ROYAL, Iowa | Florence "Fluff" Ihry, one of Siouxland's "senior" politicians, rolled to victory in the election on Tuesday, earning 111 votes for the mayor's seat in Royal, easily outdistancing a pair of opponents who garnered 19 and 5 votes, respectively.
Ihry started her fourth mayoral term with a city council meeting on Wednesday. After the meeting, members of the council presented her with a cake, bearing the words, "What a Sweet Victory."
The next celebratory cake for "Fluff" Ihry will mark her 90th birthday. She reaches that milestone on Valentine's Day, no doubt making "Fluff" among the oldest mayors in Iowa.
"I know that when I became a mayor for the first time six years ago, I might have been the oldest first-time mayor in Iowa," Ihry told me Thursday. "I don't know if I'm the oldest. I'll let you and Google try to figure that out."
Ihry hasn't the time nor the inclination to look it up. She's got other things on her mind, like pushing for the residents of Royal, pop. 417.
"We've got terrible cell phone reception in Royal," she said. "I want to get that improved. We need a tower somehow or another."
Ihry said the community has responded to an aggressive tree-planting effort aided with the receipt of a couple of major grants. More than 100 trees have been planted in town, guarding against the invasion of the emerald ash borer, which will almost certainly kill the ash trees in this community.
"We've planted the new trees close to the trees we know may die," Ihry said.
Other recent developments in her town involve improvements on drainage ditch No. 23, work that isn't glamorous, until you need it. I recall writing about Ihry one Memorial Day weekend a few years ago as she held the legs of the town's maintenance plant superintendent as he reached down to grab floats measuring water levels at the city's lift station. Ihry kept in contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency following that soggy weekend as residents pumped water from their homes.
"And this may sound small, but we used to take our yard waste to Spencer," Ihry said of the Clay County seat. "And that option was shut down. We also had a (dump) site here, but that was closed by the (Iowa Department of Natural Resources.) We now have another site and if people bring old wire or stuff other than yard waste and tree limbs cut to a certain length, we'll have to close it down."
So, Ihry has worked with officials in Royal to educate the public on what they can and cannot transport to the dump site.
All this underscores the quote, "All politics is local," made famous by the late Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
"I love this town and I want to keep it flourishing," the mayor said.
Five years ago, on a trip to the Clay County Fair in Spencer, I stopped in Royal to see Ihry, then one year into her mayoral role. I missed the mayor, who, that day, was awaiting surgery for a broken hip at the Spencer Municipal Hospital. So, I stopped by the hospital to see her post-surgery. And while she wanted to talk about her community, she waved off the interview that September day, understandably. We still laugh about it.
When we got together for a story months later, Ihry flashed her trademark sense of humor. "I wondered if all I had to do was break a hip to have a story written about me," she said.
No, all she had to do was step up for her adopted hometown, a town she obviously loves and will continue to challenge and promote. A "Prince of a Community," that, judging by her repeated success on Election Day, loves "Fluff" Ihry.