The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

May 26, 2012

Ottumwan chats with first lady

Simonson volunteers, stays involved in politics

OTTUMWA — Nothing could pull him away from seeing the president of the United States at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. Nothing, that is, but a call on his cell phone from the first lady.

“I’ve been doing some [political] organizing in Waterloo as  a volunteer,” said  Zach Simonson, 22, an Ottumwan currently attending the University of Northern Iowa.

When Barack Obama arrived in Iowa Thursday, Simonson knew he wanted another chance to see the president — the student had already seen him speak in Ottumwa. But he’d also been chosen as one of three young people across the country to participate in a conference call with Michelle Obama.

“I was at the state fairgrounds to see the president, and I ducked out to take the ... call from the first lady,” Simonson said. “I was able to talk to her about jobs.”

“Part of the reason why Zach was selected is because he believes that all people should be able to ... get involved in causes that matter to them,” said Liz Purchia, a campaign press secretary in Iowa.

Simonson, a 2008 Ottumwa High School graduate studying political communication at UNI, said he appreciated Mrs. Obama’s candor in answering his questions about people being out of work.

It’s not uncommon for political speakers to start touting their candidate’s accomplishments, Simonson said. And he knew there have been improvements over the past few years.

“It was really meaningful to me that she said we had a long way to go.”

That’s even with what he called 26-straight months of job creation; the nation still isn’t where it needs to be, Simonson said.

“The [discussion] should not be about accomplishments since 2008. It needs to be about how we’re going to get better starting [with] 2012.”

He told Michelle Obama that college graduates in Iowa are still unemployed or under-employed at higher rates than they should be. In fact just this week, a media report stated that nationally, college graduates are unemployed at a higher rate than those without four-year degrees.

He said the president seems aware of the value of skilled jobs in advanced manufacturing. And that means learning a trade or a skill.

Because while Simonson didn’t choose to go to a community college, while he attends UNI, he has watched his friends attend Indian Hills Community College — and graduate.

“They’ve had employers competing to give them jobs.”

In fact, it was at IHCC that the president last stopped in Ottumwa.

“I was really glad she talked about making a bigger investment in community colleges,” he said. “I felt a good connection to that because that was something the president spoke about when he was here [in Ottumwa].”

So did the first lady ask him anything? No. But she did ask something of America’s young people.

“There was a record [voter] turnout among youth in 2008. She said we’ll need to do that again in order to win in 2012.”

Text Only
Local News
  • 0417 OTT Earth day color photo 1 -T -M Cargill celebrates Earth Day by educating ALBIA — In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, employees from Cargill Eddyville and Cargill Pork are visiting with students at Grant Elementary and Lincoln Center in Albia all this week. On Wednesday the Courier caught up with them as they went

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0417 OTT Saving Center color photo -T -L -M Hedrick building has friends HEDRICK — The community wants a civic center, and they've been willing to work for it. "I'd say we have 15 to 25 volunteers each time," Tommy Smith of Hedrick said. "These are all good people." Smith was volunteering his services at the Easter Brunch

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Iowa farmers preparing for planting OTTUMWA — Even though the winter seemed to linger like Iowa was going through an ice age and cold and wet weather has highlighted the early spring, farmers are starting to get out to their fields to put down fertilizer and get fields ready for planti

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Carrying bookbags a balancing act OTTUMWA — Permission slips. Notes from teachers. School activity announcements, birthday invitations, report cards and homework to sign. Kids bring home a lot of stuff. But is it done fairly? The school board this week was asked by ranking members of

    April 16, 2014

  • Van Buren supervisors deny hog confinement permit application KEOSAUQUA — A proposed swine building in Chequest Township didn’t receive a seal of approval from Van Buren County Board of Supervisors. Supervisors voted Monday to recommend to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to deny the permit. Supervisor

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Beth Howard bw cover -L -T -M 'Ms. American Pie' tours with her new book ELDON — With many hours and countless miles on her RV "The Beast," Eldon's pie lady, Beth Howard, is celebrating the release of her new book with a tour of southwestern states. Howard's second book, "Ms. American Pie: Buttery Good Pie Recipes and Bol

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Van Buren to share FFA with Harmony KEOSAUQUA — Van Buren Community School Board approved a recommendation from its administration to share the ag program with Harmony for the 2014-15 school year. The decision means that Van Buren students would travel to Harmony to receive ag instruct

    April 16, 2014

  • Attorney withdraws after client disappears OTTUMWA — Authorities are still looking for an Ottumwa man who didn’t show up for court proceedings. When they find him, he’ll need a new attorney. Jacob Nordyke faces charges of interference with official acts and possession of drug paraphernalia. H

    April 16, 2014

  • Waste Management wants to stay in Keosauqua KEOSAUQUA — Waste Management told the city of Keosauqua that it was not interested in ending the contract it has for solid waste and recycling services it provides to the city. A representative told the city mayor that it intends to fulfill the contr

    April 16, 2014

Photo reprints