Knoxville — He's thinner. His speech is still slightly slurred. He's slowed down a little bit, but Knoxville Mayor Don Zoutte said this afternoon that he, and the town, are ready to come back, stronger than before.
Zoutte went into the Iowa CIty VA hospital Aug. 12 to have a cancerous kidney removed. He does not remember what happened the two weeks after that. His other kidney failed, and he was hospitalized at the VA and the University of Iowa hospitals for several weeks.
He has since come home to finish his recovery. While he is not yet 100 percent, he is improving, and intends to return to his seat at Monday's regular Knoxville City Council meeting. He has missed the past two meetings, due to his health issues. They are the only absences in his record as mayor.
Seated on an adjustable bed in his living room, wearing a t-shirt saluting his branch of service, the United States Air Force, Zoutte shared some details about his ordeal. He said there were times in Iowa City when he was ready to die, and says he asked the Lord to take him.
The problem is, the Lord was not ready for him to go yet, Zoutte added.
Zoutte has come back because he believes there is more for him to do. With the determination, seen many times in his eyes over the years, Zoutte said, "Come hell or high water, we're coming back."
He was speaking not only of himself, but Knoxville as well. The conversation had been but a few minutes old before the mayor was already discussing his goal to organize a multi-day festival in Knoxville, to promote the town. He was unable to attend the street party last week, but he was very proud of the work done by the Chamber of Commerce to make it happen, and proud of the people for representing the town so well.
The multi-day festival is just one of the things he would like to pursue when he is able.
For now, Zoutte just wanted to thank all of those who have kept him in their prayers and taken the time to show they care. He misses the council, City Hall employees and everyone else he regularly interacted with prior to his medical problems. He is eager to return, to lead his hometown into the future.
"You can't ask for a better town," Zoutte said.