Sixth-generation Iowan Kurt Meyer chairs the Mitchell County Democrats and is the founding chair of the Tri-County Democrats (Worth, Howard, & Mitchell counties). -promoted by desmoinesdem
After thoughtful consideration and conversations with Democrats throughout the state, I have decided to seek the position of Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party (IDP). Our Party has now experienced two devastating election cycles in a row. To address this reality, the IDP must act quickly to a) listen, assess, and incorporate lessons learned from the last election cycle; b) outline plans to chart a different course; and c) enlist and empower leaders at all levels to help us accomplish our plans. Here are my preliminary priorities:
1) Strategic Plan. The new Chair must immediately lead the State Central Committee (SCC) in drafting a long-term, strategic plan that will not be achieved for several cycles – an exercise that should be completed within a month of taking office (ideas outlined here are merely a starting point). Implementation of this plan is the Chair’s primary duty… gathering the forces and the resources needed to meet both short- and long-range goals.
2) Marketing & Communications. Rooted in this plan, we must craft simple, forward-looking message(s) that capture unifying themes and can be pulsed out through all Party programs and activities. Furthermore, the IDP must also articulate a clear sense of our Party’s priorities and goals, mindful of metrics while noting the importance of human connections, relationships, and networks. Social media efforts also require an overarching strategy, clear implementation steps, and appropriate staffing to convey the Party’s vision and vitality.
3) Fundraising. Money invariably follows ideas and vision, especially when expressed with conviction. After the 2014 cycle, I headed an ad-hoc group that suggested ways IDP fundraising could be expanded. We must revisit and carry out recommendations noted in the Task Force report, which included a series of new approaches to increase our funding base.
4) Party-Building. The IDP must deploy locally-based organizers throughout the state to invest in relationships, engage individuals with interest and talent, “fly the flag” for the IDP – and eventually for our candidates – and work with and walk with people in their communities. (“With” is a key concept since it enables us to build capacity.) Organizers will help offset investment costs through additional dollars raised and through sustained party engagement.
5) Recruitment & Training. The IDP must expand our talent pool by recruiting hundreds of people with drive and skills and passion for advancing our Party. As a subset of this group, we must launch an initiative to identify, recruit, train, and support activists and potential candidates approximately 40 years of age and younger. I will target working/walking with at least 250 people in this age cohort in the next three years: individuals with capacity for party or campaign leadership or for seeking elected office. We must prioritize high-quality training programs since we will not succeed without increased capacity. And we must raise both activity and outcome expectations across all levels: leadership, staff, volunteers, and candidates.
6) First-in-the-Nation. To retain our first-in-the-nation status will require greater transparency, clarity, and inclusivity, plus fortified training and preparation in support of the caucuses. Our system will be tested mightily again in 2020 – beginning much sooner, as candidates begin to arrive – and we must be ready. The Task Force reviewing the caucuses must finish its work promptly, with appropriate recommendations implemented swiftly.
7) Collaboration. The IDP must identify and collaborate with allies and work more closely with partners, including but not limited to our friends in labor. Significant new partnerships will require fresh outreach to groups that, if they knew us better, are likely to be supportive.
In some ways, these priorities are similar to ideas being advanced by others in our Party – an encouraging first step. A loose consensus may be emerging about key actions the Party must take as we continue to listen and plan. An essential next step is selecting a Chair able to flesh out our plans, to make things happen, and to get things done. Leadership matters… and experience is telling. Because our Party faces daunting challenges, the next Chair must “hit the ground running”, possessing the skills needed to chart a dynamic new course and to move the Party forward quickly. Let me mention items in my background likely to come into play.
A) Results. Throughout my career, I have been responsible for achieving results, working with and through others… most often volunteers, who I was responsible for keeping informed, engaged, focused, motivated, and on task until we reached our shared goals.
B) Transitions. I have worked almost exclusively with and for organizations in transition. Throughout my career, I have been responsible for developing, implementing, and securing significant financial support for plans aimed at dramatic improvement and growth.
C) Motivation. I seek this position motivated solely by what’s best for the future of our Party, unencumbered by potential conflicts of interest, crossed business connections, and future political candidacies. I am not seeking compensation and believe questions about a paid-versus-volunteer Chair model should be decided on a different timeline than the chair election. The IDP Chair is a full-time opportunity and I will resign from current roles that require a major time commitment. Furthermore, I pledge not to seek elected public office other than to continue in my current nonpartisan post (Township Trustee, in rural Otranto Township).
D) Talent. Throughout my career, I have made it a priority to identify, recruit, and develop talent. For example, in recent years, I have mentored – formally & informally – several dozen colleagues, employees, clients, volunteers, and political staffers. The IDP will not succeed without a major infusion of talent, including enhanced skills developed by those currently in responsible party positions.
E) Neutrality. In recent election cycles, I have practiced an “active & engaged neutrality” in all contested races for our Party’s nominations, during which time I strove to be fair, even-handed, responsive, and attentive… to ALL our candidates and their campaigns. This practical experience is essential as we gear up for gubernatorial and congressional nominations in 2018 and senate and presidential nominations in 2020.
F) Traits. Throughout my career, I have sought direct feedback from clients and colleagues. The following eight traits are cited most often: (According to clients & colleagues, KM is …) “open & honest, responsive & resourceful, innovative & energetic, committed & collaborative”. For decades, I have demonstrated a fundamental integrity as well as a steadfast dedication to the Democratic Party. And, I have gained the perspective – ideally, the wisdom – available through experience.
G) Preparation. The Iowa Democratic Party now finds itself in choppy waters, about to enter an even more challenging series of rapids. In this analogy, I offer the following: I know these waters; I have traveled this river many times before. I have studied the maps and know how to navigate these rapids successfully. I am fully prepared for this assignment, knowing that we dramatically increase the likelihood of success with tested, proven, innovative leadership at the helm. Iowa Democrats are ready… and so am I. Let’s get going!
Kurt Meyer lives in rural Mitchell County, the sixth generation of his family to do so. For most of his career, Kurt has been a consultant to non-profit organizations, assisting them with strategic planning, community relations, and fundraising. During this time, he has helped organizations secure gifts totaling more than a half-billion dollars. Kurt has had a longstanding involvement in politics, having been a candidate, a campaign manager, a finance director, a field organizer, and a volunteer for campaigns at all levels – in Iowa, primarily, but also while living in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. He is currently chair of Mitchell County Democrats and founder and chair of Tri-County Democrats (Worth, Howard, & Mitchell), the first and only multi-county political organization in Iowa. In 2015, he was inducted into the IDP Hall of Fame as “Outstanding Democratic Party Activist”.