CEDAR RAPIDS — Family and an unlivable wage are the two equal reasons a well-respected historian is resigning his post with The History Center.
Mark Stoffer Hunter, who has worked for the center in some capacity for nearly 20 years, submitted his resignation on April 2 effective April 30.
“You feel so good about what you are doing here, and then you get home and realize you’ve let down your kids and your family by doing what you love to do,” Stoffer Hunter told The Gazette on Wednesday.
He has three children — two 11-year-old twins and a 9-year-old — and he laments missing them growing up. He has been commuting to Cedar Rapids from Moline, Ill., for three years. In 2016, his family relocated when his wife, Jan Stoffer, left the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library for a job at the Butterworth Center and Deere-Wiman House in Moline.
Stoffer Hunter said problems compound in that he is not being paid what he believes he is worth or enough to allow him to continue the current situation, though he declined to publicly state his salary. He said resigning is not his preference and he has no ill will to The History Center.
The commute is about 90 miles each way. He estimates spending $150 to $200 a week on gas, and takes Highways 61 and 30 because his Dodge Caravan with 260,000 miles is no longer interstate-worthy, he said.
Stoffer Hunter said his resigning is a necessary “interruption” to his work at The History Center and hopes it raises awareness about his predicament. He said he’ll continue to be a member of the center, which he uses for research, and he is open to coming back to work at some point in the future, but it may be a while, he said.
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Stoffer Hunter said he feels like his work is valued in the community, and he hopes the community — Linn and Johnson counties — can come up with a creative solution to keep him here, and ideally find a suitable job in the Corridor for his wife. He said they are open to all options.
It is hard for two people in the museum field to raise a family together because wages are typically low, he said. At this point, the Quad Cities area is the only community willing to fairly compensate them, he said.
“My wife and I need to work in the same community if we are going to maintain a family,” he said.
He said he expects to maintain all of his contacts with the city of Cedar Rapids, Linn County, economic developers, developers, and print and broadcast media, and continue to be a resources for all things history-related. He said he has several jobs lined up in the Quad Cities area in addition to remote working opportunities in the Cedar Rapids area once he leaves the center.
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