Carol Duncan Has the Floor

Swimming, Retiring and What Happened in Between

Carol Duncan Has the Floor

The bookends of my working life – giving swimming lessons as a teen and now retiring from the PCHTF – have provided a perspective different than I ever imagined before and after my 30 years in state government. This Friday I will be retiring from the Housing Trust Fund and have been invited to share a few insights about my life and observations on affordable housing.

I grew up in Leon, Iowa and after stints at Northwest Missouri State and Muscatine Community College knew I wanted to be in The City. At age 21 I moved to Des Moines and for me affordable housing was living in a boarding house on Grand Avenue where WHO-TV is now. It was reserved for single-women going to school at AIB College (which I was not), but thankfully they let me in.

I worked at Allied Insurance and then Massey Ferguson before having an experience that changed my entire career path and led me to where I am today.  My friend Jane was working for a stockbroker who was a supporter of David Stanley and running against Harold Hughes for the U.S. Senate seat in 1968. She went to volunteer for the Stanley campaign and I went with her and political connections were made.

Jane was offered a job working in the Governor’s Office, so I called saying I heard they were hiring and wanted to be considered also. I received an interview followed by a job working in former Governor Robert D. Ray’s office.  I not only worked in Governor Ray’s office, but in Governor Branstad’s office for the next 30 years before retiring from the Department of Revenue and Finance in 2001. I realize now the gift Governor Ray gave this small town girl. Working with him and the people who followed changed my life.

Retirement didn’t last long.  I was working in another political campaign where I crossed paths with Sue Ryan who was on the PCHTF Board. She said the Housing Trust Fund was looking for an Administrative Coordinator. I had never worked for a non-profit and found the focus of this world, helping others, to be something I wanted to experience. Thankfully the PCHTF gave me that opportunity.

The transformation of the Housing Trust Fund over the nine years I have worked here has been amazing. When I first arrived it was relatively unknown except to the housing providers who looked to it as a funding source of Polk County dollars. Now, in addition to funding, there is also significant work related to planning and advocacy. This expanded vision, coupled with Eric’s leadership, has really made the work being done on behalf of affordable housing even more visible, meaningful and impactful.

Working here has made me aware of the difference a community, or organization or individual can make.  In my retirement I plan to look for volunteer opportunities, spend time with my grandchildren (ages 11, 8 and 6), travel with my husband, swim and relax.  After all, you cannot float unless you relax.  That’s swimming lesson #1.