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Iowa Politics Roundup: Branstad Picks Durham to Head Economic-Development Department PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 03 December 2010 13:24

Governor-elect Terry Branstad has picked Siouxland Chamber of Commerce President Debi Durham to be the new director of the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

As Branstad introduced her, the two of them began outlining how they plan to change the department into a public/private partnership and create the 200,000 new jobs in Iowa that Branstad promised on the campaign trail.

“That takes legislation,” Branstad said of the transformation to a public/private partnership. “We’re going to work from the present framework that exists, but we are going to envision where we want to go and we’re going to lay that out. We did some of that during the campaign, and we’re now going to move forward very aggressively on this even during the transition before we take office. But we will then need to work through the legislative process to get the changes made that we want to get made.”

Branstad said he’ll have Durham, 50, start immediately on the analysis of what stays and what goes in the department, although he wasn’t sure if that could be accomplished by January 14.

Durham praised the staff at the current Iowa Department of Economic Development and indicated that perhaps she wouldn’t entirely “clean house” or replace all of the staff once she’s the new director.

“I have worked with this team at the Department of Economic Development, and I know it is comprised of very dedicated individuals, and I look forward to joining them in their efforts as we move this department forward,” Durham said.

More than 82 percent of workers at the Iowa Department of Economic Development are considered “at will” and could be out of a job.

Branstad said Durham will work closely with Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Reynolds, who will be the chair of the new Commission for the Partnership for Economic Progress.

Durham stressed that she can’t do it alone. “Job creation was the cornerstone of their campaign, and I am charged with the task of initiating and preparing the framework for the new department, which will be called the Partnership for Economic Progress,” she said. “I think the key word in this new name is ‘partnership,’ because that really is what it’s about. Debi Durham cannot create 200,000 jobs.”

But Durham said in partnership with the economic-development professionals around the state and those in the education community, state universities, and the private sector, Iowa can create and retain jobs. She said the involvement of the private sector must go beyond membership on state boards. She also said that anything involving public funding will be transparent.

The Iowa Democratic Party was quick to jump on Durham’s comments that Branstad’s goal of creating 200,000 new jobs is a “stretch goal.”

“Iowans deserve an administration that will take job creation seriously instead of abandoning the promises they made on the campaign trail,” said Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky. “Unfortunately, less than a month after being elected, the Branstad/Reynolds administration has abandoned one of its key promises to Iowans.”

2010 Sees Record Number of Midterm Voters

The more than 1.1 million Iowans who voted in the November 2 election represented the highest number of total voters participating in a midterm election in state history, Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro said.

The turnout of 1,133,434 was 54 percent of the state’s 2.1 million active and inactive registered voters. While the percentage was not the highest because past elections had fewer registered voters, the number that turned out was the highest ever.

Voter turnout was announced at a meeting of the State Board of Canvass, which made official all results of the November 2 election except the governor’s race. (That will be canvassed by the General Assembly on January 10. Unofficial results show that Republican Branstad defeated Democrat Chet Culver 52.2 to 42.8 percent.)

Mauro chaired the meeting, certifying results of the election in which he lost his job to Republican Matt Schultz.

Mauro, a former Polk County auditor, has worked in government overseeing elections for 28 years. He told that he has not yet made a decision about his future, despite getting a call from Governor-elect Branstad shortly after the election. He said he hasn’t been formally offered a job from Branstad yet.