Historic appointment to Dubuque City Council - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Historic appointment to Dubuque City Council

Newly-appointed Fourth Ward council member Lynn Sutton Newly-appointed Fourth Ward council member Lynn Sutton

DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- The Dubuque City Council appointed the first African American person to the council Monday night.

The council appointed a Fourth Ward representative to fill the seat of Dirk Voetberg, who lost his battle with cancer in February.

The council appointed Lynn Sutton from a pool of 16 applicants. Four of six councilmembers Monday night picked Sutton as their first choice. She was the only applicant to get more than one vote.

Sutton is no stranger to civic involvement. She currently serves on seven community boards, committees and comissions, though her new appointment means she will have to vacate her position on several of those.

With all her experience, she says she's ready for the challenge.

"I was like, 'Oh my goodness!' You know, I was stunned," Sutton said Tuesday afternoon.

As a lifelong Dubuquer, she said this city has come a long way since her childhood in many aspects, including its openness to racial diversity.

"Growing up here I did see a lot of, you know, people of color not being treated well because of ignorance and hatred," Sutton said. "Granted, a lot of that has disappeared, but yet some still remains."

She said this historic appointment means some will see her as a representative of the African American community.

"Ready or not, here I am," she said, laughing. "I really do feel ready for it, and I think because of the way my mother, Ruby Sutton, who paved the way."

KWWL interviewed Ruby Sutton in 1996, who recalls moving to Dubuque in 1967, when only two other black families lived there.

"I couldn't find a place to live when I moved here," Ruby Sutton said in that interview. "It was pretty racist."

Lynn Sutton said her appointment is a sign of Dubuque's progress.

"We have someone of color now. We are really going forward. Not that people didn't think it before, but that is a really big step," she said.

Above all, however, "I'm the council member for all people," she said. "Yes, I'm an African American woman, so therefore I represent the African American community, but I'm for all people."

Joyce Connors is the council representative for Ward Three. She put Sutton as her first choice.

"Lynn has served on so many boards and comissions for the city, and I've served on a couple of them with her, and I've seen that she's willing to do the work," Connors said. "She's very active participant in those committees and comissions, and so that makes for, you need that if you're going to serve on the city council."

Sutton said her goals include getting members of the Fourth Ward more engaged in local government.

"We citizens can fix some of these things at the ground level," Sutton said, speaking from experience.

Sutton will be seated as the Fourth Ward councilmember at the next City Council meeting, Monday, April 4. She also said she plans on running for the seat in the November 2011 election.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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