Since coming to Iowa City in 1993, city council candidate Bruce Teague has built a successful business and become an active participant in community affairs. But none of it would have happened if he’d been better at chemistry in high school.
“I actually came here because I had failed chemistry back in Chicago, where I was from,” Teague said.
His sister, a University of Iowa student, checked on Iowa’s graduation requirements. Chemistry wasn’t listed. With his parents’ blessings, Teague moved in with his sister and enrolled at West High School.
At first, life in Iowa City was a bit of culture shock for the 17 year-old Teague.
“I was from an all-black community, it was very eye-awakening,” he said. “But I can tell you that attending West High School, and subsequently Kirkwood, as well as the University of Iowa, I got exposed to a different culture. And I absolutely — with time — fell in love with Iowa City.”
Two years after coming to Iowa City, Teague found the career path he wanted to pursue while working at Iowa City Hospice, assisting people in the final stage of their lives.
“What I found was there was a great need for additional care in the home — 24-hour care, overnight care and for individuals who really need more assistance than a family could provide,” he explained.
In 2004, he started Caring Hands & More Home Health & Family Services. From three employees, the business has grown to employ 83 people. It provides end-of-life care that allows people to remain in their homes with comfort and dignity, and also runs group homes in the city.
In addition to growing his business, Teague has also been working with community nonprofits — most focused on working with people with disabilities and the area’s immigrant and LGBTQ communities — as well as business groups, such as the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce and the Noon Day Rotary.
Teague is also a musician, and performs with his family.
Teague believes he can bring a perspective to council that it is currently lacking.
“I can speak from my personal experience of being a person that needed affordable housing and actually accessed it here in Iowa City, and I know the challenges that brings,” he said. “I also was a person that received [Family Investment Program] food stamps. And so I know what it means to not have a livable wage and still work two or three jobs.”
He said he can also speak to the needs of small business owners, because he understands the “challenge and opportunities they have in Iowa City.”
“Something we need to do a better job at is actually bringing all the voices to the table, the yeas and nays, and have them sit down and talk,” Teague said.
Throughout his campaign, Teague has said the idea of creating a “human rights city” would guide his approach to city government. That means focusing on making sure that the basic needs of all citizens — food, shelter, access to jobs (including making sure public transportation is available to get to those jobs) — are met.
“I believe Iowa City is a great place for people from all different walks of life, and it is the council’s responsibility to ensure that transportation, as well as great relationships with businesses, exist and affordable housing where people can have access,” he said.
Teague said that too often concerns about how to meet those needs distracts from why it is important to do so.
“Sometimes I think the ‘why’ gets lost,” he said. “And the ‘how’ can remain a challenge to get to, but the ‘why’ drives us to get to the ‘how.’”
The special election to fill the vacant at-large seat on the Iowa City Council will be on Tuesday, Oct. 2.