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Waterloo barber advocates for Iowa law allowing mobile barbers

William Burt of Waterloo speaks to a reporter from Iowa Public Radio in Burt's mobile barbershop at the Iowa State Capit
William Burt of Waterloo speaks to a reporter from Iowa Public Radio in Burt’s mobile barbershop at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. Burt is urging state lawmakers to allow mobile barbershops. (Erin Murphy/Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau)

By Erin Murphy, Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau

DES MOINES — William Burt’s dream is to take his mobile barbershop to underserved communities across the state.

He needs a change in state law to make that dream a reality.

Burt, who cuts hair at Gray’s Barber Shop in Waterloo, has created a mobile barbershop he calls Kut Kings. Burt’s ultimate goal is to make the service a nonprofit so he can provide haircuts to Iowans in need across the state: children from single-parent or low-income families, rural Iowans with no access to a barber, and veterans with disabilities.

“The whole vision is to help these underserved communities,” Burt said.

At present, mobile barbershops are not permitted by state law. A proposal to change that took its first legislative steps Monday at the Iowa Capitol, with lawmakers from both political parties enthusiastically in support.

A similar proposal was considered last year, but did not make it out of the Iowa Legislature.

“In the black community, the barbershop is a safe haven. It always has been,” said Rep. Ras Smith, D-Waterloo. “Hopefully, this becomes law this legislative session.”

Sen. Zach Whiting, R-Spirit Lake, called the proposal “a home run out of the park.”

Burt was a guest of Gov. Kim Reynolds for her Condition of the State address at the Iowa Capitol earlier this month. He is an advocate for two issues Reynolds is pushing: professional licensing reform, and the restoration of voting rights for felons who complete their sentences.

Burt served roughly three years in jail, he said, for domestic abuse and drug charges.

Since being released in 2008, Burt said he has earned a degree from the College of Hair Design, plus his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Northern Iowa.

Burt said he and his three siblings were raised by a single mother, and that he still sees families struggling the same way.

“I plan to bridge the gap for these guys,” Burt said.

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A representative for cosmetologists requested state lawmakers amend the proposal to also allow for mobile cosmetology. Lawmakers indicated they would be amenable to such an addition.

Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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