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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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GEARHART, Kenneth. (Carlisle, IA- ). In 1979 Gearhart, succeeding Gilbert D. CHAVENELLE, became the eighth city manager of Dubuque. A graduate of Grinnell (Iowa) College in political science, Gearhart received a master's degree from Pennsylvania State University in public administration. Before coming to Dubuque, he held the position of analyst in administration and budget for Cincinnati, Ohio, and served as assistant budget director for Montgomery County, Maryland. From 1969 to 1970 he served as fiscal director in Iowa for the Governor's Office for Planning and Programming.

Gearhart moved to Dubuque in March 1970, as assistant city manager. He was credited with implementing Dubuque's adoption of program budgeting and with promoting computerization in the preparation and monitoring of the city's budget. His administrative study of the police department led to its reorganization of personnel and activities.

Gearhart served as project director of the revitalized Metropolitan Crime Commission and successfully advocated the establishment of a boys' group home in 1971. He assisted in the organization of the Dubuque Drug Abuse Prevention Coordinating Committee in 1970 and directed city efforts in obtaining federal funds for CORNERSTONE, a youth contact house. Gearhart moved to Davenport where he was the chief administrative officer from July 1972, to November 1976. In 1976 Gearhart moved to Sioux City as the director of finance operations. He returned to Dubuque in February 1979, as management systems analyst and was named city manager in July 1979. His first project was to reorganize the city staff and commissions giving himself more control. (1)

In 1984 Gearhart proposed a 1% local sales tax and led efforts to encourage economic development through loans for business expansion and relocation. He backed RIVERBOAT GAMBLING in 1990 believing the city's involvement would encourage private investment. (2)

The arrest of Steven Wymer in 1991 for securities fraud began a period in Iowa history known as the IOWA TRUST FUND scandal. By June of 1992 calls for a new city manager included an editorial in the Telegraph Herald outlining concerns it felt required a change in administration. The newspaper charged that Gearhart had, over his 13 year tenure, weakened citizen authority on some boards and commissions. It was also alleged that the city council had gone out of its way not to blame him for the potential loss of $17 million invested with Wymer. It was Gearhart, according to the newspaper, who recommended Iowa Trust for city investments and allowed up to one-third of the city's investments to be made in that one fund. The fund whose prospectus admitted a loss of principal was possible and where profits through short-term investments was the strategy. The paper also found fault with the fact that no changes had been made in city investing policy since the Iowa Trust scandal had been publicized. (3) In December 1991, Dubuque had a total of $24 million frozen in Iowa Trust fund when it was discovered that $75 million of the $107 million in the fund was missing. (4)

On June 29, 1992 by a 6-1 vote, the Dubuque city council gave Gearhart the option of resigning or being fired. (5)

Gearhart left Dubuque in 1993 for Johnstown, Pennsylvania. He would be the city manager in the town of 28,000 in the southwestern part of the state. (6)



1. Eiler, Donnelle. "Gearhart Heads to Johnstown," Telegraph Herald, December 16, 1993, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. "One Way or Another, Change Needed in Manager," Telegraph Herald editorial June 21, 1992, p. 4A. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19920622&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. Dickel, Dean. "Quit or Be Fired," Telegraph Herald, June 30, 1992, p. 1. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=aEyKTaVlRPYC&dat=19920630&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. Ibid.

6. Eiler