It’s been more than a year since Chuck Gipp retired from his post as director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. But Gov. Kim Reynolds has yet to name a permanent replacement. The DNR’s Environmental Services Division and Water Quality Bureau also are headed by interim leaders.
The Gazette’s Erin Jordan sought an explanation from Reynolds’ office, but received no response. A DNR spokesman said the state agency in charge of enforcing Iowa’s environmental laws and managing its outdoor recreation areas has been operating well under Acting Director Bruce Trautman.
If that’s the case, why didn’t the governor simply nominate Trautman to be the agency’s permanent director during the legislative session that ended last month?
It’s the wrong time for the DNR to be without strong leadership. Iowa’s water quality problems and other environmental concerns demand more than status quo caretaking from an agency with its top offices in limbo. Iowans deserve to know what direction Reynolds plans to take Iowa’s environmental policies and who she wants to carry out her vision.
Leaving these positions vacant leads us to conclude that managing and protecting Iowa’s natural resources are not high on Reynolds’ priority list. It’s tough to imagine the governor would, for instance, leave an open seat at the top of Iowa’s Economic Development Authority for a full year.
We’re left with little more than speculation as to Reynolds plans and why she would let a legislative session pass by without nominating a DNR director. Meanwhile, an agency that faces numerous challenges amid funding reductions in recent years operates under a cloud of uncertainty.
It’s been noted that President Donald Trump’s administration is rife with acting directors and interim leaders amid an ever-changing cast of cabinet secretaries and presidential appointees. While Reynolds’ personnel woes don’t rise to that level, we hardly think the tumultuous governing style of the president is an executive branch management style worth emulating here in Iowa.
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Reynolds should elevate Trautman or pick a new director as soon as possible, with hopes of also moving quickly to fill other vacant posts within the agency. Iowa’s environment, state parks and wildlife habitats should be a priority of the Reynolds administration. Just acting as if they are is not enough.
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