Vilsack says Reynolds has historic opportunity with four-year term ahead

DES MOINES — As Republican Governor Kim Reynolds prepares to take the oath of office for a full, four-year term as governor, one of Iowa’s former governors is complementing Reynolds for the campaign she ran.

Tom Vilsack, a Democrat who served two terms as governor, is also offering some advice.

“She wanted the job. She was happy to have the job. She was excited about the job and I think people reacted to that, so she deserves this four-year term ’cause she worked for it and she won,” Vilsack says. “I think she needs to understand, and I suspect she does, that what she was doing before was an extension of someone else’s legacy.”

Reynolds became the state’s chief executive in the middle of Terry Branstad’s sixth term as governor and Vilsack says Reynolds now has a chance to chart a new course.

“She can choose for herself what she believes to be most important for the state and to go about the business of convincing all of us to go with her on it,” Vilsack says. “So that’s my expectation that she understands and appreciates: ‘Hey, this is a terrific, historic opportunity.’ The first elected woman governor — that’s significant. That’s historic, but really, at the end of the day, what we’re going to remember her for is: ‘What she did with the job?’ And I think she has a tremendous opportunity which she richly deserves because she ran a good race.”

Vilsack says Reynolds has given some hints at policies she may pursue, such doing away with Branstad’s system and automatically restoring a released felon’s voting rights. Vilsack says he appreciates that Reynolds publicly told Congressman Steve King he needs to start paying attention to his constituents or consider a new career.

“This is her legacy, not somebody else’s legacy, not even a party — it’s her legacy, the Reynolds legacy,” Vilsack says. “And I’m sure she’s given a lot of thought to that and I’m sure she’s getting a lot of advice about it, but I’m looking forward to seeing what she does.”

Shortly after the election, Reynolds said she had “inherited” a staff from the Branstad Administration 19 months ago and was looking forward to assembling her own team. Reynolds already brought in a new chief of staff. A handful of state agency leaders have announced they’ll leave their jobs in early January.