116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker will not seek re-election next year after serving six years on the board, instead taking what he calls a “leap of faith” into new endeavors that include helping progressive candidates get elected.
Walker, 33, the board’s current chair, was first elected in 2016, the same year voters upset over six-figure supervisor salaries decreased the number of supervisors from five to three. He was then reelected in 2018. His seat will be up for election in 2022 with the term ending in January 2023.
“Once I made the decision in my heart that I wasn’t going to seek re-election, it made sense for me to give people the runway to make a decision to run for office,” said Walker, who made the announcement Wednesday. “If anyone wants to make that decision, it gives them more opportunity to build a campaign.”
The Linn County Board of Supervisors now consists of Walker and Ben Rogers, both Democrats, and Louis Zumbach, a Republican. They each earn $119,198 a year. Walker said he is “absolutely” finishing his current term and has no intention of running for another elected office.
“This has been the best job I’ve ever had and the most rewarding, but it’s also been one of the most mentally taxing jobs I’ve ever had,” Walker said. “A big part of this life decision for me is taking care of my own mental health and opening myself up for new opportunities.”
Walker represents the county’s 1at District, which includes the majority of Cedar Rapids, including downtown and the south side of the city.
Rogers said Walker is an “exceptional leader” who has helped transform the organization. Rogers, also a Democrat, has served on the board since 2008.
“Stacey is one of the most intelligent, hardworking, driven and compassionate people I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend,” Rogers said. “He changed my life and I will be forever grateful that I served with someone who has the potential to change the world.”
The recently elected Zumbach said that although they’ve worked together for less than a year so far, he wishes Walker the best in his next endeavors.
“It’s always been a pleasure working with him,” Zumbach said. “We don’t agree with everything, obviously, but personality wise, we get along just fine.”
A native of Cedar Rapids, Walker graduated from Washington High School and went on to study political science at the University of Iowa, graduating in 2010. After college, he helped launch an education-based nonprofit and worked in other roles while in Washington, D.C.
Upon his return to Iowa, Walker worked as chief of staff for Patel Endeavors and Hawkeye Hotels before being elected to the board, becoming the first African-American supervisor to hold the position.
During his time on the board so far, Walker has played large roles in establishing the Safe, Equitable and Thriving Communities grant program, the county’s criminal records expungement clinic and establishing the county’s Office of Sustainability.
As for what’s next, Walker said continuing to be a political consultant may be the next full-time step. Walker, through his consulting firm Sage Strategies, which was formed in March, has been working on Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate Amara Andrews’ campaign.
“That’s what is scary about this. I know I’ll never be able to get away from public service and I know I’ll spend a lot of time helping progressive candidates around the country win elected office, but there are honestly no concrete plans,” Walker said. “This is really a leap of faith.”
Earlier this month, the Andrews campaign declined to share its campaign contributions earlier than legally required on Oct. 28, when financial disclosures on donations and expenditures are due to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board. Walker also declined to say what the report will show when it’s made public next week about the extent of his financial relationship with the campaign.
“I think it’s been clear from the get-go that I’ve been heavily invested in helping Amara and other candidates of color win their elections,” Walker said. “I’ve never made that a secret. I’m quite positive the other candidates and this community know that. They know who I’m rooting for and who I’m helping out.”
Walker said he would like to see a woman or person of color take over his seat on the county board when his term expires.
“I know there are several talented individuals of good will out there who will be looking to run, but it would be my hope to support a woman or person of color,” he said.
Linn County Democrat Chair Bret Nilles said he suspects there will be a handful of people interested in Walker’s seat. “At this point, we have people who are interested but nobody wants their name out there yet,” Nilles said. “We feel pretty good about that seat. There are a lot of good Democrats in that district.”
Walker said before this term is up, he has a list of items he wants to accomplish — the biggest being forming a partnership with colleges, including Kirkwood Community College, to help marginalized communities more easily access higher education. He also said he wants to make sure the county’s expungement clinic is “institutionalized” to become a lasting program, and ensure the county remains a key player in thinking about issues involving poverty, equity and youth violence with the SET Task Force.
Walker said he initially came to office believing he was going to spend his entire career working his way up and through different levels of government.
“I got good advice from Ron Corbett,” Walker said of the former Cedar Rapids mayor. “He said, ‘It’s not a bad thing to have political ambition if you’re learning along the way and helping people.’”
But now, Walker said he simply wants to help other people become elected.
“Things got pretty hairy for me during the Black Lives Matter summer with threats and having close encounters with people visibly armed,” Walker said. “But I’ve never received more hate mail or had my life threatened more than when I took a strong stance on mask mandates and vaccinations. … We need to be thoughtful as a people about how to go about our civic discourse. My deepest fear is that good people will stop running and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
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