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Lowell Engle

Kristi Hager

Patti Ruff

There will be a Republican primary to decide which of two candidates will face Patti Ruff for the Iowa House of Representatives, District 56 seat.

Voters will go to the polls June 7 to determine whether Kristi Hager, Waukon, or Lowell Engle, Harper’s Ferry, will face Ruff, who is seeking re-election to the position she’s held since 2012. District 56 encompasses Allamakee County and much of Clayton County. 

Here’s a look at all three candidates.

Lowell Engle is a graduate of Tripoli High School and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Northern Iowa. He has also received degrees and certification from George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; University of Iowa; Javeriana University, Bogota, Colombia; and Foreign Service Language Institute (FSLI) Arlington, VA, with master’s equivalent in both Spanish and French. 

Engle has worked for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Defenses in many difficult capacities and on many different assignments. During his civil service career, he lived and worked in 46 different countries. In 1991, he returned to Harper’s Ferry where he built his own home. He lives there now, managing and operating his 180-acre tree farm.

Engle submitted the following comments on why he decided to run for office.

“I am fed up with being represented by someone whose primary allegiance is to her political party and not to the constituents who sent her to the state house,” he said. “The incumbent voted against the 10 percent increase in the gas tax, which is now providing much needed funding—over $750,000 annually—to each county in our district.  Her voting record of the past three years shows that had the bills she voted for, following her party line been passed, the budget for Iowa would have increase by almost $1.5 billion.”

He continued, “I am also fed up with politicians who will say and do anything to win an election or for some personal gain. And finally, I am fed up with the amount of money that flows into the campaigns. It would be nice if money could be eliminated from the election equation and the winner be chosen on the basis of accomplishments and leadership ability.”

Engle said he is not running against Hager, whom he considers a friend, but rather he’s running to give his party a chance to choose the most viable candidate to face Ruff. He lists education funding as one of his top priorities and vowed to  “search all corners for monies that might be available for education.” He said he’d also be working hard for veterans.

“My own qualifications include over 50 years in service to the country as an intelligence analyst,” Engle continued. “During that service there was an impressive list of accomplishments in the intelligence field which demonstrate my leadership capabilities. I was the team leader on three hostage cases involving Americans in South America. On the local level, during the past year, I have been the chairman of a citizens’ committee in Harpers Ferry seeking ways of improving tourism in Harpers Ferry. That project is sponsored and funded by the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Community Development Initiative Program. In addition I participate in fund-raiser events for Veteran’s Memorial Hospital, Knights of Columbus and St. Patrick’s School. I have also served as the caucus chairman for the County Republican 6th Precinct and am currently on the Platform Committee preparing the planks for the County and District Conventions.”

Hager, Waukon, has lived most of her life in Allamakee County. She attended NITI, Calmar, receiving her associates degree in nursing before marrying her husband, Bob, in 1986. They have three daughters, Aubree and her husband, Chris Peterman, and children, Kaden and Kinley, serving in the United States Air Force (USAF) and currently stationed in Minot, ND. Alyssa lives and works in Cedar Falls where she earned bachelor’s degree at UNI and Alaina and her husband, Jesse Lamica, live in Anchorage, AK, where she, too, is serving in the USAF. While raising her family, Hager attended the University of Dubuque obtaining her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1995.

Hagers have owned and operated Upper Iowa Resort & Rental near Dorchester for the past 17 years. They opened Living Stone, a non-profit, faith-based re-entry home for people coming out of jail/prison, homeless, or individuals in need of a “hand up,” which operated from March 2009 until the fall of 2012. Hager has worked as an RN since July 1985 in various capacities having stepped away from full-time nursing five years ago. She subs occasionally as a school nurse through the Allamakee Community School District. 

Hager is a member of St. Patrick Catholic Church in Waukon and has been involved in the CEW (Christian Experience Weekend), jail/prison ministry, and various civic groups over the years that have included Waukon Jaycees, Girl Scouts, 4-H Leader, church board, and serves on the Allamakee Assessors Board of Reviews.

Initially approached to run for the State House in August, Hager says she couldn’t shake the statement she once heard:  Can you look your children and grandchildren in the eyes and say you did everything possible to maintain what this country was founded on? 

Having accompanied her husband as he ran for the State House and served the former District 16 from 2011-12 she knows what lies ahead. In November she sought the support from the Allamakee and Clayton Republican Central Committees.

“I remember being present in the House Chamber as Gov. Branstad gave his 2012 State of the State address,” Hager said, “and heard him speak of wanting Iowa to be ‘a bright beacon of hope to the rest of the nation.’ Something inside of me was stirred. I have never forgotten that!” 

Hager believes Iowa is a bright beacon of hope; not only as the first in the Nation Caucus status but because we are a breadbasket to the nations; we have been a forerunner in education, economics, agriculture, family, entertainment/arts, business/tourism, government, media, and religion. 

Hager says her priorities center on faith, strengthening family, and fiscal responsibility. Knowing that the projected revenues will be down this year and our budget has increased overall the question in deciding new legislation is not only “Who will it help?” but “Who does this hurt?” all while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

Hager identifies her strengths as the ability to: see the big picture and formulate solutions; articulate in a way that is easily understood; be creative in thinking outside of the box; and empowering others to embrace their own destiny. 

“I am in the process of becoming educated on the issues/concerns affecting Allamakee, Clayton and Iowa as a whole,” she added.

Currently serving her second term in the Iowa House, Ruff announced her re-election plans in early March.

“I’m honored to serve the people of Clayton and Allamakee Counties in the Iowa House and I’m proud of the work we’ve done so far creating new jobs and growing Iowa’s economy,” said Ruff.  “As a former school board member, I understand the challenges our local schools face and I’ll keep working to make public schools our top priority again.”

Ruff is the ranking member of the House Education Committee. She also serves on Agriculture, Natural Resources, Ways & Means, and the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Subcommittee.

“I believe we need to work together to move our state forward.  I will continue to be an independent voice for the people of my district.  I’ve worked with Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature to balance the state budget, expand renewable energy, and give our rural economy a boost,” said Ruff.

Ruff started her 20th season at the grain elevator in McGregor, run by Bunge North America. She served on the MFL Mar-Mac School Board and as president for four years.  As a school board member, she saw over the development of childcare centers adjacent to the school and a premier early childcare program put in place.  Patti and her husband Dan, live in rural McGregor and have three sons: Liam, who is serving as her clerk; Bryar; and Tucker.

The general election is November 8.

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