November 27, 2022

HD29 Candidate Q&A: Jon Dunwell

Special election to be held Oct. 12, absentee voting begins Oct. 4

Name: Jon Dunwell

City: Newton

Office sought: Iowa House District 29

Occupation: Financial representative

Education: BA, college

Elected offices held: None

1) Introduce/Reintroduce yourself to voters and explain why you want to be a representative of the Iowa Legislature.

My wife, Christie (Lauterbach) and I, have two sons, Addison and Bryce. For 25 years, I pastored churches in Minnesota and Florida. 11 years ago, longing to live closer to family and to get back to our midwestern roots, we made the decision to return to Christie’s hometown of Newton, IA.

Over the last 11 years, I have served as the Vice President with two financial services firms, and I am currently the founder of owner of Legacy Park Wealth.

I am a pastor, a certified speaker, trainer, coach with John Maxwell, and a registered representative with International Assets Advisory. I have a history of community involvement and volunteerism with the YMCA, community councils, Meals-On-Wheels, Seniors First, Orange County Sheriff’s office, Main Street, Chamber of Commerce, and other organizations.

I want to bring my experience and leadership to Jasper County to address its current challenges and future opportunities. I will focus upon representing Jasper County values, preserving our freedoms, lowering taxes, and bringing more jobs and opportunities to rural Iowa. I want to be that strong voice for Jasper County.

2) School districts across the state have been reacting to a recent federal court decision halting any enforcement of the state’s ban on mask mandates. Prior to the restraining order, some school boards felt they could not adequately address these issues. Do you believe school boards should be provided more local control when managing their districts’ health concerns?

The conflict is not between the State Legislature and the local school board but rather between government and personal freedoms. I stand firmly on the side of personal freedom. Moreover, the greatest demonstration of local control is parents making their own decisions on what is best for the children.

3) Finding affordable preschools can be difficult for some families. Public schools can offer preschool education but the state’s funding per pupil is cut in half for preschool-aged children, which is only exacerbated when the state is seeing declining enrollment numbers. What more can be done to address preschool funding in the Iowa Legislature?

Preschool does play an important role. The legislature has not reduced funding for preschool. The funding a school receives is dependent upon enrollment. Rather, the differential in funding (.5 vs 1) is related to the limited number of hours a preschool student attends class in comparison to a 1st grader. I would support exploring giving parents the opportunity to enroll their late summer birthday children in preschool at age 5 rather than at 4. Not only would this respect parental choice but would as well save the state money for those parents who have their children repeat kindergarten due to their child’s maturity (late summer birthday).

4) Small businesses were hit hard economically ever since Iowa was declared a pandemic. Even now employers are having difficulties retaining or finding a steady or reliable workforce. How would better address the job market in Jasper County and across the state? What can be done to help small businesses thrive and retain workers?

Economic growth begins with making Iowa one of the best states to buy a home, raise a family, start a business, and work. We grow workers through having an attractive taxing environment, providing access to broadband, affordable housing, and removing barriers to starting a business. Jasper County to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future, will need to grow in keeping with its distinctive culture.

Furthermore, we need to continue to invest in training and developing workers to meet the demand of today’s workforce. The workforce of today will not only need those with college degrees but also those trained in the traditional trades and the trades of the future. We need to work with our community colleges, vocational trade schools, and colleges to ensure we are listening and responding to today’s workforce needs.

5) Health care is an important issue for the citizens of Jasper County, a large sum of which are older and have a need for quality and affordable medical care. What needs to be addressed at the Iowa Legislature for people to have access to affordable health care? How would you approach this issue?

Ensuring every Iowan has access to affordable healthcare and protecting our rural critical access hospitals is a top priority. We need to...

• Continue to fund and evaluate increasing the student loan repayment/forgiveness for doctors and other healthcare providers that work in our rural communities.

• Continue to invest in rural residency programs that give preference to those with Iowa connections.

• Continue to encourage and support telemedicine.

• Monitor the over regulating and reporting burden upon our rural hospitals.

• Work on a common claims process for Medicaid and consistent credentialing for providers across institutions.

• Closely monitor our Medicaid program to ensure that patients get the services they need and providers are paid in a timely manner. Transparency is a key.

• Work on filling the “holes” in our mental health services and continue to evaluate our funding models and levels.

6) Mental health care continues to be an issue. Resources are available in Jasper County/Iowa House District 29 but there are still challenges to overcome. Finding beds for individuals with extreme cases is still difficult. We continue to see individuals with mental illness finding shelter in the local jail, and although they have access to services it may not be the best environment for healing. It also puts a strain on staff. What does the statehouse need to do?

In the last legislative session, House Republicans made mental health a priority through delivering sustainable funding to the MHDS regions, expanding access to mental health care through telehealth, and providing significant funds to mental health providers through Medicaid and Area Education Agencies.

In my conversations with law enforcement, business leaders, and care providers, they’ve expressed concern about the gap that exists in dealing with complex cases. Present care facilities are not equipped to treat such cases and merely locking people up doesn’t address the complex issues and places undue burden upon our jails. We need to continue to explore with mental health leaders, law enforcement, and community leaders, specific solutions, resources, and tools for addressing complex issues. We need to explore creating safe, care-driven beds or facilities that specifically address the needs of those in crises, treat the mental health/substance abuse issues, alongside any law enforcement and safety concerns.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.