UPDATE: Governor ousts Iowa DOT director

UPDATE: Governor ousts Iowa DOT director

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DES MOINES --- The director of Iowa’s Department of Transportation, which is engaged in major interstate projects affecting thousands of drivers across the state, was ousted Friday by Gov. Kim Reynolds who “decided to seek a change in leadership,” her office said.

At Reynolds’ request, Mark Lowe resigned from the $156,000-a-year job effective Jan. 10. A transition plan to appoint a new director has not been announced, said Iowa DOT spokeswoman Andrea Henry.

In his resignation letter, Lowe said it was a “terrific privilege” to have served as director.

“Gov. Reynolds has my sincere appreciation for the opportunity to do so,” Lowe said in his letter. “I have great faith in, and regard for, the people of the Iowa Department of Transportation and have every confidence they will continue to serve the state of Iowa well as they continue under new leadership.”

In an email Friday, governor’s spokesman Pat Garrett said Reynolds “appreciates Director Mark Lowe’s years of service, and has decided to seek a change in leadership as she continues to build her administration.”

The governor’s office did not say why Reynold’s removed him.

Lowe, who had been the department’s general counsel, was appointed interim director of the department by then-Gov. Terry Branstad in November 2016 following the resignation of Paul Trombino III.

Reynolds appointed Lowe as the permanent director in May 2017 after she replaced the departing Branstad as governor.

Tom Reilly, chair of the Iowa Transportation Commission, which develops transportation policy and plans for the Iowa DOT, said he was disappointed and surprised by Lowe’s dismissal.

“I wish Director Lowe the very best,” said Reilly, of Oskaloosa. “I do respect the governor and look forward to working with the governor’s office for the transition.”

Reilly said the Iowa DOT has a “good team” and a “solid commission” that will carry it through the transition.

Henry said the department has “strong executive leadership” that will carry it through until an interim or permanent director is announced.

The Iowa DOT is in year one of a $3.4 billion five-year transportation improvement plan.

The latest project in the Corridor proposes widening Interstate 380 an additional lane in each direction and replacing a bridge between Forevergreen Road and Highway 30, a project estimated at $203 million.

Work on that project would not begin until construction is complete in about 2023 on a massive redesign of the interstate 80/380 interchange.

In addition to begging work on that major project, the Iowa DOT has been overseeing reconstruction of Interstate 29 in western Iowa, which was inundated by floodwaters after a major storm last spring.

And in another major project, the department is replacing the Interstate 74 bridge that links Bettendorf and Moline, Ill. The project began in 2017 and has been plagued by delays and fighting between the contractor and department.

Lowe’s ouster is one of three recent dismissals under Reynolds.

In June, she requested the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven, director of the Department of Human Services, saying she wanted to take the department in a “new direction.” He later filed a $2 million wrongful termination suit, which is pending.

Reynolds also fired Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison in 2018 following complains of sexual assault and harassment from women in the agency.

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