BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Starting any campaign is meeting with some influential people, thinking about money and planning a strategy.
“The other purpose here is to prepare our launch and work toward an announcement, hopefully this month or very shortly.”
The Davenport native grew up on modest means. His parents moved from northwest Iowa to Davenport where they opened a carpet cleaning business. Prichard graduated from Davenport West High School and then attended the University of Iowa where he earned his undergraduate and law degrees and met his wife, Ann. He was also part of the U.S. Army’s ROTC program at the university, went on to serve three years of active duty, and then became part of the National Guard. He is in his 22nd year of continuous military service.
Prichard was part of the National Guard for 13 years including two deployments overseas, the first of which was right after 9/11 and in the middle of law school. He was called up again to go to Iraq with the guard and was part of the surge. He was a company commander at that time.
Just over a year after returning from overseas in 2013, Prichard opened his own law office on Main Street in Charles City and then in 2013 won a special election to fill a seat vacated by Brian Quirk. Quirk resigned to take over a municipal utility.
“I’ve always been active in politics,” he said. “My state representative resigned right after being elected. They held a special election so I decided to run and won, and I’m in my third term.”
He says the current legislative agenda in Iowa is of great concern and that’s why he’s considering a run for the office.
He said the economy is experiencing 3% unemployment, which is considered full employment, and why drastic cuts are taking place doesn’t make sense.
“Why are we making these cuts when we’re at full employment? There is no commitment from Gov. (Terry) Branstad and the republicans to fund education in the state. What’s the result? If we don’t have an educated workforce, we lose job opportunities. We need to make these investments,” he said, quickly pointing out an example in Wisconsin.
“Look at Wisconsin, they cut collective bargaining. Dodgeville (Wis.), a town very similar in size to communities I represent, had a 25% turnover in the teaching staff alone. A lot of these teachers who don’t have strong ties to that area, are being wooed away by other districts that can pay more. Rural Iowa may fall victim to the larger metro areas that can pay more,” he said.
He also said the state has to come up with a better plan for college education. Prichard, who himself is still repaying student loans, said he feels the pressure not only in his own pocket, but those of others when he has to bring on an attorney for his firm in Charles City. He said he has a plan to offer free tuition at the state’s community colleges, a plan that would mirror an Arkansas program that makes up student’s unmet need on their financial aid applications at community colleges, if the student works in Iowa for three years after graduation.
“It’s an $8 million program in Arkansas and they have a similar population to Iowa so we figure about $8 million and we can’t afford not to do that. We have to do these types of things.”
Prichard believes that Iowa needs to keep pursuing a 100% renewable energy goal and he said the crux of the issue will be finding a balance between metering formulas used by utilities who are buying and selling energy and fees charged by public utilities for renewable energy sources.
Alliant Energy is currently looking at changing metering structures for businesses and individuals that use wind and solar energy sources to offset their utility costs.
“We’ve got to encourage renewable energy in Iowa,” he said. “We’re shooting for 100% renewable in Iowa and to do that we’ve got to find this balance between metering and the fees to deliver electricity. At certain points they are selling energy in those situations, and at other points they are buying. We’ve also got to maintain that infrastructure and if we work together we can find ways to expand renewable energy…solar…wind and at the same time maintain the infrastructure, because every Iowan needs safe, clean, consistent, and reliable energy. That’s a must. I’m confident we’re going find a way to maintain that critical infrastructure and continue to build on wind and solar energy.”
The former Floyd County Attorney said he believes the key to reinvigorating main street Iowa is to fix the wage issue in the state and then create public/private partnerships to energize communities across the state that are struggling on Main Street.
“I am a Main Street business owner,” he said. “The biggest struggle I see is you’ve got a consumer base that is suffering from low wages. So first we need to increase wages across the state. We’ve got to work on that and if we can do that, we’re going to turn more dollars in rural communities. Their needs to be partnerships with private industries and the state to invest in these main street communities. We just haven’t made those investments in recent years, really not since (Gov. Tom Vilsack). We need to make them an attractive place to live and work, and then we can grow these communities.”
Prichard said he would be in favor of raising the minimum wage and welcomes those conversations.
“I’m definitely in favor of raising the minimum wage to some degree. Its a discussion that republicans and the Branstad administration have not been willing to have and it’s a conversation we need to have. We haven’t increased the minimum wage in a decade. But one point I always make is that we also need to focus on raising the median wage as well. We have to do that for working Iowans.”
With Branstad signing the Medical Marijuana Expansion Act on Friday, Prichard said he supported that bill because it put the decisions on the use of the marijuana with physicians.
“To me, I look at the cannabis issue as it’s medicine. Leave it in the hands of doctors and professionals. This has nothing to do with recreational marijuana. I voted for the bill to put that decision-making authority in the hands of medical professionals. That’s really what it is…medicine.”
Prichard and his wife, live in Charles City and have three children. He has served on his community’s YMCA Board of Directors and is also a member of the Charles City Lions Club and the St. John Lutheran Church.