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Jeff Capps leaves Habitat for Humanity to take on new role at Coralville museum

New director has far-reaching plans for Iowa Children's Museum

Jeff Capps stands in a blue-themed play room Dec. 19 at the Iowa Children’s Museum in Coralville. Capps, who has been executive director at Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade, will take over as executive director of the museum later this month. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Jeff Capps stands in a blue-themed play room Dec. 19 at the Iowa Children’s Museum in Coralville. Capps, who has been executive director at Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade, will take over as executive director of the museum later this month. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CORALVILLE — Jeff Capps always felt it would take an extraordinary job opportunity for him to leave his position with Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity, where he’s been executive director for more than a decade.

The 42-year-old found just that when Deb Dunkhase, executive director of the Iowa Children’s Museum, announced plans to retire effective this month.

“I knew it would take something special to lure me away from doing housing in Cedar Rapids. I enjoy it so much,” Capps said. “It is literally the first thing I’ve applied for in 10 years,” he said of the executive director position.

The Iowa Children’s Museum, founded in 1996, announced in a December news release that Capps would succeed Dunkhase, who is retiring after 21 years with the museum.

“We had an extraordinary number of applicants for the executive director position,” Darcie Yamada, museum board president, said in the release. “And the quality of applicants was overwhelming. What set Jeff apart was his experience in running an organization by focusing on bringing the community together. That, on top of his rich and diverse talents, gives us excitement at his choosing to join our already-thriving museum.”

Capps, who spent a good portion of his childhood in Memphis, Tenn., went to the University of Missouri at Columbia. In 2008, shortly after floodwater devastated portions of the community, Capps became executive director of Cedar Valley Habitat for Humanity.

Capps said he is quite familiar with the children’s museum thanks to his two daughters, who are 7 and 10.

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“Having young kids who grew up at the museum, more or less, it kind of gave me an affinity for that place,” he said.

Capps will take on the position full time later this month. As he transitions into the role, he said one of his early goals is to build on outreach efforts in the community.

“When you’ve got an asset like that in the children’s museum, it’s a draw. It’s something that you don’t want to confine to a space. The space is critically important and special and always will be, but what can we do to take that out into the community?” Capps said.

Dunkhase said Capps is a great fit for the job.

“For the past 20 years, The Iowa Children’s Museum has been deeply committed to the power of play and to making exceptional play-to-learn experiences accessible to all children and their families. I’m confident that Jeff possesses this same commitment and will be a tireless advocate for the needs of children,” Dunkhase said in the news release.

• Comments: (319) 398-8309; mitchell.schmidt@thegazette.com

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