Passages on the FOI front

Change is occurring with several veteran Iowa journalists.

Kathleen Richardson, the longtime executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, has stepped aside to devote more time to her day job as dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Drake University. She is continuing to serve on the Iowa Public Information Board.

Sliding into the Iowa FOI Council’s executive director’s chair is Randy Evans, who retired in December 2014 after a 40-year career with The Des Moines Register. He was the opinions editor for the newspaper and at the time he took off his green eye shade.

But Evans is no stranger to the Iowa FOI Council. He was the council’s president in 1999 and received the council’s first Friend of the First Amendment award. For many years, he was a member of the council’s executive committee.

Another longtime member of the Iowa FOI Council, Rox Laird, retired in October after 43 years with the Register. For most of that time, he was an editorial writer and penned the newspaper’s commentary on First Amendment issues, the courts and local government. Laird is one of only two people to serve three times as president of the Iowa FOI Council. (Dave Vickers of KROS Radio in Clinton is the other.) Laird also served for many years on the Iowa Newspaper Association’s Government Relations Committee and played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Legislature’s creation of the Iowa Public Information Board.

The top leadership of the Iowa Newspaper Association, one of the founders of the Iowa FOI Council, is in transition. Chris Mudge, who has done an outstanding job as the INA’s executive director, will be retiring next spring. Mudge received the Iowa FOI Council’s Friend of the First Amendment award in October in recognition of her efforts on behalf of government transparency in Iowa. Mudge has been a member of the board of trustees of the Iowa FOI Council. She will be replaced by Susan Patterson Plank, who has led the INA’s sales and marketing efforts. Patterson Plank was an executive at the Des Moines Register and Iowa City Press-Citizen before joining the INA staff.

Members of the Iowa FOI Council approved a new slate of officers at the organization’s annual meeting in October. Jim Boyd, news director of WHO Radio, will serve as the council’s president in 2016. He replaces Brian Cooper, editor of the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Amalie Nash, executive editor of The Des Moines Register, will be the first vice president, and Zack Kucharski, editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, will be the second vice president. Joining the board of trustees as representatives of the council’s First Amendment members are Andrew Mertens, communicators director of the Iowa Association for Justice, and Steve Delaney, editor-publisher of the Burlington Hawk Eye.