Iowa Democrats elect former Iowa City Mayor as first Black Party Chair

Published: Jan. 23, 2021 at 3:58 PM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) -Ross Wilburn made history again on Saturday when it was announced he will be the next Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, making him the first Black Iowan to hold the position.

Wilburn, who currently serves in the Iowa House representing the 46th District which covers part of Ames and Story County, also served as city councilman in Iowa City for 12 years and, in 2006, was elected as Iowa City’s first Black Mayor.

Wilburn is replacing outgoing party chair Mark Smith, who decided in November not to seek reelection.

Wilburn is a native of Davenport and graduated from Davenport Central High School. He served in the Iowa Army National Guard while attending the University of Iowa and earned a degree in social work.

He later joined the University’s School of Social Work as Graduate Program Director for the Quad Cities Center in 1997.

In 2000, Wilburn left the University to join the Crisis Center of Johnson County, Iowa as its Executive Director.

In 2008, Wilburn was hired by the Iowa City Community School District to serve as an administrator and the Director of Equity.

Wilburn left that role in 2014 to join Iowa State University as a Diversity Officer and Associate Director for Community Economic Development at the university’s outreach office.

He ran in the 2018 Democratic primary for Governor, but lost to Fred Hubbell.

Wilburn was elected to the Iowa House in 2019 during a special election and was elected to the seat again in 2020. He ran unopposed in both elections.

“I’m excited to get to work and lead Iowa Democrats for the next two years. With President Joe Biden, VP Kamala Harris, and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison at the top, Democrats are going to work tirelessly to bring people together, speak the truth, and build a more just society. We have aggressive plans to reinvigorate our party from the ground up and connect with more Iowans in communities small and large,” said Wilburn in a statement.

“Our new party leaders embody the values of the Democratic Party, and the future of our state is very bright with these folks leading our party,” said outgoing IDP Chair Mark Smith in a statement. “Chair Wilburn’s career of public service and dedication to making sure everyone has a seat at the table is rooted in the principles of our party. I know Chair Wilburn will continue to build our bench with compassion and inclusion to elect Democrats from Terrace Hill to Washington DC who will be a voice for working families and equality. Congratulations to our new leaders, I look forward to fighting alongside you to turn our state blue.”

Iowa House representative Ross Wilburn was selected as the next Iowa Democrat Party chairman on...
Iowa House representative Ross Wilburn was selected as the next Iowa Democrat Party chairman on Saturday, January 23, 2021.(

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