Modern Council Bluffs can trace much of its can-do attitude to the longest-serving mayor of a major Iowa city, the indefatigable Tom Hanafan.
But for the first time since he took office in 1988, Hanafan's name was off Tuesday's mayoral ballot. That change calls for a tip of the cap to a longtime partner for regional economic growth.
Hanafan fought hard for developments to help the Bluffs stand apart from big brother Omaha — to give his city a separate identity while still leveraging the benefits of its larger neighbor.
From the opening of the Google data center to the riverfront development of casino hotels and parks and the now-troubled-but-once-revolutionary Mid-America Center, Hanafan led.
Council Bluffs, under his leadership, worked to revive the city's front porches, from the exits along Interstates 80 and 29 to the bridge from downtown Omaha across town.
The city also emphasized reviving a re-envisioned historic downtown Council Bluffs that the nation got to see during the most recent presidential campaign and locals see now at night.
Omaha complicated what had been a slam-dunk win for Hanafan with the Mid-America Center when it built CenturyLink Omaha to compete, but Hanafan should take credit for early success that put additional pressure on Omaha elders to replace an aging Civic Auditorium.
Hanafan's successor will inherit financial challenges, starting with a publicly financed arena that could leave taxpayers on the hook as the region's arena-building binge continues. There are challenges beyond the arena, too, including beefing up the city's ability to compete for retail dollars.
But Hanafan's successor also inherits a Council Bluffs that knows it can overcome challenges because he showed them his way how — with moxie, determination and the public will to compete. The Bluffs has grown by about 8,000 people since he took office, thanks in part to that vibe.
Over the years, the city he led has helped the Bluffs overcome tornadoes, windstorms, hailstorms and the unimaginable public works challenge of the Missouri River flooding of 2011.
His occasional critics, including this newspaper's editorial page, point to the negative impacts of gambling on our region and to his embrace of it. But the Bluffs under Hanafan has been much more than casinos.
It is a place that believes it can be more.