Updated to include State Rep. Jerry Kearns
BY CHUCK VANDENBERG – Editor
FORT MADISON – Lee County’s top economic development official said he’s excited about the future of the county, Iowa and the country as a whole with Wednesday’s announcement that current Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump as the next Ambassador to China.
Joe Steil, the Lee County Economic Development Board Chairman said he was in Chicago when the news was heard.
“Actually when we found out about it it was interesting . We were in Chicago at a seminar, We heard about it there and it really was timely from the standpoint that we were at a Mid America Economic Development Competitive Conference and site selector,” Steil said this morning.
The move positions current Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds as the presumptive leader of the state and the first ever female governor in Iowa.
“I think my personal impression is that Kim has certainly been in step with the governor for years now and I anticipate this being a seamless transition. I do think it positions her well for running in the next four years when that opportunity presents itself,” Steil said.
“We had signed a reciprocal marketing agreement… Lee, Des Moines and Henry counties to work together on larger projects and leverage all three counties in the resources both from a resource point of view and human capital point of view, as far as talent in workforce development to get the highest and best results.”
“It creates opportunities for all of Iowa as well as Lee County having Branstad over there. To my knowledge obviously he established strong ag-related ties and obviously bio is tied into that, biochemistry type initiatives. With that and his knowledge of Iowa, it positions Iowa very well for exporting opportunities, as well as all of our contiguous states.”
Steil said the turn of events wasn’t unexpected and he looks forward to a strong relationship with Reynolds in her new post.
“Kim has been an avid supporter of our efforts and it’s not to limit to one area, but she has been very helpful with our workforce development initiatives,” he said.
State Rep. Jerry Kearns of Keokuk said Branstad’s nomination does make sense.
“We had a state dinner for (Xi Jinping) a while back and they have a good working relationship,” Kearns said of Branstad and the Chinese president. “They have known each other for a long time so it makes a lot of sense.”
With regard to Reynolds stepping in for Branstad, Kearns said it will probably much the same as dealing with the current governor.
“I haven’t dealt with the Lt. Governor on any policy, but she tended to be in step with the governor so I’m not sure if there will be much change legislatively. She will be our first woman governor however so that’s something special for us.”
In a statement on Branstad’s governor’s website, he wrote the following in accepting the nomination:
“I love Iowa and I love my country. For 22 years, I have been honored and privileged to serve the people of Iowa as their governor. My family and I will always be grateful to Iowans for trusting me to lead and putting their faith in me to serve.
During our 30-year friendship, President Xi Jinping and I have developed a respect and admiration for each other, our people and our cultures. The United States – Chinese bilateral relationship is at a critical point. Ensuring the countries with the two largest economies and two largest militaries in the world maintain a collaborative and cooperative relationship is needed more now than ever. The President-elect understands my unique relationship to China and has asked me to serve in a way I had not previously considered.
After long discussions with my family, I am honored and humbled to be nominated to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to China. I also accept President-elect Trump’s charge to prioritize collaborative policies that will Make America Great Again. This is an extraordinary opportunity. I believe that the respect and admiration built over a decades-old friendship between President Xi and I give me an opportunity to help the President-elect and serve Iowa, the United States and the world for the better.
Reynolds published a statement as well.
President-elect Trump’s decision to nominate Gov. Branstad as Ambassador to China speaks volumes about the character, talent and experience of Gov. Terry Branstad. As America’s longest-serving governor, I can think of no one more qualified and ready to represent Iowa and the United States of America on the world stage than Gov. Branstad. His hands-on experience in advancing trade opportunities for Iowa farmers and Iowa companies coupled with his strong and lasting relationship with President Xi Jinping, as well as other leaders in China, will serve him well in strengthening U.S.-China relations.