Not a premium subscriber yet? Upgrade for exclusive articles. Enjoy a free trial. Thanks for reading.
Get to know Iowa’s Black candidates. Black Iowa News interviewed Jerome Amos Jr. who is running unopposed as a Democrat in Iowa House District 62 in Waterloo. Amos, who retired from John Deere Tractor Works after 33 years and has represented Ward 4 on the Waterloo city council for seven years, said he wants to address statewide disparities and “make things more equitable.” The self-described “union person” whose grandfather was born in Buxton, a booming Black coal mining town in southeastern Iowa, wants to see Iowa improve. “That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do. I have grandchildren in this community. I have sons who I would love one day for them to come back to this community and finish out their careers and life here,” he said. “So if I can do something to make their life better before I leave this earth, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.” Amos has served in a variety of roles and as chairs on commissions, on a state board and in the UAW Local 838.
Black Iowa News: What motivated you to run for office?
Jerome Amos Jr.: “The thing that actually motivated me to run for public office period is because I’m a union member. I have been my entire adult life. My union activism and (understanding that) I need to use my voice to help those who don’t have a voice. (State Rep. Ras Smith had served Iowa House District 62 but redistricting forced changes. Smith then announced he wasn’t seeking re-election after exiting the governor’s race.) So to make a long story short, they redid the maps . . . I decided why not. I might as well go ahead and run. But for me, I have a servant’s heart. I always have. And I feel like I have the ability and the opportunity to help this community that I live in and love so that’s my motivation.”
Black Iowa News: What are some key issues that you feel passionate about and why?
Jerome Amos Jr.: “Well, for me, one of my big passions is workforce development. I’m a factory worker. I have a little bit of college but spent my entire adult life pretty much working at John Deere in a factory. I do the things that I do because I know it’s the right thing to do. There are issues that need to be addressed and are not being properly addressed down there. I know that people who look like me are at a disadvantage in this state and in the city of Waterloo. I can use my voice to help improve the lifestyles of individuals who looks like me. I’m blessed in a lot of ways. I don’t have a lot of issues that others have, but I do know that I have family members. I have friends who are facing some of those issues, and they need help, they’re not getting it at this point in time from the people in charge.”
Black Iowa News: What are at least two areas specific to Black Iowans that you would identify as troubling or problematic, and what would you do, if elected, to address it?
Jerome Amos Jr.: “Well, number one is the incarceration rate for the state and for the county that I live in. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to look at statistics. I’ll use Black Hawk County as an example. . . When you look at the statistics in the Black Hawk county jail at any given time, 40% to 50% of the individuals in that jail are people of color, even though we only represent 17% of the population. That to me is an issue that needs to be addressed, and it’s been talked about and everything else, but really, truly nothing has changed. So for me, that’s one of the issues facing Black Iowans of this community. The employment rate was like 24%. Now my thing is, is where are you going to go into anywhere in this country, or anyplace else where a 24% unemployment rate is acceptable? There’s just not, so for me, I try to be a solutions person. So for me the solution is giving individuals those opportunities to be trained in some of those higher-skilled jobs. For my part time job, I actually do training in computer numerical control for Hawkeye Community College. Right now. I’m teaching English language learning students and some high school students. But I see very few people who look like me, other than individuals that are from the Congo and that, in these classes, and I know from my life that a good paying job makes a huge difference in your life.”
Black Iowa News: Where were you born?
Jerome Amos Jr.: “Waterloo, Iowa.”
Black Iowa News: Tell us about your family.
Jerome Amos Jr.: “I’ll be 68 this year. I was married for 47 years. My wife passed away two years ago this October from cancer. I’ve just recently remarried. And between my new wife, we have seven children and 14 grandchildren.”