Government

Ann Poe's departure from Hawkeye Downs 'amicable'

Cedar Rapids City Council member was racing venue's executive director

Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart (left) talks with City Council member Ann Poe before a Dec. 18, 2018, Cedar Rapids City Council meeting at City Hall in Cedar Rapids. Poe, who is running for re-election to an at-large seat on the council, has left her job as executive director of Hawkeye Downs. (The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Mayor Brad Hart (left) talks with City Council member Ann Poe before a Dec. 18, 2018, Cedar Rapids City Council meeting at City Hall in Cedar Rapids. Poe, who is running for re-election to an at-large seat on the council, has left her job as executive director of Hawkeye Downs. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids venue best known for car racing, Hawkeye Downs, has parted ways with its executive director of two-and-a-half years, Ann Poe, who is also a member of the Cedar Rapids City Council.

Poe, 67, who is running for re-election in November in a three-way race for two at-large council seats, said she was ready to move on, and for logistical purposes she was technically laid off approximately two weeks ago.

“I felt I’d done everything I could do for them, and it was time for me to move on,” Poe told The Gazette.

Hawkeye Downs did not announce her departure, and it only came to light after a Gazette report this week about Poe’s re-election incorrectly identified her as still the executive director.

The nonprofit organization, which receives $150,000 a year in public hotel-motel tax money, has had financial challenges for years.

In its 2017 990 financial disclosure for the Internal Revenue Service, the All Iowa Agricultural Assocation, which is the legal name for Hawkeye Downs, ended the year with a negative $370,726 in fund balances and negative $169,275 after totaling revenue and expenses. The annual expense budget was $631,576 that year.

More recent figures were not made available, but as of April 2019, Hawkeye Downs had cleared its bills, said Julie Kraft, chairwoman of the board overseeing Hawkeye Downs.

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While bills have piled back up, the organization is working on repayment plans, has events booked through April and is not at risk of folding, she said.

“It is business as usual,” Kraft said. “I am not concerned.”

Kraft described Poe’s departure as “amicable” and said her understanding was Poe wanted to focus more on her role on City Council and her campaign.

She said the timing — at the conclusion of race season — was right to make the transition.

She said the organization has not decided whether to fill Poe’s former position and will go without an executive director for the time being.

The organization has four staff members, according to its website.

The Hawkeye Downs application for hotel-motel tax revenue estimates the organization has a $7 million annual economic impact from visitor spending, a nearly $3 million impact in the workforce earnings and that visitors to the venue support 498 jobs.

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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