DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Tuesday she has appointed Elizabeth Johnson of Altoona to serve as executive director of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Johnson, an administrative law judge at Iowa Workforce Development, begins her new role Aug. 26.

“I’m excited to return to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission,” said Johnson, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the Iowa Senate. “Our primary responsibility is protecting Iowans from discrimination by vigorously enforcing the law and working to prevent discrimination in the first place by ensuring Iowans are educated on the law.”

Johnson previously served as a civil rights specialist at the commission, was a private-practice attorney and worked at the Iowa Department of Revenue. She has a law degree from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in art history from Clarke University in Dubuque.

The Iowa Civil Rights Commission is a neutral, fact-finding law enforcement agency charged with enforcing state and federal laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, education and credit by investigating and litigating civil rights complaints. The commission also provides conflict resolution services for civil rights matters. In addition to its role as a law enforcement agency, the commission works to prevent discrimination by providing training and education to the public.

“Protecting the civil rights of Iowans is one of the most important functions of state government,” Reynolds said in making the announcement. “As an administrative law judge and past staff member at the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, Elizabeth Johnson has a reputation for both fairness and efficiency as well as a genuine passion for public service. She’ll serve Iowa well in this important role.”

SUPREME COURT SCHEDULE: Justices of the Iowa Supreme Court have announced their 2019-20 term calendar, including special sessions to hear oral arguments in Des Moines, Iowa City, Muscatine and Oskaloosa.

The new term from Sept. 2 to June 30, 2020, also will mark the sixth year the Supreme Court will livestream and archive its oral arguments on the Iowa Courts YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL6EU7W8kqDKnKPUzMdxr_g), according to Iowa Judicial Branch officials.

The court’s schedule includes evening sessions Sept. 10 at Muscatine High School, Sept. 17 at Des Moines North High School, Feb. 10 at the Iowa Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines, and March 31 at Oskaloosa High School’s George Daily Community Auditorium. Those 7 p.m. sessions are scheduled for the convenience of members of the public who wish to attend, court officials said. Oral arguments also will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 11 at the University of Iowa School of Law in Iowa City and at 9:30 a.m. March 26 at the Drake University Law School in Des Moines.

The court will continue its regular schedule of oral arguments in Des Moines during the term. The court’s complete oral argument calendar for its 2019-20 term is on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at iowacourts.gov.

HUNTERS INCREASE HARVEST: Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials say licensed hunters took higher numbers of pheasants, quail, rabbits, doves and partridges during the 2018-19 hunting season. Pheasant hunters harvested nearly 320,000 roosters in Iowa during the 2018 season, which was the highest harvest total since 2008 and up from the 221,000 roosters harvested in 2017, according to DNR data.

“The 2018 roadside survey showed our pheasant population was 39 percent higher than in 2017, so we were expecting an improved pheasant harvest,” said Todd Bogenschutz, DNR upland wildlife biologist.

Based on Iowa’s pheasant population, harvest numbers should be in excess of 500,000 birds, he said, but the primary factor holding totals down is the lack of hunters.

“Even with a positive forecast last year, we saw a 4 percent drop in the number of pheasant hunters,” he noted.

Iowa’s 2019 pheasant season begins Oct. 26. Iowa’s quail harvest followed the same trend. Hunters harvested an estimated 47,000 quail last year, which was the highest total since 2007. Also, the DNR survey estimated hunters harvested 123,000 rabbits, nearly 81,000 squirrels and nearly 119,000 doves.

NEW MAIN STREET COMMUNITY: The Iowa Economic Development Authority on Tuesday announced the addition of Coon Rapids as the newest Main Street Iowa community.

The city in Carroll and Guthrie counties joins 53 other Main Street Iowa communities across the state that completed the rigorous application process, which started last year for Coon Rapids.

Applicants to Main Street Iowa, which accepts only a limited number of new communities every two years, must demonstrate local support and investment, a downtown district with potential for growth and readiness to implement the “Main Street Approach” to revitalization and economic development.

“What stands out to me about Coon Rapids is the number of young leaders with a strong vision for the future of their town,” IEDA and Iowa Finance Authority Director Debi Durham said. “There are families returning to Coon Rapids, or coming here for the first time, to make a home and quality of life that you can’t find elsewhere. I see the passion and pride they have for ensuring this momentum continues, so others can be successful here as well.”

A once-prosperous community with a few large employers supporting the economy, Coon Rapids struggled after losing those key businesses and the community leaders who worked for them. But, Durham said, the next generation is looking ahead and developing a plan to jump-start resident pride and downtown development.

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