City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes to retire, interim attorney appointed until new hire

After a year full of the unexpected, Dilkes will retire from her position as city attorney for Iowa City, with her First Assistant City Attorney Sue Dulek to serve as interim city attorney


Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

The Iowa City City Council is seen at an Iowa City City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. (Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan

Claire Benson, News Reporter

After 25 years of serving as city attorney, Eleanor Dilkes will retire on April 16.

The Iowa City City Council unanimously appointed current First Assistant City Attorney Sue Dulek to serve as interim city attorney on Tuesday, which will take effect on April 17. Dulek will serve until a new attorney is selected and hired to permanently fill Dilkes’ role.

The meeting agenda stated that it is anticipated there will be a gap between Dilkes’ retirement and the effective date of a newly hired City Attorney. 

Applications for the city attorney position are due on April 15, with City Councilors Laura Bergus, Susan Mims, and Mayor Bruce Teague in charge of reviewing applicants and beginning the interview process.

The tentative schedule for the application, interview, and hiring process will include submitting recommended applicants’ applications to the full city council on April 26. 

Following this, Teague, Mayor Pro-Tem Mazahir Salih, and City Manager Geoff Fruin will interview preferred candidates on May 4.

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Several councilors stated they would like Dilkes to be involved in the hiring process of the new city attorney. Salih requested that Dilkes provide the city council with a comprehensive list of recommended questions to ask applicants during interviews. 

Dilkes said she would like to see applicants with experience in municipal law, good reputation within the legal community, and an attorney who is relatable rather than flashy. 

“They just need to be really smart and they need to be willing to work as part of a team, and realize that there are many things that the council and staff members are trying to figure out,” Dilkes said. “The art is just trying to figure out what the possible solutions are and then taking those to the policymakers to decide what course they want to pursue.”

Councilors thanked Dilkes for her service to the city, sharing memories and praising her ability to effectively guide the city council on legal and political issues and where the two intertwine.

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“Eleanor, congratulations and thank you,” Bergus said. “It was when I had my first job, I was 15 years old, in the Iowa City City Council chambers behind a camera, and you were there. So that was exactly 25 years ago, and I didn’t realize you were a brand new city attorney then.”

Fruin said Tuesday night was Dilkes’ last council meeting of her career, and he, just like the rest of the city council and staff, will miss her.

“There’s nobody better at what she does than Eleanor, and I mean that from bottom of my heart, with all the experience that I’ve had over my career,” Fruin said. “There’s nobody better, we’re gonna miss her, but this might be her last council meeting. I still get to live in denial for another week and a half, because the last day is next Friday, so I’m going to choose to stay in denial for just a little bit longer.”