Royceann Porter appointed Chairman of Johnson County Supervisory Board


Royceann Porter – photograph by Zak Neumann, illustration by Jordan Sellergren / Little Village

Supervisor Royceann Porter was named chairman of the Johnson County Board of Supervisors for 2022 in a vote that took less than a minute at the board’s organizational meeting on Monday. But Porter’s unanimous selection by his fellow supervisors was not a routine vote, as the county made clear in a press release issued after the meeting.

“This vote marks a historic milestone for Johnson County, as Supervisor Porter is the first African American to chair the board of directors since the county was formed in 1837,” the statement said.

“It’s hard to describe,” Porter said. Small village when asked how she felt after the vote. “It’s a very happy feeling. My heart is happy.

This is not the first time Porter has entered Johnson County history. In November 2018, she became the first black candidate for a county-wide post when the county Democratic Party selected her in place of former supervisor Pat Harney as the special election candidate to fill the vacant post on the supervisory board created by the death of Kurt Friese. Porter made history again the following month when she won the special election in a landslide victory to become Johnson County’s first black elected to a county office.

Porter came to Iowa from her hometown of Saginaw, Michigan in 1989 to take a job at a meat processing plant in Columbus Junction. She soon realized that processing pigs was not for her.

“I started on the kill floor,” Porter said. Small village in 2020. “It was so bloody. After the third day, I couldn’t even do it anymore. It made me sick to my stomach.

After a little over a month, she left the factory. But the job turned out to be important, not only because it brought Royceann White back to Iowa at the time, but also because the factory is where she met her future husband, Anthony Porter.

Prior to being elected to the board of directors, Porter was best known in Johnson County for her long career as a community activist. She first became involved in this work by organizing a parent group at South East Junior High to help resolve issues between teachers and students. The scope of his activism quickly expanded to include work on issues such as improving access to mental health services, expanding affordable housing, promoting workers’ rights, and attempting to help newcomer people of color adjust to life in Iowa.

Porter has focused particularly on issues surrounding the treatment of people of color by the police and the justice system, as leader of the Coalition for Racial Justice and co-founder of the Black Voices Project. She has also volunteered with the Iowa City Community Policing Review Committee, as well as the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee and the Juvenile Justice Development Policy Committee. In December 2020, she became one of the original members of the Iowa City Ad Hoc Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and was elected chair by her fellow commissioners. Four months later, she was one of four commissioners who resigned from the TRC after members voted to change leadership.

Porter continued her activist work as a member of the Supervisory Board and is still president of the Black Voices Project.

Elizabeth Warren greets Royceann Porter at a campaign event at Iowa City West High School. Saturday February 1, 2020. – Zak Neumann / Petit Village

Porter was elected for a full term on the supervisory board in November 2020, winning 55% of the vote.

Porter’s immediate duties will be to chair meetings to finalize the county’s budget, but she said working on Johnson County’s response to COVID-19 will also be a top priority.

“With Omicron and the increase in cases, we have to try to stay ahead of the curve,” Porter said.

When asked what she sees as her overall goal for her year as president, Porter replied, “I look forward to working together to improve the lives of everyone in Johnson County. This is what I have been working on since day one. I’m just trying to do what we need for our communities.

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