Stacey Walker announced on Wednesday he has decided not to run for reelection to the Linn County Board of Supervisors.
“At this point in my life, it is time for me to make space for new leaders, and to pursue other opportunities,” Walker, who currently serves as chair of the board, said in a written statement. “It was important to me to make my announcement soon, so that I can leave a long runway of opportunity for potential candidates to consider whether they will run for this seat.”
Walker made history in 2016 as the first Black candidate to win a countywide office in Linn County, when he was first elected to the Board of Supervisors. That year, Linn County voters also approved a referendum reducing the number of seats on the board from five to three, necessitating Walker run again in 2018. He was elected to the smaller board in a landslide.
In his statement on Wednesday, Walker pointed to his work in securing funding for the Safe, Equitable, and Thriving Communities grant program, as well as his role in creating the Law Enforcement Roundtable to facilitate community dialogue regarding criminal justice reform as two of his major accomplishments. He also cited other reform efforts, including a drug diversion program and annual expungement clinics.
As a supervisor, Walker also led on the creation of the Linn County Office of Sustainability to address the issue of climate change.
Stacey Walker was born and grew up in Cedar Rapids, and had already developed an interest in politics well before he started his freshman year at Washington High School. Speaking to Little Village in 2016, he recounted how this interest first developed in seventh grade.
“We were reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X and were discussing the different political approaches of civil rights leaders,” Walker said. “I made a comment to my teacher Mr. Dierks about how cool it would be to study these types of approaches and their effectiveness and do it for a living. Mr. Dierks looked at me and said, ‘You can study it, Stacey. It’s called political science.’”
In college, he originally studied business and intended to go on to law school, but eventually switched to his true passion and graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in political science.
Walker has had a political impact beyond his role as supervisor. His endorsement of Bernie Sanders in the last Iowa Caucus became national news — Walker, who shares Sanders’ progressive politics, had also campaigned for the Vermont senator in 2016 — and in 2019 and early 2020, the Political Party Live podcast Walker co-hosted was a regular interview stop for Democratic presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa. The podcast became so noteworthy is was profiled in The New Yorker, which described Walker as “earnest, assertive, and well-liked in Iowa Democratic politics.”
Even if he is well-liked, Walker did not see a much of a future for himself beyond Linn County in Iowa politics. In an interview with Little Village last year, he said his approach to politics had made him “radioactive” in the eyes of some in the party.
Over the years, I’d received enough phone calls from people here in the state, leaders in the party here in the state and consultants that work with politicians from around the country … who essentially would say to me, ‘Hey, man, you’re becoming radioactive. And if you want a future in this party, you’ll keep your mouth shut on issues of race, you won’t support Bernie Sanders’ — that’s a call I received several times — ‘and you will basically support these other elected officials who we have deemed the leaders of the party, and you won’t criticize them.’
Walker said he wasn’t interested in changing his approach.
At a local level, Walker’s break with the tradition of county supervisors not endorsing candidates in Cedar Rapids city elections, which he did in 2019 and again this year, has caused some friction with city councilmembers and Mayor Brad Hart. (Walker is backing Amara Andrews, who is challenging Hart in this year’s election for mayor.)
“As of now, I have no plans to seek another office,” Walker said on Wednesday. “I will continue to work hard to elect progressives to office across this state and country, as I believe they are our only hope in not only solving the hard issues, but preserving our democracy.”
In March, Walker launched a new business venture, one that will keep him involved in politics. Sage Strategies, a consulting firm, describes its work as providing “strategic communications for political, corporate, and non-profit clients.” Many of the members of the firm are, like Walker, veterans of the Sanders 2020 campaign.
In his statement on Wednesday, Walker said, “I think diversity of leadership is extremely important. While it has been an incredible honor to be the first African American elected to county office here in Linn, I surely don’t want to be the last minority to serve in elected office at the county level here.”
“It is my sincere hope that women and people of color find it in their heart to pursue this seat.”