CF family finds home in state capital

School Board member Giddens, who was the Democrat candidate in the Senate District 30 special election, is now the newest state senator in Iowa after he won the special election against Republican Walt Rogers and Libertarian Fred Perryman.

“The person I am replacing I have a lot of respect for and was a friend of ours. I think in some ways I want to carry on doing the same good job he did by listening to all people, not just those I agree with.  I’m a Democrat, but I need to listen to Democrats, Republicans and work with all of my colleagues,” Giddens said.

Giddens’ has family members who are also involved in Cedar Falls Schools. His wife, Kendra Wohlert, who used to work at the high school and Southdale as a choir teacher, and his son Henry is a student at Peet. “[I felt] so much excitement [when he won],” Wohlert said. “I was relieved that the community voted for a candidate that ran a positive campaign, and I was relieved that the community wanted someone who would represent everyone.”

Giddens said that the experience was both honoring and humbling especially because the community had so little time to get to know him.

Following Jeff Danielson’s resignation from Senate District 30, all of the candidates had only weeks to campaign, and that along with the weather affected everyone’s plan and forced a lot of quick thinking.

“A few years ago [my family and I] left the country for a couple of years, and we lived in Honduras.  [When] we decided to come back to Cedar Falls, we kind of settled back down to the community, and I had this realization that this was home, and we need to do the best we can to make it the best it can be. Within a couple years I decided to run for school board. The first time I wasn’t successful, but I tried again and was on that for a 1 ½ years [until my resignation]. I thought if there was an option I would try and all of a sudden Jeff Danielson resigned. I had to make a quick decision and here we are,” Giddens said.

Deciding to run in the special election meant that Giddens had to resign from his position on the school board.

“I was very sad to lose [Giddens] as a school board member, but I was very excited that he would represent us in District 30,” Joyce Coil, president of the school board, said.

Coil said that the most likely future for the school board is to appoint someone to fill Giddens’ spot until the June 25 referendum.

After the quick decision, Giddens had to work on his campaign and start talking to the community.

“My plan was just to be as authentic as I could and say the things that I believe in and then tell people that I’m going to be a listener. How to carry out a good campaign is just give the power and thought to the voters. We had so many volunteers that were able to knock on all the doors that were our target doors two times and made sure people knew that this was going to happen,” Giddens said. “Knocking on doors, talking to people on the phone, sending postcards, television ads, speaking to the news paper—those are the key ingredients to a good campaign.”

“[Once the election was over] we were all very celebratory and it was an amazing moment but then we had to hit the ground running,” Henry said.

“The first thing I want to do is be a representative for the community, and my goal is not to say what is best for the community, but I want to hear what the people want and take those ideas to Des Moines to work with the other legislators and hope we get it passed to help better the community based off of what the people are saying,” Giddens said.

Some general ideas Giddens said he thinks about are public education, health care, the environment and helping people get jobs, but the specifics have to come from people in the community.

“I would say [my dad’s decision to run for state senate has inspired me.] Both my mom and dad are pretty political, and I never really did see myself doing politics in the future, but since this campaign I have definitely become more open to my idea of it,” Henry said.

Senator Giddens said he hopes to inspire more students to get involved in the community than just his son.

“My message is that you can’t expect anybody else to make the community a better place, so I encourage everyone to get involved in whatever they are interested. There is something for everybody. I think the more they get involved in leadership, the more prepared they will be for opportunities they get in the future,” Giddens said. “First, get involved at school and then bring it to the community level.”

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