For more than 40 years, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Office of State and Local Government Programs (OSLGP) has partnered with the Iowa League of Cities to offer the Municipal Professionals Institute (MPI) to city clerks, administrators, and finance officers from throughout the state of Iowa.
The partnership has continued to evolve over the years; highlights include the development of the Municipal Professionals Academy (MPA), which provides additional continuing education, and the creation of a shared director position with OSLGP and the League in order to increase programming and expand MPI/MPA’s overall reach. For more than seven years, that position was held by Cindy Kendall, who retired at the end of October 2018.
The latest evolution in the collaboration between ISU Extension and Outreach and the League of Cities in the appointment of Sara Shonrock as MPI/MPA director in January 2019. Shonrock brings a different skill set to the position, with a background in community development and housing.
The timing for this change couldn’t be better: on July 18, 2018, by executive order, Governor Kim Reynolds created the Investing in Rural Iowa Task Force to address the rural housing shortage in Iowa.
“I think [my knowledge of housing and financing] will be able to be incorporated into assisting people with local government. When they are looking for information on [housing] issues, I’ll really have that background and that knowledge,” Shonrock said.
Prior to coming to ISU, Shonrock worked as a community development coordinator for the City of Plymouth, Minnesota, where she worked extensively on housing issues, assisting with the city’s comprehensive housing plan and administering the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBC) program. From 2014 to 2016, she worked for the State of Minnesota Housing Finance Agency as a program manager, providing budget analysis and recommendations for an $8.6 million state-funded program.
An Ames native, Shonrock earned her undergraduate in liberal studies from ISU in 2006. She earned a master of public policy from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in December 2014.
“When I moved to Minnesota, I was working for a local real estate company,” she said. “I started getting interested in some of the development stuff that was going on with my real estate agents and realized that it was maybe more the public sector that was interesting to me, and trying to figure out how development worked from the public side.”
Her interest in housing developed from spending time helping her father, who worked as a contractor in Ames.
“I had always been around housing, and it sort of morphed into working with policy and working with lower-income housing. That was where I started to get into working with state grants and loans and federal grants, and learning all of the programs that have to do with community development housing issues,” she said.
Shonrock was attracted to the position with ISU because not only did it allow her to move back to her hometown, but it offers new opportunities.
“It [is] this perfect mix...it [is] a really good stepping stone to be able to use new skills and being able to do new things,” she said.