Nurse beats odds, makes history as Iowa's first African-American female mayor
By Jon ConnorOctober 3, 2019
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Illinois -- She was a lifelong nurse, not a politician. But, others thought she would make a great mayor of Clinton, Iowa.
Clinton is a city in -- and the county seat of -- Clinton County. The population was 26,885 as of 2010. It's located on the banks of the Mississippi River less than 30 miles northwest of Davenport.
After enough people prodded LeMetta Wynn to run as mayor, she decided to venture out on the campaign trail. Her first bid was unsuccessful.
But she persisted and eventually she was elected Iowa's first female African-American mayor in November 1995 and Iowa's second black mayor. She went on to win two more elections, serving as Clinton's mayor until 2007.
"I will never do this again," Wynn told attendees Feb. 16 during her keynote address at the African American/Black History Month Observance activities in Heritage Hall here, referring to her initial defeat.
"I didn't really know anything about government," explained the mother of 10 children - nine daughters and one son -- who worked as a registered nurse for 30 years. But people in Clinton kept encouraging her to run again as mayor. "I finally said 'OK'."
The theme of this year's RIA observance, sponsored by the U.S. Army Sustainment Command, was "Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories."
The purpose of Black History Month was stated in a program for the event: "During African American History Month, we celebrate these formative leaders and sites of the civil rights movement, as well as innumerable others who have contributed immeasurably to the tapestry of America, helping shape our nation and the world. African American History Month is a time to reflect on our nation's history and progress, and recommit to advancing equal opportunity for all."
Originally from Galena, Illinois, Wynn also came from a big family. She had four older brothers and four older sisters. "They all thought the world of the baby in the family," Wynn said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Wynn also served on the Clinton School Board for 12 years - serving as its president for three years.
Although the mayoral position is officially considered "part-time," Wynn said "I never got to be [a part-time mayor] because there was too much going on."
Wynn credited many people who assisted her during her campaigns and the Clinton city council for their support during her tenure as mayor. "I had their help," she said. "I had their good wishes."After her speech, Col. Fredrick Hannah, director, Installation Logistics, ASC, told Wynn she truly illustrates African-American history. He added that she exemplifies such characteristics as "faith, loyalty, commitment, dedication, and unity."Other activities during the observance included: An a cappella performance by ASC's Everline Barnard and Jereen Phillips-Harden who sang "His Eye Is On The Sparrow," as well as the national anthem; a video titled "Now I get it: Black History Month"; a reading of the presidential proclamation by Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Ferguson, ASC; an invocation by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jeffrey Botsford, ASC; and an appreciation plaque presentation to Wynn from Rock Island Arsenal command teams.