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Byers eager to tackle challenges of new Partnership position


Jay Byers takes the next step in his career today as he leaves his position as Congressman Leonard Boswell’s district director and assumes his new role as senior vice president of public policy for the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Byers studied political science at Simpson College and later graduated from the University of Iowa College of Law. After a year and half practicing labor and employment law in Indianapolis, he returned to his home state of Iowa to take on his next challenge. He has dedicated time and effort to community improvement projects and leadership endeavors. But Byers is a family man who never lets his two daughters, ages three and nine months, stray far from his mind.

After graduating from law school you went to work for a 200-lawyer firm in Indianapolis. Did you go into that position hoping it would lead to other opportunities?

That was a great opportunity to learn a lot about working in the corporate field, and I did enjoy that. But as a political science major, working full time in a public policy arena was very appealing to me. The window opened and I went through it.

How would you describe your work with Congressman Boswell’s office?

Congressman Boswell was a great boss, a great friend and a great mentor. I had an excellent seven and a half years with him. I was his state director, which meant I oversaw our constituent service, I oversaw our grants program and I was the primary liaison with local government and business leaders. I worked a lot with the Partnership in that capacity, working on both economic development and community development projects, and I participated in a number of Washington, D.C., trips and realized the importance of what that mission is and what a huge role this organization plays in promoting the community.

Are there any times that were particularly exciting for you to be working for Congressman Boswell?

Getting the opportunity to rub elbows with the presidential candidates was always fun and interesting. Just working with a member of Congress and being able to travel to Washington, D.C. and meet a wide range of interesting people has been great. When we went through the redistricting process two and a half years ago and moved to Des Moines, I really had the opportunity to get involved with the Greater Des Moines community even more than we had before.

Did this move to the Partnership seem like a natural transition?

I’ve been with the Congressman for seven and a half years, which in this business is a long time. The Partnership is an excellent organization that is working on things that I think are really important for the future of this area – quality-of-life issues, working to get high paying jobs here and being able to not only retain our young families and young professionals, but to attract new young professionals and families so we can continue to grow this area. Just to be a part of that is a very exciting opportunity.

How have your personal activities affected your career development?

I’ve always been involved in various leadership roles, whether it was in college or law school. I’ve been involved with the Warren County Leadership Institute and was on the board of directors there for awhile, and I’ve served on my church council. I’ve tried very hard to give back to a lot of organizations that have been beneficial to me. A lot of it stems from my father who’s been an educator, but he’s also been very involved with community projects.

How have you worked to improve the quality of life within your own community?

When I was in law school a friend of mine and I started what’s called Lawlapalooza, which is a benefit concert for the Equal Justice Foundation. I’m also kind of a wannabe musician. Last year was its 12th year and it raised just over $11,000 for the Equal Justice Foundation, so I’m pretty proud to be one of the founders of that. When I moved to Indianola, I was one of the co-founders of an outdoor concert series. So I’ve focused on a lot of the quality-of-life things that I think are important for families and for attracting young people. I think I’ve lived that in my own personal life and try to do what I can to make my community better.

How did you develop an interest in music?

My mother was a music teacher, and I’ve kind of messed around on the guitar since I was in elementary school. I’m a far cry from a professional, but I really like it. I still play in a couple of bands with some friends from law school. They live all over the country so we don’t play very much, but it’s just kind of a fun thing to do. I also play racquetball and basketball, but I primarily spend my free time with my two daughters.

So what’s it like being the father of two young girls?

Well, my mother passed away when I was young, so I grew up in a family with my dad and brother. Now I’ve got my wife, daughters and two female cats. So I’m outnumbered five to one. But it’s great; I wouldn’t have it any other way. They’re just wonderful little girls.

Have you ever seen yourself running for political office?

They always say in politics, “Never say never.” I’ve enjoyed being involved with various office holders and now directly in public policy. I know what it takes to do a good job as an elected official. But until my family gets quite a bit older, that’s something that I probably wouldn’t consider. But once my girls are older, it’s never say never.

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