New Mayor Bruce Teague takes helm in a historic year for Iowa City City Council

New Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague outlined his priorities for his tenure on the city council Tuesday night. He’ll take the helm of a historic city council.


Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague addresses the crowd at an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020.

Hannah Rovner, News Reporter

Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague leans forward in his seat in the center of the table during Iowa City City Council meetings, making eye contact with each person as they speak. He waits patiently until it’s time for discussion, then dives in with passion.

How Teague sits at the City Council table reflects his approach in his new role as mayor. The turn of the decade brought Iowa City a new mayor, Teague, after he served a little more than a year on City Council. His current and former colleagues characterized his leadership style on council as leading heart-first, a philosophy Teague says he will bring to his new role.

“I think the core of me is I have a heart to serve others and to help people reach whatever needs they have in a variety of ways,” Teague said.

He takes the helm of a historically diverse council. The opening of the 2020 session marked Iowa City’s first five-woman-majority panel, the city’s second black mayor, and Mazahir Salih, widely cited as the first Sudanese woman elected to public office, taking a role as mayor pro-tem.

Teague lived and worked in Iowa City for 26 years before running for office.

He founded an Iowa City-based generational health-care agency, Caring Hands & More, in 2004, where he worked 40-60 hours a week. He graduated from the Iowa City West High in 1993, obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Iowa in 2001, and a nursing degree from Kirkwood Community College a year after.

Seven months before former City Councilor Kingsley Botchway’s departure, Teague said he stepped back from his health-care management duties and wanted to do something different to give back — especially in the realm of policy making.

Unbeknownst to him at the time, that “something different” would be running for a position in local government.

When Teague spoke in an interview, there was no chance of a wandering mind. Teague was fully engaged, his posture reflecting his focus as he spoke about the work he did to get elected.

“When the opportunity came up, I did what most people have said: ‘No, not right now, maybe in the future.’ But I have been saying that for many, many times, and so this time I thought about it and I said, ‘This is the time,’ and so that’s when I stepped down [and ran for council],” Teague said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

So, he did. Teague won a run-off primary election in a five-way race for the seat, and secured his spot in an October 2018 special election.

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During his first year on City Council, Teague served on a majority-male council under Mayor Jim Throgmorton, but the overturn of the 2020 council session marked a historic milestone for representation on the council — both in terms of gender and people of color.

“I absolutely love the idea that I am amongst five awesome and amazing women… Our community should look more and more like this, that it doesn’t even become a topic of conversation because it’s just a norm,” Teague said. “… The mayor is black and the mayor pro tempore [Mazahir Salih] is also a person of color. We are in such a great space as a city allowing opportunities beyond gender and race.”

In the realm of inclusivity, the representation is “worth more than a million dollars,” Teague said.

But, Teague said, he wished that representation of women or people of color in local government wasn’t newsworthy — that councils as diverse as the one he leads will become the norm.

“And so that’s what I do hope — that this will set the norm where it really is looking at the individual and their qualifications when we’re making our voting, and not, you know, that they’re female,” he said. “But I think it’s great — I love it.”

The next year for City Council

In an address to councilors Tuesday night, Teague outlined his priorities for the next year as the newly elected mayor.

He said he wanted to build on past initiatives and promote the city’s “lofty goals” in affordable housing, supporting the council staff, and advancing the city’s climate plan, social-justice and racial-equity plans, and strengthening Iowa City’s transit system.

Among his goals for the future are adding more bike lanes, Iowa City meeting its climate-action goals, and making the community a Gold bike-friendly community as well as looking forward to the completion of building projects.

“The City Council has a full plate in the coming year, and I am excited to work alongside this team to make sure that we continue to make meaningful progress not only in priority areas, but across all facets of city council,” Teague said Tuesday at the City Council meeting. “At the same time, we need to make sure we remain committed to fiscal responsibility and security.”

Throgmorton spoke highly of Teague, though he said with Teague having only served on City Council for 14 months prior to being selected as mayor, he would still hit a learning curve.

“Bruce has a loving heart,” Throgmorton said. “I think that’s the essence of Bruce Teague. Many duties of the mayor and City Council benefit from love but mainly have to benefit the interests of people involved in some sort of disagreement. So a challenge for him is how to process disagreements.”

Newly elected City Councilor Janice Weiner said although she hasn’t known Teague for very long, she said one of Teague’s strengths is he brainstorms ways to seek solutions while working with others.

While maintaining a jovial spirit, Teague indicated his passion for the issues the City Council face. Teague said he hopes the councilors will bring their individual hopes and goals to move the city forward and decide what the councilors can focus on during their tenure.

Teague emphasized the issue of affordable housing and the wide range of citizens within Iowa City — some are very wealthy, some are middle class and some are economically and financially challenged — but he envisions a city that works for each resident.

“I believe we need to ensure that there is a space within our community for everyone, we have a dedicated council ensuring that we do what we can to make it possible for everyone to be in our community,” Teague said.