REMEMBERING A LOCAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN HERO
The passing of LaMetta Wynn, is a loss to all area residents who knew her professionally and personally. The fact that she was a Black woman is important to note because we often fail to celebrate accomplishments of People of Color.
Current Clinton Mayor, Scott Maddasion, offered this tribute to her in a Clinton Herald article. “Her leadership did not just span the 12 years she spent as mayor but her time on the school board, her professional positions, and as an advocate for Clinton and its citizens throughout her life,” he said. “She truly is a ‘Hometown Hero’ and her legacy will be known for generations to come.”
For those of you who never had the opportunity to meet or work with LaMetta, read the rest of the Herald article to learn why she is called Our Local Hero:
CLINTON – Former Clinton Mayor LaMetta Wynn, who when elected in 1995 also became Iowa’s first Black female mayor, died Thursday in Lincoln, Nebraska. Wynn, who went on to serve three terms as Clinton’s mayor and later was appointed to state-level leadership positions, was 87. Funeral arrangements are pending at Clinton’s Lemke Funeral Home. Local leaders on Friday lauded Wynn for her many decades of service at both the local and state levels. “My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Mayor LaMetta Wynn,” Clinton Mayor Scott Maddasion told the Clinton Herald on Friday. “She was so many things to so many people and definitely one of the most important figures in our rich history here in Clinton. Her impact was felt across many avenues to include being a mother, grandmother, friend, professional, and community leader.” Maddasion noted Wynn has a long list of accomplishments at both the local and state levels and was directly responsible for millions of dollars of improvements and progress being brought to the Clinton community. Wynn was born and raised in Galena, Illinois, the youngest of a family of nine, in which four of five girls became nurses, according to a Clinton Herald historical column penned by the late Gary Herrity, a long-time Clinton School District administrator. He wrote that although Wynn had wanted to become a history/English teacher during high school, she felt influenced by her sisters to become a nurse. In 1955, she followed her sister, Ruth Culberson to Clinton, after graduating in nursing from St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids. She worked in many settings in Clinton until she was appointed the night house supervisor at the former Jane Lamb Hospital, at which post she worked and honed her leadership skills over many years, Herrity wrote. Wynn and her late husband, Tom, had nine daughters and one son. Besides raising 10 children and working as a registered nurse, she served on the Clinton School Board for 12 years and was its president for three years. In 1993, she ran for mayor. She lost that first attempt and finished third out of five candidates. Coming back two years later, under a campaign slogan of “Win with Wynn”, she won 54 percent of the vote and defeated four men. She went on to two more terms as mayor.
“I’ve always admired LaMetta Wynn a great deal, both because of her long and successful tenure as Iowa’s first Black woman mayor (which definitely could not have been easy) and also because she raised a big wonderful family while working full time as a nurse and participating in many community organizations,” State Rep. Mary Wolfe, a Democrat representing Clinton in the Iowa House of Representatives, said Friday. “Mayor Wynn cared about our city and everyone in it; she is known and respected throughout our state and will be remembered for generations to come.” Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce President Rich Phelan on Friday recalled watching Wynn’s leadership in action. “LaMetta was someone I really looked up to. She was a true leader. LaMetta always put what was best for Clinton first,” he said. “LaMetta was ‘everyone’s lovable mom’ but you always knew who was in charge. LaMetta became mayor during a time that the council members didn’t always play well in the sandbox together. From the very first meeting Mayor Wynn made it clear that was going to stop. A couple of the members tried to push the issue. After about the second meeting, they knew who was in charge.” Phelan said Wynn was involved in several important statewide and federal issues during her time as mayor and was a great advocate and ambassador for Clinton. “But she knew her role and allowed the council to drive policy....as long as they behaved,” he said. In a 1995 Christian Science Monitor article published shortly after the election, Wynn said she decided to run for mayor after reaching the conclusion that “Clinton needed better leadership.” “We needed to get together and focus on what we could do to improve the city,” Wynn said in the article. “They needed me.” But she remained humble, telling that reporter: “I’m just an ordinary person who tried to raise kids and do the best I could and I think if you are in a community and the community has been good to you, you should return something.” Over time, three different Iowa governors appointed Wynn to state leadership positions: Gov. Tom Vilsack appointed her to the state Vision Iowa Board, Gov. Terry Branstad appointed her to the Commission on the Status of African-Americans, and Gov. Chet Culver selected her to serve on the Iowa State Board of Education. State Sen. Chris Cournoyer, a Republican from LeClaire representing District 49, praised Wynn Friday for her service and for being a role model. “The Honorable LaMetta Wynn dedicated her life to her family and service to her community and state,” she said. “From serving on the school board and State Board of Education, to serving as the mayor of Clinton and as a nurse, she utilized her time and talents throughout her lifetime to positively impact those around her. She has always been a strong role model for anyone wanting to make a difference in our world.” “Her service as a nurse, school board and the city’s mayor, specifically as the first female African-American city mayor in Iowa, is one of the many things that set LaMetta apart,” added Clinton City Administrator Matt Brooke. “She was dedicated to making our citizens healthy, more educated and then ensuring progress for a great place to live. Never a kinder soul than she. A measure of one is all about the lasting of their shadow, which will continue to fall on all those lives LaMetta touched throughout her journey. Clinton was truly blessed to have been part of her travels in life.”