In a series of interviews with notable alumni about their experiences at Assumption, we recently caught up with 1995 graduate Ben Jobgen, Davenport Alderman and Physical Therapist.
Q. What are you doing now?
I reside in Davenport where I recently celebrated 21 years of marriage to my wife and fellow AHS alum Melissa (Kane ’95). We have two children – Grace ’20, a recent graduate of AHS who will be attending the University of Iowa in the fall – and Luke, who will be attending 6th grade at John F. Kennedy Catholic School.
I work as a Physical Therapist for Rock Valley Physical Therapy, and was elected to represent the 6th Ward on the Davenport City Council in November 2019.
I also remain active in the Assumption community as an Assumption Foundation board member, president of the AHS Athletic Booster Club and Rising Knights Wrestling Club, and as a coach in the Rising Knights Football program.
Q: How did you become a city council member for the City of Davenport?
Long story short, I was able to convince more people to vote for me than my opponent did for himself.
Q: What made you want to go into local government?
I had not ever considered seeking elected office, nor being involved in the public sector. In 2015, there was an issue within the area of our neighborhood. After attending some meetings, I began to start watching Davenport City Council meetings. There were a few other issues that affected the area of Davenport in which we reside, and my interest in becoming more involved increased.
In 2017, the ward alderman resigned, which led to an open position for the upcoming election. I decided to campaign for the position, as well as did four other people. The results of the primary election found me in 3rd place, which did not qualify me for the city ballot. While I did not win that election, I continued to follow the local issues. I did not agree with how the ward alderman was addressing some of the issues, and felt that I could offer something to the residents of the 6th ward of Davenport.
As a result, I decided to campaign again in 2019. My goal was to become the true voice of the 6th Ward, as I did not feel the prior ward aldermen were acting, and voting, as the residents desired. During that campaign I was able to utilize the lessons learned in 2017 to help the results end in my favor.
Q. What is a typical day like for a city council member?
A typical day includes continued full-time work as a Physical Therapist, as well as all regular activities with the family. For the council, there are weekly scheduled meetings to attend. Otherwise, communicating with people via e-mail and phone is a daily occurrence, (constituents, fellow council members, city staff, and members of other community organizations).
The amount of time to address the various issues changes from day to day, and I tell everyone that asks, you take the necessary time without worrying about how much time it takes. To be an adequate representative of your constituents, you must be willing to spend the required energy, no matter what it takes.
Lastly, this has been quite an interesting time to enter into elected office. The Covid-19 pandemic has presented some variables that I never expected. However, the Davenport City Council has functioned without pause, and the City of Davenport staff has also adjusted appropriately to continue functioning.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being an alderman?
I enjoy being able to work with people to make Davenport a great place to live. I have been fortunate to be proud of the organizations with which I have been associated throughout my life (family, school, employer, and community). Being an active part of successful organizations is very rewarding, and being an alderman for the city of Davenport is a way in which I can achieve that reward.
I believe it is important to work hard to continuously improve, as well as promote the positive aspects of the organization. I also feel being an alderman allows me to benefit from the reward of the hard work.
Q. What are some of the things you learned at Assumption?
Some of the most important lessons I learned are respect, and the sense of community. I believe that respecting yourself and your neighbor is a sign of love.
Attending Catholic school from kindergarten through high school, I was always taught to love your neighbor as yourself (I apologize to any of my teachers, and the pastors within the Diocese if I did not get that exactly correct). In my opinion, our society has too many signs of lack of respect, and a healthy dose education about love and respect, like the kind received at Assumption, would assist with improving our community.
The sense of community is epitomized through the Assumption motto, “One in the Spirit.” Having a common bond encourages one to excel, because you don’t want to let down the other members of the community. Also, having a strong, growing, community offers resources that can assist in many phases of life.
The amount of business contacts that can be made through the Assumption community is tremendous, and is unprecedented in the Quad Cities area. Lastly, one can regularly find someone that is directly, or indirectly associated with Assumption with which you can hold a friendly conversation.
Q: How do you feel your time at Assumption has helped you in your career thus far?
I believe the two aforementioned lessons have created a strong base to function not only as a physical therapist, but also as an elected official. I feel there is carryover in both areas, as I get to work with people to address their issues, and improve the current condition. Without that strong base, I don’t feel as if I would be successful at either.
Q: What are a few of your favorite memories from your time at Assumption?
Meeting my wife, Melissa, is tops on that list (both graduated in the great class of ’95). Fortunately, I am able to relive those wonderful memories each and every day.
Another is being a part of the first state championship wrestling team at Assumption. The memories from achieving that accolade are something that makes me smile, and something I am glad to share with the other members of that team.
Additionally, making friendships that have continued even a quarter century later has generated more memories than I likely deserve (unanimously all of us friends are glad we didn’t have the technology there is today to document the memories we created. Storing the information in the recesses of the cerebral cortex is much better, and I’m glad they are there).
Q. Looking back on your time at Assumption, what are some of the experiences that helped prepare you for what you’re doing now?
Winning the team state championship taught me how to come together with others to succeed. As a wrestler, you compete as an individual, and the team aspect is underrated.
Working as a physical therapist, I typically conduct the visit with a patient/client individually. However, there needs to be interactions with co-workers to continue to improve my skills, as well as make sure we collectively do what is needed for the organization to function successfully.
As a council member, I am part of many meetings, in which I work individually, to a point, and then convene with my fellow council members. Therefore the experience of the wrestling team helped lay that foundation of being able to interchange the individual and team aspect of work.
The other experience would be taking US Government with Mr. Mark Kaczmarek, the Knights’ football coach at the time. The reason is not just because I dominated trivia days. Rather, the experience from this class set the basic tenet for my actions in elected office, which includes, “government should do for people, what people can’t do for themselves.” Coach Kacz, I apologize if I have been butchering that quote through the years as well. I have that quote in my head with each decision I make as an elected official.
Q: Who were some of the biggest influences during your time at Assumption?
Mr. Wade King, current Athletic Director and former Wrestling Coach, was my biggest influence. I feel he pushed the wrestlers, including myself, to work extremely hard, and not to be concerned by having to give extra effort. Having a willingness to work hard will carry people farther than they realize.
I also felt he provided structure, and whether it was intentional or not, there was an aspect of planning that I gleaned from the way he organized practices, and had us ready to compete. I also had a healthy fear of Coach King, which drove me to not only do the right thing, because I wouldn’t want to face the repercussions, but to push toward excellence, in order to achieve a mutual recognition for the positive results.
Then next biggest influence would have been my group of friends. While we were a group of kids that didn’t always “get it right”, I do feel they were the best group with which I could have been associated. I thank all of those guys for being great friends, and I am appreciative of the ones with which I still keep in touch. Whether they know it or not, they taught me many lessons, which includes: loyalty, adversity, and humor (to name a few).
Lastly, as cliché as it may seem, there are too many teachers, staff, and other students to also name as great influences. I wish them all well.
Q: What suggestions or advice do you have for students who may want to pursue a career in government or politics?
I would say to first practice listening and critical thinking skills. No matter what level of elected office, you will be faced with multi-faceted issues for which people look to you to address. You need to be able to understand every aspect of the situation, learn the favorable and oppositional positions, and then be willing to take the action required. Being close-minded and unwilling to listen is not the recipe for public service.
Along those lines, you also need to be willing to work tirelessly for your constituents. There has to be an ability to not worry about what time or day you are called to act, speak with someone, or be part of an event. Once elected, you are expected to serve in that role 24/7, and it is your job to balance that demand with all other demands in your life.
Speaking of constituents, people in elected office must remember the oath they take is to serve the people by whom they were elected. I feel the allegiance of too many state and federal officials is to entities other than their constituents, and that has put current partisan politics in an ugly place. Personally, I enjoy the fact that Davenport has non-partisan positions, and as a group we can address policy for streets, sewers, parks, etc., without extra distraction.
Lastly, know that you don’t need to follow any set path to eventually become involved in government. I received a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in Biology, as well as a Master of Physical Therapy. I have worked in healthcare for 18 years, which is not the typical path of study you see from an elected official. Now studying Political Science, Government Affairs, or another similar area of study will definitely show a clearer path to service or work in the public sector, but it doesn’t have to be the only way. Find what you enjoy, and then pursue that path understanding you may change.
Q: Do you have any last words of encouragement for the Class of 2021?
Be respectful and kind to all of your classmates, teachers, and school staff. As teenagers, it can be difficult to recognize when we aren’t behaving in an exemplary manner, or it may seem unpopular to show a particular level of decorum.
However, I assure you that you will experience much greater satisfaction from taking the steps to uplift others, by acting out of respect and kindness, than whatever you may believe is the “cool”, or “edgy” demonstration (this is from personal experience).
Be inclusive of all students attending Assumption High School. While this doesn’t mean you will hang out with everyone, nor does it mean you will agree with everyone, it does mean that you should understand that you are all in school together for the same purpose. Those attending Assumption are there to learn in an extraordinary environment, regardless of whether you are able to acknowledge that fact, or not.
The comradery, from including your fellow students, will: help all navigate the experience, lend itself to rewarding memories, and create bonds to help you excel in the future. The Assumption Family is large, make sure to include yourself and your fellow students in the Family.
Lastly, be the reason Assumption is great! I feel if we all take personal responsibility for our actions, with the intention to uphold the mission of Assumption High School, then people will have a wonderful experience at Assumption. As a result, the Assumption Family will grow, it will be something about which people speak highly, and of which they will want to be a member. Go Knights!
Thanks, Ben. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule for the interview. Congratulations on all the great work you’re doing!