Vilsack: Tragedy Three Decades Ago Emphasized Faith, Challenges

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Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack receives a briefing on the Syrian refugee crisis from United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) Andrew Harper in Amman, Jordan, on May 10, 2015.

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The December 1986 murder of Mount Pleasant’s mayor at a City Council meeting taught his successor, former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the value of faith and confidence to confront challenges, Vilsack said in a new IowaWatch Connection radio interview.

A disgruntled resident shot and killed Edward King and wounded two City Council members, shouting obscenities about a dispute the resident had with the city.

State Historial Society of Iowa

Tom Vilsack

“That experience indicated to me that the community was willing to come together,” Vilsack said in the interview. “It also taught me the important role in public life of being willing to listen, and being close to people, and giving them the opportunity to share with you their hopes, their aspirations, their concerns, their irritations.”

Vilsack established “mayor’s hours” after King’s death in the city’s public library after a failed attempt at City Hall — people were reticent to go to where the murder happened, Vilsack said — to talk with people about municipal concerns in Mount Pleasant.

The shooter, Ralph Davis, was convicted of first-degree murder and served a mandatory life term in prison until dying there in 1999.

Vilsack eventually won an Iowa Senate seat and then served as governor for eight years. He was the nation’s agriculture secretary under President Barack Obama from January 2009 until mid-January 2017.

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