Hail to Iowa’s Chief
Governor Branstad is Iowa’s 39th and 42nd governor, and this week his governorship reached drinking age, surpassing 21 years in his two stints. An ambitious pursuer of economic development, his decisions have played a part in the shrinking of Iowa’s rural population as farms sell out and consolidate. He presided over Iowa’s 1980s farm crisis and over instances of mass layoffs, strikes, school closings and more.
He has steered state budgets to address the priorities of the business communities, which provide the tax base for the rest of the local economies, and has worked to keep costs down in other areas.
Despite Iowa’s landmark rulings to legalize same-sex marriage, Branstad remains opposed to it, and carries other socially conservative views. Monday, he celebrated at a Capitol open house then donned his finery for a fete in his honor at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
The next longest-serving governor in American history was George Clinton from New York. Clinton was a general in the Revolutionary War and a founding father who sought more than the governorship. He got it as both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison chose Clinton as vice president.
Branstad says he has never had aspirations beyond the Iowa Capitol. Growing up in Winnebago County, the road to Des Moines seemed enough of a leap.
At the time he was elected for the first time in 1982, Branstad was 36, the youngest governor at the time. It was before Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was born. Landing a massive Facebook data center in Altoona this year is just the kind of economic development achievement at which the governor seems to excel.
The Huffington Post described Branstad as a “graying, little man who relies on Midwestern stick-to-itiveness rather than personal flair.” Through most of Iowa, we do put more emphasis on things more lasting than fashion and style. Those of us from the newsroom who have seen the governor in person, acknowledge he is not a tall man. But he has a presence that commands a room.
Monday marked Branstad’s 7,642nd day of service as governor. He signs seemingly endless proclamations on everything from motorcycles to college applications. He has long made an effort as a defender and cheerleader for one of Iowa’s claims to fame, our early presidential caucuses. Many states seek to jump in front of us. Others say it should be some kind of lottery or square dance in which we change from term to term, giving others equal time in the front of the line. Governor Branstad has held the line to keep Iowa in front.