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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

Hubbell sees politics getting in the way of getting things done

Jul 24, 2017

By James Q. Lynch, The Gazette


CORALVILLE — In today’s environment, being a successful businessman with no experience in elected office may not seem like the best resume for a candidate.

However, Fred Hubbell, the retired CEO of Younkers and Equitable Life Insurance Co. of Iowa, thinks being a non-politician can be an asset in his bid to be governor of Iowa.

“Look at the mess we’re in whether at the state or national level. Politics are a mess and politicians are not getting things done,” Hubbell said Thursday during a stop at the Kirkwood Regional Center in Coralville.

The state doesn’t necessarily need someone from the Donald Trump mold, he said, “but someone with experience running organizations,” which he’s done as interim head of the Department of Economic Development, chairman of the Iowa Power Fund and in private business.

“We need people who don’t show up at their job as governor with a big D or big R on their head, but an Iowan on their head and they focus on how to make the state better for all Iowans,” Hubbell said after meeting with 20-plus people as part of a series of “workshops” Hubbell is having with Iowans as he rolls out his campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Later, he toured the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 125 training facility in Cedar Rapids and he was scheduled for visits in Dubuque and Cedar Falls later in the day.

Hubbell, 66, of Des Moines, who met with University of Iowa President Bruce Harreld before the meeting in Coralville, heard from a recent UI graduate, an Iowa City high school teacher and city council member, an early childhood educator, a former lobbyist for community colleges and legislators. They told him underfunding of education at all levels is making it difficult to meet the needs of Iowa business and industry to fill skilled labor positions, retain young Iowans and increases dependence on low-wage jobs.

The answer is not all about money, Hubbell said, but there is a need to invest more in education and career training.

“The intersection between education and business, between education and jobs has to be closer, Hubbell said.

At the core of the problem, he said, is politics, which “gets in the way of what makes sense.”

“There are a lot of people in elected office in our state that don’t believe in the state as a community,” Hubbell said. “They believe the state is a bunch of individuals and everyone has to fight for their own. They don’t care about the next person. They only care about themselves and they only care about that in the short-term.

“We need to get out of the mind-set that we’ve got to keep cutting everything and keep un-investing in everything to reduce the number of people who work for the state and reduce the compensation they get and reduce funding for education and a lot of other things in an effort to make government smaller,” Hubbell said. “Smaller is not necessarily better. Bigger is not necessarily better.”

Too often the discussions about how to use state resources pits rural Iowa against growing communities like Johnson County, Hubbell said. Rural Iowans — or at least, rural lawmakers, see the university and Johnson County as “a bunch of intellectual elites.”

“They say, ‘They don’t care about us so let’s not care about them, let’s take all the funding away from the university,’” he said. “Literally. You do hear comments like that.”

As governor, he would make the case that “as Iowans we’re all in it together,” Hubbell said.

“The governor needs to stand up and talk about how important it is that we have good quality, well-paid, well-respected state employees who are doing a good job for our state.” he said. “Until we get somebody who is going to do that we’re going to keep having the same conversations we just had.”

In addition to Hubbell, former Iowa City Mayor Ross Wilburn; Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City; former Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire; former Des Moines school board President Jon Neiderbach; John Norris, former aide to Sen. Tom Harkin and Gov. Tom Vilsack; Sen. Nate Boulton of Des Moines; and Coralville nurse and union president Cathy Glasson are running or exploring the race for the Democratic nomination.

For more on Hubbell, go to

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