Posts Tagged: Chuck Gipp

Electing for Change: Chuck Gipp

electing_chuckgippChuck Gipp

It makes sense that current Iowa DNR director Chuck Gipp thought he “knew a lot of people” when, in 1990, he declared his candidacy for the District 16 seat in the Iowa House of Representatives.

He was, after all, a Decorah native, a Luther College graduate, an established Winneshiek County dairy farmer, and the chair of the county’s solid waste agency.

But, more than 25 years later, Gipp still vividly recalls the lesson he learned while sitting at his kitchen table, strategizing his inaugural campaign with a political mentor.

“He asked me to take out my local phone book and start reading the names,” he recalls. “Then he said that if I could identify every 10th name, I knew a lot of people…I didn’t get any further than the B’s before I realized I really didn’t know that many people at all.”

Today, Gipp knows considerably more people in Decorah and throughout Iowa. After winning that first campaign, he continued on to claim victory in his next eight. Gipp served a total of 18 years in the Iowa House – including four as majority leader – before deciding not to seek reelection in 2008.

Composed of 100 members, the Iowa House – the “lower house” of the Iowa General Assembly, which also includes the 50-member Iowa Senate – debates and votes on legislation introduced by its members or submitted by the governor, and builds the state’s budget. Members also serve on several standing committees. (Gipp’s top choice of committee assignment when he was first elected? Environmental protection.)

“You must stay connected to your constituents,” he says of his recipe for success. “And part of that is explaining your decision-making process to the people you represent – they still may not always agree with your decisions, but, in my experience, they almost always respect that you thought through the possible choices.”

electingforchange_logoIt was a KOEL radio report about potentially carcinogenic industrial waste being shipped to a Northeast Iowa landfill that set his political career in motion back in 1980.

“The landfill turned out to be the (then privately owned) Winneshiek County landfill, which was just a mile from our farm,” recalls Gipp, who, at that time, was a young farmer raising two small kids, Barrett and Alison, with his wife, Ranae. “Both Ranae and I became very concerned when we heard that news, and we realized that if we didn’t get involved, probably no one else would.”

While leading his neighbors in a successful fight to better monitor the landfill, Gipp assumed chairmanship of the county’s solid waste agency. Soon state lawmakers were urging him to run for office. “If you think you can do the job, and do it well, then you owe it to yourself and your community to step up,” he says of answering that call again and again over the next 18 years.

In 2008, Gipp answered the call (literally) once again when Bill Northey, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, phoned to see if he might be interested in directing the state’s Division of Soil Conservation. He held that position for three years before Governor Terry Branstad appointed him deputy director of the Iowa DNR (in 2011) and then director of the 1,100-employee agency the following year. The agency oversees the state’s treasured natural resources ­– including its eight fish hatcheries and 87 state parks – and is charged with the sometimes difficult work of enforcing environmental regulations created by lawmakers.

“If you inform people what the rules are ahead of time, you can often avoid environmental damage,” says Gipp. “We work hard to let people know what their responsibilities are and proactively work with them to meet them.”

With his 69th birthday on the horizon, this dedicated public servant has no plans to discontinue that work anytime soon.

“I truly enjoy the people I work with and the work I do,” says Gipp, who continues to live in Decorah and commute weekly between his hometown and Des Moines. “The DNR touches more people’s lives than almost any other state agency, and it’s rewarding to be a part of that.”

Read the Fall 2016 Inspire(d) Online!

Fall is one of our most favorite times of the year – glorious weather, beautiful leaves, sweaters, hot chocolate, marching bands…we could go on and on! So we’re super excited to bring you the new Fall 2016 Inspire(d) Magazine! Online today, and out on stands starting this weekend!

Here’s what you’ll get to read:

Be an Acorn! • Foster Care in Iowa • Local Politicians Making Their Worlds Better: John Beard, Chuck Gipp, Kurt Friese Alicia Leinberger, and Sarah Schroeder • Q&A with Rosanne Cash • Barn Sales • Fall Art Trips in the Driftless • Make It: Paper Plants • Probit: Phyllis Green • And more! (Click above to read it full-screen, and just hit esc when you want to exit )

Fall 2016 Editor’s Letter:

Aryn_BioFamilyPhoto_Fall16Right now, it’s 5:24 in the morning. I’m dreadfully behind on my magazine deadline, even though this is the third time this week I’ve been up all night – once for flooding, though. Benji’s been on the road for seven weeks living out one of his long-time dreams (living out dreams is something we highly encourage around here), and tomorrow, Roxie and I go to pick him up! Exciting!

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been a lot of work, these past seven weeks, but, man, as I’m reaching all sort of finish lines here tonight, I’m feeling like a mother bleeping champion! Seriously, you might Fall_16_Covereven be able to hear me roar.

And it makes me think about you and me and us, and how we really can do anything we put our minds to.

Somehow, we started this magazine nine years ago in October. It’s far from being “to the nines” (i.e. perfect), but it’s been a whole lot of fun and I truly believe we’ve changed our world – at least a little bit – for the better.

It brings it all around to our cover this magazine: “Be an acorn.” I’ve said this ever since my Ralph Waldo Emerson kick in college. His quote is, “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” Boom. That sums up everything behind our mission for Inspire(d) – small changes can lead to big world changes. Be an acorn, man!

There are lots of acorns in this issue.

Folks changing the world through politics, like John Beard, Chuck Gipp, Kurt Friese Alicia Leinberger, and Sarah Schroeder (pg. 14).

Others trying to help, care for, and inspire some of the nearly 6,000 kids in foster care here in Iowa (pg. 34).

Others still, living out their dreams of being artists and being successful – you can visit artists all around the region in the fall during studio art tours or at cool art festivals and more (pg. 52).

There’s also a lot of fun in this issue (and in the region in the fall): Barn Sales (pg. 26), outdoor dining, (pg. 9), and great music and performances all over the Driftless.

Speaking of performances, make sure you check out Rosanne Cash’s performance at Luther College November 12, and before you go, check out my interview with the prolific singer/songwriter. I had a blast chatting with her on the phone, even though I always get so nervous about stuff like that!

The top of my fun list always includes a road trip too – we’ve gotten pretty good at packing the car and getting ready, so don’t miss our little essentials guide at the end of the mag (pg. 64). I’m hoping to put that list to good use, because, seriously, as I was putting this magazine together and I was all, “I want to go to Mineral Point! I want to go to Soldiers Grove! I want to go to see Rosanne Cash! I want…”

RoxiePreschoolPicApparently, there are a bunch of things I want to do this fall. We hope you feel the same way!

Looking forward,

Aryn Henning Nichols


Roxie started pre-school this fall! Ahh! How is that possible. We thought you, dear readers, might want to know. ‘Cause, you know…you’re family! Thanks for sticking with us for NINE years! Whew! XOXO