I grew up on a family farm in Greenfield, Iowa. There I learned self-reliance and hard work that farm kids often learn. Along with a strong work ethic, my parents also instilled in their children a very strong moral and ethical baseline. Two particular sayings from my childhood I remember are that “It takes a lifetime to build your reputation, and a moment to ruin it,” and “Ethics is doing the right thing when nobody is looking.” Those sayings shape my daily life, and I strive to live by those mantras.
My father served on the local school board, driving change that resulted in an elementary school library, a full time high school art teacher, a full time guidance counselor and a Talented and Gifted program in the mid 1980s. His desire to seek change through elected office, and the results he was able to achieve have always been a source of pride for me.
I was forged growing up during the Farm Crisis in the 1980s. My parents’ farm, along with countless others in Iowa, had to be sold to cover mounting debts against the backdrop of Reaganomics, drought, and double-digit interest rates. During this challenging time, my younger sister was diagnosed with autism. This provides me a unique, personal perspective into autism and special needs, and how often people with special needs fall through the cracks. Both the Farm Crisis and my sister’s autism instilled in me the need to not turn a blind eye to people with economic and personal challenges.
Through grants and student loans, I put myself through college, earning an Associate of Arts from Southwestern Community College and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Northern Iowa. I am part of the first generation in our family to graduate from college. We were always strongly encouraged by our parents to achieve these goals. Along with the value of public universities, I also place importance on the education I received in the community college system, which provided a quality, affordable baseline for my studies at Northern Iowa.
While at Northern Iowa, I met Denise, and we have been married for over 23 years. We live in Urbandale, have a 21 year old daughter Emma, a senior in college, and a 12 year old son Ben, who is in middle school. I have worked in Information Technology my entire career, rising from a front-line helpdesk call center technician to an IT Consultant, working on high profile projects for several of the largest companies in the Des Moines area. I know how to hit the ground running in any situation; and being able to think outside of the box to find solutions is a key trait for success as an IT professional. This will serve me well in the Iowa Senate.
On September 11, 2001, while the United States was stunned by terrorist attacks, Denise and I were at a neurology appointment, receiving her diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis. We have been fortunate that Denise’s MS has been largely contained through medication, self-care and mostly adequate insurance. The need for medical research for a cure, and the outrageous costs of the prescription drugs she requires are topics with a strong resonance for our family. I draw strength and inspiration from how my wife sees herself as a person living with MS, not a victim.
I am a person living with clinical depression. It is something I still battle, and I long fought my pride and the stigma of mental illness in keeping it an untreated secret. I now know I can do more by being open about my struggles and showing people it is nothing to be ashamed of. I lost a close friend to suicide, and I will do everything in my power to not allow that to happen to anyone else. My struggles with depression have made Iowa’s woeful lack of available services for mental health a very personal issue for me.
I believe my background as a lifelong, multi-generational Iowan, along with the life experience obtained through many personal struggles and challenges, give me a unique perspective to bring to the Iowa Senate. I am no longer willing to sit on the sidelines while true Iowa values are eroded by the special interests dominating the Republican-led Iowa Legislature. I am a new, bold voice, and I am ready to be heard.