has touched nearly all we value in our city, his impacts will be long felt for decades to come.

Cedar Falls is in an enviable position. But there was a time when Cedar Falls was on shaky ground. In fact, the city reorganized in 1988 out of financial necessity and Dick took the role of Administrative Services Director (much credit is due to the mayor that recognized Dick's abilities beyond urban planning alone). As Director, Dick managed all matters related to finance, human resources, legal and more. Through Dick's leadership, the position evolved into a chief executive officer role where he guided day-to-day operations, strategic planning and policy execution. In our 2014 reorganization, Dick was formally installed as the City Administrator reporting directly to Council. 

Cedar Falls enviable position starts with sound financial management, and Dick was a master of all fiscal facets. Naturally it starts with a budget, which requires total understanding of fund-based accounting, cash flow management, cost accounting and long-term planning. Where the budget is a plan, execution is another matter requiring amazing attention to detail, decisiveness, and accountability. Our financial position is achieved through effective organizational management, wise investments and the ability to adapt to new societal, economic and political realities. Dick is a master of all. But the numbers only tell part of the story.

Dick has uncanny business acumen in management and leadership. He is, and has been, the CEO of Cedar Falls for the better part of two decades. As CEO, he has dutifully listened to his board, the Council, and blended an superb balance of vision, initiative prioritization, and daily execution against budgetary, regulatory, and service expectations of our citizens. He has nurtured a lean city culture focused on delivering maximum value on behalf of citizen taxpayers with short-term and long-term balance.CF-Logo.png

But there is side of Dick that is often overlooked, his personal commitment to relationships. When you talk to Dick, he is absorbing and processing everything you say against a remarkable context of institutional knowledge, human psychology, interpersonal relationships, memory of detail and analysis, and political framework. He communicates the complexities with amazing clarity and ease. Dick is both the smartest man in the room, and the most empathetic.

When I first ran for office, I was wild-eyed and hopeful. I sat with Dick and he gave me an awesome orientation of the issues and possibilities. And while my vision was ambitious, he never once diminished the hope, rather he reinforced the possibilities while giving an honest assessment of what would need to be done. During his time, he continually provided mentorship and guidance to achieve or at least strive for my goals and initiatives while in office.

Dick McAlister may be the most impactful, yet understated city administrator in our state. Through his stewardship, he has carefully and quietly guided Cedar Falls as the best managed city in the state. He has had a wonderful supporting cast along the way, including staff, mayors and council, but his individual contribution and life-long professional commitment was a precursor to much that we hold dear in Cedar Falls today and for decades to come.

I speak for many when I say it has been an honor and privilege to work along side Dick McAlister, a true servant leader. I wish him and his family all the best as he begins a new phase in life on December 31st, 2015.


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  • Well said. Dick will be missed but not forgotten as his legacy will live on for generations to come.