About Me

The Short Version

I live in Iowa City with my wife Jody, my daughter Katy, and my son Jack. I teach journalism, mass media studies, and communication at Coe College. Jody is a Family Medicine physician. Our kids are ICCSD students. Before spending several years as a stay-at-home dad and then a graduate student at the University of Iowa, I spent over a decade in broadcast journalism, working in both radio and television.

Election Night 2017, after Mazhir Salih became the first Sudanese-American immigrant to win elected office in the United States.

Since moving to Iowa City in 2010, I have filled many roles – student, professor, husband, dad, little league coach, primary childcare provider, and community activist. From serving on the leadership of UE Local 896 COGS (the union that represents graduate students at the University of Iowa) to managing the campaigns of Iowa City Councilwoman Mazahir Salih, Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter, and city council candidate Megan Alter, to helping the campaign of North Liberty City Councilwoman Raquishia Harrington, I’ve rolled up my sleeves to advance progressive causes and local leaders. I have fought against structural racism and misogyny by volunteering to help whenever and wherever I could. I have also come together with many others to support numerous local efforts to help make our community more equitable. Most recently I’ve been part of the fight against predatory out-of-state investors gobbling up Iowa mobile home courts and jacking up rents and fees to turn affordable housing into their own personal piggy banks.

As an educator and a local activist, my life’s passion is to lift others up and stand next to them as they face and overcome obstacles to their success. This is the same energy I will bring with me to the Iowa City Council.

The Longer Version

Growing Up and the First Career in Radio and TV

I know when I’m voting for someone, I like to know a bit more about where they come from, what experience they bring with them, and what things about themselves they think are most important. As a wise person once said: if you want to know what is important to a person, don’t ask them. Watch how they choose to spend their time.

I grew up in rural Clinton County, Iowa, attending Northeast Community Schools from 1st through 12th grades. After graduating high school, I went to Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. After college, I got my start in journalism as a reporter at a group of radio stations in Waterloo. Next was a job as a news director for radio stations in Spencer, Iowa, and then in Galesburg, Illinois. After Jody and I got married, we moved to Mason City, Iowa for her residency program, and I made the switch from local radio news to local television news. That’s also when I started a part-time Master’s program in Communication Education through the University of Northern Iowa.

Jody’s practice after residency took us to Hayward, Wisconsin. That’s where we started our family and my main job became stay-at-home dad, although I did some part-time work out of home as an occasional freelancer for TV stations in Duluth and some adjunct teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. It was that adjunct work that cemented my conviction that I wanted to bring together my love of journalism with my love of teaching – and teach journalism.

To Iowa City and a Second Career in Education

It was that desire – along with a wish to be closer to family and to have our kids enjoy the same benefits we had gotten from an Iowa public school education – that brought us to Iowa City when I started my doctorate work in Journalism and Mass Communication as a Presidential Fellow at the University of Iowa. I finished in 2016, and got a job first as an adjunct and later as a visiting associate professor at Coe College, where I still teach a variety of classes in the Communication Department, including journalism and multimedia journalism as well as other courses in digital media production, mass communication, rhetorical theory and critical cultural theory. As I was finishing my PhD and then when working as a professor, I also co-authored several editions of a mass communications textbook, Media Essentials.

Getting Active in Iowa City

Shortly after starting grad school in 2010, a friend got me involved with COGS UE Local 896, the union that represents graduate students at the University of Iowa. No longer working as a journalist under contracts that forbid personal involvement in issues and politics, I was free to become a progressive, pro-labor, pro-LGBTQ+, anti-racist activist. In the years ahead I would get involved with multiple local issues and elections, as well as connecting with my fellow progressive and labor Democratic activists throughout Iowa. And of course, part of that experience has been to work as campaign manager for Iowa City Council member Mazahir Salih in 2017, campaign manager for Johnson County Supervisor Royceann Porter in 2018, campaign committee volunteer for North Liberty City Council member RaQuishia Harrington in 2019, and campaign manager for Megan Alter’s first run for Iowa City Council in 2019.

My activism has also meant helping out causes and working on issues as well as helping candidates, sometimes as a leader and sometimes by showing up for others. Over the years I have joined my voice with those in meetings, parades, and demonstrations for increasing the minimum wage, ending gun violence, protecting the bargaining rights of teachers and other working Iowans, promoting and protecting LGBTQ+ equality, gender equality, opposing Trump’s Muslim Ban, and speaking out that Black Lives Matter.

My support for affordable housing took a more personal turn two years ago, when an out-of-state vulture capitalist investor bought up the mobile home court where my mom lives, and celebrated their purchase by taping a note to residents’ doors that said rent was going up nearly 60% in a couple months. Since then I have worked closely with my mom, Candi Evans, other residents in her neighborhood, and numerous community allies to organize and mobilize support for these residents and others like them across the state, a fight that continues.

Other Political Issues

When we came back to Iowa in 2010 it was in the wake of the historic 2009 Varnum Iowa Supreme Court decision that made Iowa the third state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. It was also in the middle of the Republican backlash to that decision and a ramping up of their efforts to take away that newly won equality for the LGBTQ+ community. That was one of many issues that motivated me to also start working to help elect folks at all levels who would fight back.

What started as knocking doors for Obama in 2012 soon became a series of volunteer efforts supporting candidates running for office from the Iowa House to the US President, two years on the Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee, ongoing involvement with the Iowa 2nd District Democrats, and a role as the secretary of the Johnson County Democratic Party. I have also chaired my precinct caucus here in Iowa City.

While it is true that city council races are non-partisan, it is also true that the partisan politics at the state level has a profound effect on what cities can – and can’t – do for their residents. As a council member not only will I remain keenly aware of this reality, but I already have connections in cities around the state to build into mutually beneficial collaborations to protect the ability of cities to look after their residents.

The Best Job of Them All

While I loved being a journalist, hit my professional stride being an educator, and feed my soul and sense of justice with volunteer work as an activist, my favorite thing in the world is my family. I was blessed to be able to stay home with my kids when they were infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers as my wife pursued her demanding career as a Family Medicine doctor. When we moved to Iowa City and after the kids started school I was a regular volunteer at Lucas Elementary, helping in their classrooms and reading books during story time.

I have been a proud gymnastics dad since taking Katy to her first parent/child gymnastics classes when she was four, and have had the honor of coaching or assistant coaching Jack’s little league baseball teams for the past few years, except of course when the season was canceled in the summer of 2020.

And of course, an important part of our family life is working together to make our world a more fair, equitable, and just place to live. Jack and Katy’s first experience knocking doors came in 2012 when they went out with me to help re-elect President Obama, riding along in the little red wagon as we went from door to door in our neighborhood. Since then, the kids have helped me knock many doors, put up yard signs, and join in demonstrations and rallies. Our family has long stood together to protect the environment, protect LGBTQ+ rights, protect women’s rights, protect public education, and protect the equality of all people regardless of their skin color or religion. Living these values in our community defines me and my family. These are the values I will bring with me as my moral and ethical compass as a member of the city council.