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In retirement, Mary Ellen divides her time between her home in Mason City, farm in Wayne County and summer cabin in Northern Minnesota. After a 30-year career in human epidemiology at the U of Iowa, she worked as a non-profit organizational development facilitator and long-range planning and fundraising consultant. She has served on the boards of North Iowa Area Community College, League of Women Voters of Iowa, Iowa Federation of Republican Women, 1,000 Friends of Iowa, her Unitarian Universalist fellowship and has a long history of civic engagement. She was appointed to the Iowa State Board of Education in 2014.

Mary Ellen grew up on a small farm in Johnson County; she purchased her first farm in the 70s where she raised and marketed free-range, organic Angus beef. Her interest in land use policy is rooted in her childhood growing up in the Amish community near Kalona, Iowa. Her Amish relatives taught her by example that we are temporary stewards of the land and must work to protect it for the benefit of future generations. Aldo Leopold’s “A Sand County Almanac” serves as her land use bible. Leopold was a person who spoke as did my Amish ancestors:  “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”