Once upon a time long ago….there stood a young fella in a river-soaked cloth diaper along the Mississippi River who one day became a candidate for Iowa Governor. Here is my story…..
Hello and thanks for visiting my page. My name is Gary Siegwarth. I’m running as an Independent candidate for Governor of Iowa in 2018. More specifically, I came up with a more descriptive party I called the Clear Water Party of Iowa (clearwaterparty.com) as a way to connect the people of Iowa rather than divide among political parties. So technically I’m running as a Non Party Political Organization (NPPO) candidate, because those in power don’t want to make it too easy for any other rival parties to form. I would rather call myself a “community candidate” because connecting people and ideas is what I do.
I’m not your ordinary candidate. I represent a passionate and unbiased voice for the land and people of Iowa. I want to represent what is best for the long-term future of our state rather than greed or control related agendas of corporate interests or a specific political party.
I live and work in rural Clayton County at Big Spring Trout Hatchery with my fiancé Brandy. I have my two sons, Jed and Marcus Siegwarth. I’ve been a Fisheries Biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources the past 26 years. For the past 17 years, I’ve managed Big Spring Trout Hatchery, located along the Turkey River near Elkader (hatchery picture). If you’re not familiar with Clayton County, it borders the Mississippi River in far northeast Iowa in a unique and scenic landscape called the Driftless Region. This unique geologic region of Iowa was formed by the erosive forces of streams and rivers in the absence of glaciers over the past 500,000 years.
I was born in Dubuque in 1963 and grew up on my grandparents (Floyd & Esther Wagner) old farmstead in what was then the rural outskirts of town. In its day, that farm was one of the largest dairy farms in Dubuque County. My grandparents milked 25 cows by hand, which is part of the reason they had 10 kids in those days! My father (Norm Siegwarth) started a business in downtown Dubuque called Ace Radio & TV, in an era when TV’s and radios could actually be repaired. Our mom “Betty Jane” passed away when I was in first grade, which left dad the added responsibility of taking care of my four siblings and I, in addition to running his business. Needless to say, it was an early lesson for all of us in learning how to solve problems and overcome the challenges and obstacles of life. Growing up in the country near Catfish Creek, and spending time on the Mississippi River, also gave me an important early childhood connection to the land and water of Iowa. Our dad also took the time for family trips out west, which provided us an early outside perspective of the world beyond the borders of Iowa.
When I was a junior in high school, our family bought and moved to a 300-acre farm in Jackson County near the town of Zwingle. Following graduation from Maquoketa High School in 1981, I enrolled in the Farm Management Program at Northeast Iowa Community College in Calmar before returning home to run the family farm. I operated our family farm until 1986, when the Farm Crises of the 1980’s forced us to let the farm go.
With the loss of our farm, I was forced to choose a new career path in natural resources. In hindsight, this opened the biggest doorway of life to my journey of a comprehensive understanding of the Iowa landscape and how it functions. This journey began at Bellevue State Park, where I had a six-month seasonal position right off the farm. The biggest influence in this position turned out to be the crash-course in working with the public, as well as my discovery of the Fisheries Research & Management Station on the Mississippi River directly below the park. I began my educational journey in natural resources at Kirkwood Community College in the fall of 1986. Because of my experience both on the farm and in Bellevue, I was able to hit the ground running toward a focused career in Fisheries. I transferred to Iowa State the following year and in 1990 finished as the highest graduating senior in the Fisheries and Wildlife Program. As an undergraduate, I sought out additional experience with Dr. Robert Summerfelt, helping out with growth experiments of walleyes and saugeyes reared in intensive aquaculture. From this work, I published four separate papers in peer reviewed scientific journals as an undergraduate. This proved to be a huge stepping stone into my scientific, common sense, and analytical way of problem solving.
Following graduation with a Bachelors’ Degree from Iowa State, I accepted a research assistantship with the Arkansas Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit and attended graduate school at the University of Arkansas. My main research took place on the Buffalo National River in northcentral Arkansas. To make a long story short, I arrived in an unfamiliar landscape of the Ozarks to address complex fish community/fish management questions on a river I initially knew nothing about. Two years later, I not only addressed all my original research objectives, but went above and beyond those objectives to solve more complex topics as to why catfish were not naturally abundant in the river and what the root cause was. In just two short years after arriving in an unfamiliar state and river system, I was able to identify and solve a complex system-wide cause for the lack of channel catfish in the Buffalo River. I completed and received my Masters’ Degree in 1992 and published four additional papers in peer reviewed scientific journals. From this work, I was awarded the best overall paper at the joint Arkansas-Mississippi-Louisiana American Fisheries Society Conference.
Following graduate school, I was recruited to conduct a 6-month research project on the Mississippi River in Davenport to identify the spawning locations of walleyes and saugers in Pool 15. This project not only gave me additional experience solving questions on a complex river system that I was unfamiliar with upon arrival, it also gave me experience working simultaneously with multi-jurisdictional agencies (US Army Corps of Engineers, Iowa DNR, Illinois DNR, and South Dakota State) and then defending the results of the project in a semi-hostile environment of Corps Officials who were questioning the results of my research project.
In 1992, I was hired by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as the state-wide rivers and streams research biologist. In this position, I worked on complex fish population, habitat, watershed, and biological related river issues across the state, and became familiar with river systems and factors impacting those systems throughout Iowa. Through this position, I also initiated development of an aquatic education curriculum resource guide (“Going with the Flow”) for elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. This entailed working with teachers, education agencies, and students, and went well beyond my required job duties. My goal was to integrate a better basic knowledge of natural resources, rivers systems, and the function of our landscape into existing school curriculum because I realized the disconnect between our education system and the lack of a basic understanding of the Iowa landscape. Since that time, I believe residents of our state have drifted even further away from any sort of basic understanding of the Iowa Landscape and how it functions. Evidence for this exists in the spread of misinformation, uninformed decisions and laws passed by our legislature, as well as the continued lack of funding support for water quality and natural resources by our legislature even though the people of Iowa overwhelmingly voted for this in 2010 as part of the Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund Constitutional Amendment.
In 1999, I transferred to Big Spring Trout Hatchery along the Turkey River near Elkader where I am currently located. Big Spring is the largest coldwater spring in Iowa and the hatchery is an integral part of the highly successful Iowa Trout Program, which is funded (as is nearly every Fish, Wildlife, and DNR Law Enforcement program) through the sale of fishing & hunting licenses, and through an excise tax on fishing and hunting equipment (Federal Aid for Fish & Wildlife Restoration). Here at the hatchery we grow rainbow trout and brook trout (Iowa’s only native trout) to catchable size and stock them in coldwater streams and urban lakes throughout Iowa. We also maintain angler access and stocking trails on publicly accessible land and are involved with a diverse array of aquatic education and comprehensive watershed improvement projects. There used to be four full-time employees at Big Spring, but like nearly every other fish & wildlife or natural resource related field station and state park in Iowa, continued lack of funding and budget cuts have reduced us down to two employees….while we perform significantly added job duties than were performed by the previous 4 full time employees (you would need to ride along for a day for me to explain all of these added duties in detail).
Over the past 17 years at Big Spring I’ve initiated a number of projects and programs both at the hatchery and within the surrounding communities. At the hatchery and the streams, I initiated projects to significantly improve angler access for less mobile anglers and families, allowing significantly more people to access the streams and connecting to outdoor recreation through fishing. I’ve also developed numerous education programs with schools, colleges, angler groups, organizations, farmers in the watershed, and other agencies. At Big Spring, we developed Iowa’s first kids only trout fishing ponds, which has connected kids and families from across Iowa to the simple and affordable activity of fishing that will connect them to the Iowa outdoors for life.
We have also had to manage and recover from several severe flood events at Big Spring, which taught me how to deal with emergency and crisis situations. The flood of 2008 completely inundated the hatchery facility. We not only recovered from these flood events, but they served as a catalyst to better understand the landscape changes that have led to the increasing trend of record-breaking flood levels in Iowa over time.
Through the years at Big Spring, I’ve refined my knowledge and understanding of the history and function of the Iowa landscape, and how streams and rivers represent the “ultimate barometer” for everything past and present that happens on the land. From water quality, to flooding, to soil health, to the quality of the food we produce and eat, to the diversity of every other species we share the land with,…… the roadmap to improving Iowa is the same: It comes down to what we’re doing on the land and how we are doing it.
I’ve also gained an in depth understanding how the land and natural resources in Iowa connects to everything from economics, to our own health and wellbeing, to creating opportunities for young people to come back to the land…farms…and rural communities. In one way or another, everything comes from the land, yet historically we have invested very little back to the wellbeing of the land, water, and natural resources of Iowa. The land and the people of Iowa are the most important and valuable resource of every community. An investment in the land and people is an investment in both our present day quality of life, as well as that of our kids, grandkids, and beyond.
In Iowa, natural resources and outdoor recreation is very important to both residents and visitors alike. From farming, to fishing & hunting, to camping, to birdwatching, to paddling, to the unlimited forms of outdoor recreation, to driving a scenic byway, to the simple pleasures of sitting around a campfire with family and friends, there is something about the land that is important to all of us. A thorough understanding and historical perspective of the Iowa landscape and how it functions would be a good prerequisite for Governor. Because of my background and experience in both agriculture and nearly 30 years in natural resources, I may very well be more informed about the Iowa landscape and how it functions than any candidate who has ever run for Governor in the history of Iowa.
Thanks for reading!!
Here are a just a few other things I’ve been involved with:
Past President IA Chapter of the American Fisheries Society
Founding Board Member and Past President Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network
Clayton County Pheasants Forever Habitat Chairman the past 17 years
Past Clayton County Farm Bureau Environmental Resources Coordinator
Co-founder (along with Brian Gibbs) of our annual Music and Monarch Festival conservation awareness event the 2nd Saturday of May in Elkader as part of the Clayton County Conservation Awareness Network
Initiated the annual Big Spring Watershed Landowner Appreciation Day