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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2017

Branstad makes final tour of Iowa as governor

By Bret Hayworth, Sioux City Journal | May 17, 2017

CHEROKEE – As Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad sat in front of 60 people in an auditorium at the Cherokee Mental Health Institute on Tuesday, he smiled as his biography was read as part of his introduction.

Branstad put his hand over his heart as two Cherokee Washington High School girls sang "The Star Spangled Banner." He held in his lap a few papers that would constitute his speaking notes, then stood to an ovation, beginning his speech that would last eight minutes.

Holding the microphone in his right hand and sticking close to the podium, Branstad directed a lot of his looks at the front row. His only misstep was calling MHI Director Cory Turner by the wrong last name, going with Taylor instead.

In many respects, Branstad's participation in announcing Cherokee as the latest and 48th municipality to get the Home Base Iowa designation was like the thousands of public events he's had while serving as Iowa governor for 23 years. Yet there was a difference, as his days as Iowa governor appear to have apparently dwindled to less than a week.

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Monday on the confirmation of Branstad as President Donald Trump's U.S. ambassador to China. His departure in 2017 will create a vacancy in the governorship that by state law will be filled by Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who will become the state's first female governor.

That expected upcoming change meant some people at the Cherokee event had heavier hearts as they pushed up to chat with Branstad, after he was done with his public remarks.

"I believe very firmly that he has done a wonderful job of serving our state of Iowa," Beverly Anderson Zieman said, moments after Branstad held both of her hands as they warmly talked.

Anderson Zieman is retired after a 24-year career as Cherokee County auditor. She said she first knew Branstad in 1982, when he won the first of six terms as governor. Anderson Zieman added that Branstad's sound experience aided Iowans.

Branstad traveled after Cherokee to Council Bluffs. The rest of his public schedule for this week includes four events on Thursday and Friday in Des Moines, so Tuesday appears to be his last time traveling to Northwest Iowa.

As has been his practice in recent Iowa events, Branstad didn't delve too deeply into his personal feelings about shifting away from the governor job. It took a third question on the topic, while walking out of the building with a reporter, for Branstad to say he is experiencing some "nostalgic" feelings about no longer being governor.

"I've loved it and I've met a lot of wonderful people and I will miss that," Branstad said.

His years as governor constitute a U.S. record nationally, a mark he reached in December 2015. Had he completed the current four-year term, he would have had 24 years as governor. Branstad has presided over six terms -- four from 1983 to 1999 and two more from 2011 to the present.

Branstad earlier in the event cautioned that full Senate approval of his ambassadorship isn't a done deal. However, he said he felt good about his April multi-hour hearing in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"This may be the last time I will be here before I go to China," Branstad told the crowd.


Branstad then told media members his time as governor will end once his ambassadorship passes the full Senate, at which point he will resign the governor spot. U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, later on Tuesday tweeted the confirmation vote is expected about 5 p.m. Monday.


Branstad said he will undergo three weeks of ambassador orientation, so "I probably won't get to China until June."

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