Rob Dillard


Rob Dillard is a Des Moines based correspondent for Iowa Public Radio. He joined IPR in 2001 as host of Morning Edition and moved to reporting in 2007.  He has been on special assignment for IPR since early 2011 reporting the ongoing series “Being in Iowa.” It has taken him around the state shining light on small segments of the population, including Muslims, military veterans, Latinos and the physically disabled. The series has won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) and Northwest Broadcast News Association (NBNA).

Rob has extensive experience in radio, newspaper and media relations dating back more than 30 years. He has also taught news writing at Central College in Pella. Rob earned his bachelor’s degree in mass communications at the University of Iowa.

Rob’s favorite public radio program is Morning Edition.

Ways to Connect

American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa

The man who as a 30-year-old lawyer in 1969 won the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker vs. Des Moines Schools has died.

Dan Johnston was just a year out of law school when he took on the free speech case of two public school students who were suspended for wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War.

The Supreme Court agreed with his argument school officials had violated the rights of John and Mary Beth Tinker in a 7-2 decision.

Iowa Afterschool Alliance

A West Des Moines-based organization that advocates for out-of-school learning opportunities for children is out with a report that points to the unmet need in Iowa. The group plans to deliver the report to legislators to make sure they’re aware.

The 40-page report from the Iowa Afterschool Alliance indicates 86 percent of schoolchildren in the state have no access to before-school, after-school or summer-learning programs. This translates to 136,000 students.

American Institute of Architects

A key indicator of future construction activity nationwide is down for a second straight month. The situation in Iowa and the Midwest is a bit more stable. Architects and builders say they are delaying plans until after the election.

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

A group consisting of mayors and prominent business leaders is calling for an increase in the state sales tax. The extra money would go into a fund to support water quality and recreation projects. 

The Iowa Water and Land Legacy Coalition is asking the Legislature to up the state sales tax by three-eighths of a cent.

The extra cash would go into the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

Iowa voters overwhelmingly approved creation of the fund in 2010.

But the mayor of Storm Lake Jon Kruse says no state money has ever gone into it.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The race for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd District pits the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation against a Republican challenger, who until recently aligned with the Libertarian Party. It’s a contest in which both candidates are viewed as moderates.

Center for Violence Prevention/UNI

A series of events across the state this week will highlight efforts to prevent bullying and sexual violence. The Director of the Center for Violence Prevention at the University of Northern Iowa, Alan Heisterkamp, says the primary purpose for the various programs offered this week is to simply get people talking. “Generating conversations with parents, with students, with community partners and agencies, around bullying prevention, around violence prevention, promoting healthy relationships, promoting positive choices," he says. Heisterkamp says his center plans to hold a student leadershi

Clay Masters, Iowa Public Radio

The sixth annual Iowa Climate Statement is aimed directly at farmers.

It follows the lead of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack by calling for climate-smart agriculture.

The statement is signed by 187 scientists representing 39 colleges and universities in the state.

It urges farmers to take up efforts aimed at replacing carbon in the soil.

The director of the environmental science and policy program at Drake University, David Courard-Hauri, says climate-smart agriculture does more than reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

The Polk County Board of Supervisors gave approval to a second reading of a proposed hike in the minimum wage.

It is drawing resistance because of certain provisions.

The Board is attempting to raise the minimum wage in Polk County to $8.75 an hour by April of next year, which would climb to $10.75 at the start of 2019.

Teenage workers younger than 18, however, would receive 85 percent of the minimum wage.

Sixteen-year old Alexa Rodriguez says the lower wage for young people is not fair because she does the same work her older colleagues do.

Dean Borg, Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa chapter of the American Red Cross closed the last of its emergency shelters in Cedar Rapids Monday.

A spokeswoman for the relief agency says that doesn’t mean its work is done in helping flood victims. Regional communications officer Kara Kelly says the tasks ahead mostly involve cleanup.

She says the Red Cross also helps people fill out the forms they need to draw state and federal assistance.

University of Iowa sports information office

The University of Iowa quarterback who led the Hawkeyes to two Rose Bowl victories and who finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting has died. 

Randy Duncan was born in Osage, but played high school football for Des Moines Roosevelt.

He was an All-American at Iowa in 1959 and the first pick in the NFL draft, going to the Green Bay Packers.

He did not sign with Green Bay, which was then led by Vince Lombardi.

Instead, he played two years in the Canadian Football League.

But he gave up professional football for a career as a lawyer in Des Moines.

ASK Studio

An area of north Des Moines that holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many central Iowans is being remade into a site where future generations can build memories.

Riverview Park sat on an island near the Des Moines River and operated from 1915 until 1978.

Plans are now in place to convert it into an outdoor concert venue large enough for 10,000 people.

Des Moines Parks and Recreation Director Ben Page says in designing the project, it was important to celebrate the future while honoring the past.

Rob Dillard

Iowa’s Secretary of State is reminding voters with disabilities there are methods in place to help them cast ballots. This applies to military veterans suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, as well.

It’s estimated between six-and-ten percent of the 300,000 Iowans with disabilities vote. The percentage for the overall population may approach 70 for this year’s election.

Tai Tomasi is a staff attorney with Disability Rights Iowa. She’s also blind. She says technological advancements have improved her ability to go to the polls.

Briar Cliff University

The six Catholic colleges in the state are banding together to address the challenges facing private higher education. The Iowa Catholic Collegiate Association will explore possible joint ventures and shared programs.

CRST International

The latest addition to the Cedar Rapids skyline is the 11-story CRST Center located near the Cedar River downtown.

The $37 million building will be the corporate headquarters for the transportation company CRST International. The trucking firm will occupy two of the floors, with Bankers Trust, Holmes Murphy and RSM International renting office space. Company chairman John Smith says since CRST announced plans to move its corporate campus downtown from southwest Cedar Rapids, others are considering similar moves.

Rob Dillard

A group of artists are part of an exhibit at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport. What sets the Living Proof Exhibit apart from other displays is how the work has helped these artists through some dark days. 

You might call the collection of more than 60 pieces of art at the Figge a smorgasbord exhibit. It includes everything from fiber art, such as sewing and knitting and a quilt, to painting, encaustics and photography, the more traditional forms of art.

There is one thing, however, that ties all of this work together.

Rob Dillard

Iowans gathered across the state Monday for parades, picnics and rallies to recognize the annual Labor Day holiday. In Des Moines, hundreds of union members paraded from the State Capitol to the State Fairgrounds.

Labor Day has been on the books as a national holiday since 1894.

The president of the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor, Mark Cooper, says the day serves as a reminder to Americans the labor movement is alive and well.

Cooper has his own meaning of Labor Day permanently imprinted.

Blackbird Development

The 26-story apartment tower planned for the spot once occupied by Younkers Department Store in downtown Des Moines will include a swimming pool on its roof.

Blackbird Development is releasing details of the $85 million project it calls 701 Walnut.

The 300,000 square-foot tower will house 276 apartments and ground floor commercial space.

Blackbird is also renovating the Wilkins Building next door, home of the Younkers Tea Room.

A massive fire destroyed the Younkers Building in 2014, leaving an empty space in the heart of Des Moines’ downtown.

Rob Dillard

The next recipient of the state’s highest award for an individual will be Des Moines philanthropist John Pappajohn.

At a luncheon to honor entrepreneurs, Governor Terry Branstad announced Pappajohn would receive the Iowa Award.

Pappajohn is known for his financial support of start-up companies and for the arts as seen in the downtown Des Moines sculpture park that bears his name.

Schools across Iowa are beginning classes this week amid concerns from public health officials about the drop in vaccination rates. At many schools, the percentage of students fully vaccinated is below 90 percent, and at a few around the state, it's below 50 percent. 

State Epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk says more families are seeking exemptions from vaccinations for a variety of reasons. 

"One of the reasons is that people no longer have seen these diseases and therefore don't realize how bad they can be," she explains. 

Rob Dillard

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Center for Lesbian Rights brought their Rural Pride Summit to Des Moines Thursday. It offered a chance for the rural LGBT community to talk about their economic, health, legal and social concerns.

Des Moines was the 13th stop in the series, which began in 2014 as a way to increase the visibility of the LGBT community in rural America.

It’s estimated that almost 10 percent of same-sex couples live in rural areas of the country.

Rob Dillard

A 30-member advisory council looking into chronic absenteeism in Iowa schools held its first meeting Tuesday. The problem of students missing class is especially prevalent in the early grades.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days. A report issued in April by the Child and Family Policy Center indicates nine percent of Iowa’s kindergartners fit this pattern. A special assistant for education in the governor’s office, Linda Fandel, says this leaves them far behind when it comes to reading.

Rob Dillard/IPR

It has become a hot word in the board rooms of health professionals and urban planners. Walkability – a measure of how friendly an area is to walkers. For an increasing number of cities and towns, making it easier to move around on foot has become a way to attract residents. 

A small group is conducting a walking audit of downtown Des Moines. It's heading toward Second Avenue, and then it will turn north with the idea of crossing the interstate.

City of West Des Moines

Officials in West Des Moines are touting what the news of a third data center from Microsoft means for development in the southwest corner of the city. 

The computer giant is announcing plans to build a one-point-seven million square foot data center in an area straddling Warren and Madison counties within West Des Moines city limits. It will be built in four phases, with the initial investment at $417 million. West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer says the project will pay for the infrastructure needed to open thousands of acres to commercial and residential development.

Michael Leland, Iowa Public Radio

Population and economic growth in metropolitan areas often pits local community interests against those of the larger region. Now, something different is happening in Central Iowa, and it’s resulting in a remarkable number of construction projects in the Des Moines area. The urban center and its suburbs are coming together for the good of all.

For decades, the suburbs of Des Moines have boomed while the city itself has retracted. Today, things seem to be evening out, according to real estate attorney Larry James.

Drake University

Some of the African continent’s most promising young professionals are in Iowa for the next several weeks picking up tips on how to run businesses. They are part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Program run by the U.S. State Department.

The founder of Kemin Industries, R.W. Nelson, recently greeted the 25 young people from 19 countries at his corporate headquarters in southeast Des Moines.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A piece of public art is now maneuvering along the streets of Des Moines. Iowa Public Radio’s Rob Dillard tells us for the fourth time a DART bus has become a rolling canvas.

The opening day of the Des Moines Art Festival provided the stage for the unveiling of a work called “Where’s the Ball?” It’s the creation of local artist Larassa Kabel and features depictions of her two dogs. She says it’s the first time she’s used a city bus as a medium.

“It kind of represents what art is, which is a gift artists give that nobody asked for,” she says.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

Supporters of the arts and city leaders in Des Moines are unveiling plans for a walking tour of public installations in the downtown area. 

The Art Route will pass by 87 pieces of art and stretch 6.6 miles from the west end of downtown to the State Capitol.

The chief communications officer for the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Tiffany Tauscheck, calls the Art Route one-of-a-kind in the nation.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

Hundreds of central Iowans held a vigil in downtown Des Moines to mourn the lost lives in the Orlando mass killings. They came in support of the LGBT and Hispanic communities, and to call for tougher gun laws.

One Iowa, the state’s largest advocate for LGBT rights, organized the gathering in the sculpture park downtown. 

Politicians, civil rights leaders and local clergy paraded to the mic to call for an end to what they called senseless violence in America.

Deanna Edwards of Des Moines had family reasons for being in the crowd.

Iowa gets an early taste of summer toward the end of this week, with temperatures expected to climb into the mid-90’s.  Health officials, animal welfare advocates, and the National Weather Service are issuing warnings in advance of the hot temperatures.

The Iowa Department of Public Health says about 500 Iowans are hospitalized each year with heat-related illnesses.

Rob Dillard/IPR

Former Lt. Gov. Patty Judge is the Democrats’ choice to take on U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley in the general election in November. It was one of several primaries that will help decide who will represent Iowa in Washington next year.

At her campaign headquarters in Des Moines last night, Judge made it clear to supporters what her campaign strategy would be. Iowans can expect to see plenty of campaign signs between now and November that are a play on Patty Judge’s last name.