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Iowa Welcomes New State Volunteer Leaders

Martha Willits, AARP Iowa State President
Martha Willits, AARP Iowa State President


AARP Iowa is pleased to welcome a new State President and new team of lead volunteers with responsibility to support  Iowa State Director Kent Sovern, staff and hundreds of AARP volunteers statewide to accomplish the Association's mission of enhancing quality of life for all as we age.

Martha Willits of Des Moines has been named AARP Iowa State President with responsibility to lead the Association’s Iowa Executive Council.  Joining Willits on the Council are current members Beverly and John McCartney of Fort Dodge, and new members Chuck Betts of Keokuk, Brena Corona of West Des Moines, Maryalice Larson of Marshallton, Joseph Marquart of Cedar Falls, Mary Muehl of Cedar Rapids and Dean Pedersen of Cedar Falls.

“We are extremely fortunate to have new State President Martha Willits and the incredible expertise of each of the new Executive Council members joining together to lead our state efforts to meet the changing needs of older Iowans,” said AARP Iowa State Director Kent Sovern.

The Executive Council meets monthly to help develop the framework for state strategic planning and implementation on behalf of AARP’s approximately 380,000 members in Iowa.  The Council shares ideas and builds consensus to help AARP achieve positive social change and deliver value through advocacy, information and service.

Former president and CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership and former President and Chief Professional Officer of the United Way of Central Iowa, Willits moves into the State President post from a leadership role on Iowa’s Executive Council. For two years before joining the Executive Council, she had also served as an advisor in AARP Iowa’s State Strategic Planning process. She succeeds Iowa State President Tony Vola.

“I’m excited to become even more involved in addressing the needs of older Iowans and partner organizations throughout the state,” said Willits. “I’m looking forward to advancing AARP’s mission of quality of life for positive social change.”

In addition to Willits, new members of the 10-person volunteer board range from business leaders to health care experts to award-winning educators to human resources professionals.

Chuck Betts of Keokuk, Senior Consultant at KEO Associates, Inc., brings a business background having served as Interim Executive Director of the Keokuk Chamber of Commerce, Executive Director of the Center for Business at Southeastern Community College and in management and marketing for several international corporations. He has been involved in community service at the local, regional and state level including serving on the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Foundation and the Governors’ Access Committee for Distance Education. He said the AARP opportunity will allow him to, "work with others closer to my age on issues that have real impact on me, my wife, friends and family near my age."

A retired elementary school teacher, Brena Corona of West Des Moines has taught in Texas, Kansas and Iowa, including bilingual education. She has an Iowa Master Educator License and has been actively involved in language, literacy and cultural in a variety of Des Moines-area groups. She authored the bilingual handbook, Educating our Students, A Partnership: Parents and Teacher, and has presented at numerous conferences including Iowa Lt. Governor's Conference on Women and Faces and Voices of Iowa-Building Community.  Corona said she is looking forward to "working to assure health and wellness access and security for all 50-plus citizens."

Retired nurse and healthcare administrator Maryalice Larson of Marshalltown brings a brings a wide range of volunteer and professional experiences in health services leadership, planning, managing and organizing to the Executive Council. With both her bachelor's and master's degrees in Nursing and her Master's in Business Administration, Larson has worked in direct services and hospital and healthcare systems management in Iowa, Illinois and Alaska. Larson has been an AARP Iowa GREAT advocacy volunteer since moving back to Iowa from Alsaka in 2010. She says in this new role she is looking forward to "helping enhance opportunities for all Iowans to age with dignity and purpose."

Healthcare Human Resources executive Joseph Marquart of Cedar Falls bring more than 40 years’ experience in organizational development and human resources for hospitals and health systems in Iowa, Florida, Illinois and Arizona to the Council. A board member on numerous not-for-profit organizations, Marquart is also a frequent keynote speaker on leadership, organizational development and motivation at local, state, national and international conferences. “My career in health care leadership has made me acutely aware of the need for accessible and affordable health care coverage for Iowans, especially retirees,” said Marquart. “I’m looking forward to working with AARP Iowa volunteers and members on health care and the whole range of issues AARP addresses for members in Iowa.”

Retired educator and curriculum consultant Mary Muehl of Cedar Rapids is an award-winning science instructor and school improvement innovator. She served with the Linn-Marr Community School district, Grant Wood Area Education Agency and with Pearson learning center in Iowa City. Through the years she has been involved with several community service groups including recently serving as an Affordable Care Act presenter, connecting with the leaders of 20 organizations through the Linn County Partnership. Muehl says she is looking forward to bringing “both enthusiasm and an eagerness to become involved and contribute to AARP members in Iowa in this new role."

Former teacher, city council representative and veteran Dean Pedersen of Cedar Falls brings a strong interest in civic and social issues to AARP. He served in the U.S. Army in Europe and spent 30 years teaching at several Iowa schools including Hudson High School, Carlisle High School, and North Fayette High School. For 10 years, he served on the West Union City Council. Pedersen said he views the AARP Executive Council opportunity “in light of the importance of understanding and participating in our governmental system and the importance of living in a democracy.” To that end he sees “the urgent need to keep all retired citizens informed of our government and the continual changing laws that will affect them.”

Immediate past, Co-Presidents of the Iowa Retired School Personnel Association, Beverly and John McCartney have served on the Executive Council since 2009 and will complete their terms in 2015. They have played a lead role in working with the state office to shape Iowa's evolving volunteer structure. Retired elementary and high school educators, Beverly and John remain active in IRSPA as well as AARP, in addition to serving with their church and a number of local Fort Dodge area community organizations.

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