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Iowa Capitol Digest for Friday, Oct. 15

Iowa Capitol Digest for Friday, Oct. 15

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The Iowa State Capitol building Friday, July 31, 2020, in Des Moines.

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Friday:


Sara Russell, a 19-year veteran teacher, is the Iowa Department of Education’s 2022 Teacher of the Year, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Friday at Pleasant Valley High School in Bettendorf.

“Outstanding educators like Sara ensure our students are well prepared for careers and education beyond high school,” Reynolds said. “Every day, she brings a positive and engaging approach to her students while helping them develop critical-thinking and team-building skills, which they’ll take with them far beyond the classroom throughout their lives.”

Russell, 43, is a social studies teacher who leads student-centered, hands-on learning.

“I believe in the idea that you will never truly understand a concept or idea until you can apply it to your own life or the world around you,” she said. “I structure as much of my class time as possible around student activities that demand students to make their own meaning of concepts or ideas. With all of the activities, I strive to have students discuss, defend, explain and apply their learning.”

Russell, her husband Ian, and their 13-year-old twin sons, Gavin and Aiden, live in Bettendorf.

Finalists for the 2022 Iowa Teacher of the Year included Dawn Arnold, a mathematics teacher from Benton Community High School, Van Horne; Kelli Kovarik, language arts teacher at North Fayette Valley High School, West Union; Elaine Menke, an instrumental music teacher at Lakewood Elementary, Norwalk; and Staci Mercado, an English teacher at Central DeWitt High School, DeWitt.


Iowa communities are being challenged to show off their hometown pride and win a one-of-a-kind water tower design by Iowa artist Laura Palmer.

The contest is sponsored by the Iowa Finance Authority and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as part of an effort to recognize the importance of water quality and the State Revolving Fund that has assisted nearly 700 communities in financing water quality improvements.

To enter the contest, communities need to create a video, no longer than one minute, showcasing their hometown pride and features a water element. Video submissions will be accepted through the official contest entry page from Oct. 19 to Nov. 16.

A public voting period will be held from Nov. 17 to Nov. 24 to determine the winning video.


Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources say Iowa communities impacted by emerald ash borer can receive free seedlings from the state forest nursery in Ames.

A federal Forest Service grant has made it possible for the state agency to offer up to 200 free seedlings in the 84 Iowa counties that have confirmed emerald ash borer infestations.

Any Iowa community within an emerald ash borer-confirmed county is eligible to apply for these free native hardwood and conifer seedlings, even if they have received seedlings through this grant in previous years.

According to the DNR, seedlings have been awarded to more than 200 Iowa communities since spring 2019, and next spring will be the last chance for any of the 800 eligible Iowa communities to apply to receive the free seedlings for public and private property planting.

DNR officials say cities with major tree damage or loss from the August 2020 derecho can take advantage of this opportunity to help repopulate the trees in the devastated communities, as long as the county is a confirmed emerald ash borer-infested county.

Any city or public organization interested in applying for the free seedlings should complete the grant application online at


With Iowa crops harvested ahead of schedule this year, officials with the state Department of Natural Resources say Iowa should offer a good pheasant season when more than 55,000 hunters take to the fields on Oct. 30.

Todd Bogenschutz, DNR upland wildlife biologist, said the yearly August roadside survey found Iowa’s statewide pheasant population to be essentially unchanged from 2020 at 20 birds per 30-mile route with northwest, north-central and west-central regions offering the best hunting prospects.

“Our pheasant population is about the same as last year, which was another good year — we’ve had four or five good years in a row now — and based on our bird counts I expect our pheasant harvest to be around 300,000, but our population would easily support a harvest of half a million,” he said. “Our final harvest will hinge upon hunter turnout.”

Iowa’s pheasant season is Oct. 30 to Jan. 10, 2022, with shooting hours between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The daily bag limit is three rooster pheasants with a possession limit of 12.

Hunters must have a valid hunting license and habitat fee. Also, hunters are required to wear at least one article of external clothing with at least 50 percent of its surface area solid blaze orange: hat, cap, vest, coat, jacket, sweatshirt, shirt or coveralls.

-- Gazette Des Moines Bureau

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