DES MOINES — William Burt said his heart was racing, and that he was holding back tears of joy.
Burt, a Waterloo man who became the chief advocate and face of a legislative movement, watched Tuesday as Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law the legalization of mobile barbershops in Iowa.
Burt cuts hair at Gray’s Barber Shop in Waterloo, and he created a mobile barbershop he calls Kut Kings. His goal is to make the service a nonprofit so he can provide haircuts to Iowans in need across the state.
Reynolds invited Burt to participate in Tuesday’s bill-signing ceremony at the Iowa Capitol. With his mobile barbershop in the background, Burt stood next to Reynolds as she signed the bill and handed him the first pen she used.
“When I started this mission, I didn’t see myself being the voice that everyone is telling me that I am. I’m still having a hard time believing that I’m the voice for the state or for this mission,” Burt said.
“But it’s been wonderful leading the mission. So I’m saying feed me to the wolves, and I’ll lead the pack. I feel good about that, not having the opportunity and then having to fight for it and we’re here today.”
Reynolds praised Burt for his determination and passion, and for making the most of a second chance in life.
Burt served roughly three years in jail, he said, for domestic abuse and drug charges. Since being released in 2008, he has earned a degree from the College of Hair Design, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Northern Iowa.
“He had a really good idea to serve his community to bring a mobile barbershop to underserved people in the city of Waterloo, children from low-income households, veterans with disabilities, or really anyone without access to a barber,” Reynolds said.
“William’s idea had a significant hurdle, and that was that Iowa law didn’t allow mobile barbering. So the law needed to be changed, and today we’re making that change,” she continued.
“Those of us who work in the Capitol got to know William as he’s been knocking on doors, and he’s been working on this issue for over a year now. William’s story is one of a young man who took his second chance to make a difference, both for himself and for his community.”
State Rep. Ras Smith — a Democrat from Waterloo, a friend of Burt’s and the legislation’s author — praised Burt for his persistence in advocating for the law change.
“It’s a beacon for more than just this man,” Smith said of Burt. “It’s like, if you try hard, if you work through no matter what barriers are put in front of you, you still can achieve something that’s great.”
The legislation, Senate File 155, goes into effect immediately.
Moments after the bill was signed into law, Burt planned gave a haircut to Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, another lawmaker who supported the bill, in his mobile barbershop on the Capitol grounds.
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