Government

Iowa's first female lieutenant governor, Jo Ann Zimmerman, dies

82-year-old was fearless, her daughter says

Jo Ann Zimmerman
Jo Ann Zimmerman

DES MOINES — Iowa’s first female lieutenant governor, Jo Ann Zimmerman, has died. She was 82.

Zimmerman’s daughter Beth Boland said Wednesday that her mother died Tuesday night at a hospice in Des Moines, surrounded by her family.

Boland said her mother died of complications from pulmonary fibrosis, which had been diagnosed seven or eight years ago.

Her mother was fearless, she said. “When she saw an injustice or something that she didn’t think was fair, she went about to fix it.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds ordered flags at state facilities to be flown at half-staff Thursday and Friday in Zimmerman’s honor.

“As a former lieutenant governor. I appreciate the role very much,” Reynolds said.

As Iowa’s first female lieutenant governor, Reynolds said, Zimmerman “was breaking ground from that perspective. I appreciate her role in serving in that capacity and giving back to a state that she loved and cared for very much.”

As lieutenant governor, Zimmerman served as president of the Iowa Senate, the first woman to serve in that role.

A native of Iowa Falls, she also was elected to the Iowa House in 1982.

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She was elected lieutenant governor as a Democrat in 1986 and served alongside the Republican governor, Terry Branstad.

She was defeated by Republican Joy Corning in 1990. Before the 1990 state election, the Iowa governor and the lieutenant governor ran separately.

In 1992, Zimmerman helped found the Democratic Activist Women’s Network, or DAWN, to support female candidates.

Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, said Zimmerman “will rightfully be remembered as a historic Iowa leader.”

“She led the way for women and girls in every corner of the state, showing that they, too, can hold high office in this state,” he said.

Beyond her elected position, he said, Zimmerman “worked to make sure the doors she opened stayed that way for those who followed her.

“She remained a tremendous leader after she left office by creating DAWN’s List and working to get other women elected to positions of leadership up-and-down the ticket in communities across Iowa.

“Our great state is better for her leadership and advocacy.”

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