by Steve Peterson
Giving back to the community is a phrase one will hear often from Sioux County Supervisor John Degen.
Degen represents county board District No. 1, now the southern portion of the county from Hawarden east to Granville.
Degen is known as a 31-year member of the Hawarden Volunteer Fire Department; more than 30 years as a certified hunter safety instructor; 15 years as Sioux County Conservation Board of Directors member, including 10 as chairman and before that, as Malcomb Township Trustee.
Degen runs a century farm, which gained that honor last year, located in rural Hawarden.
Degen joined the Sioux County supervisors in 2003 and is seeking a new four-year term on the Nov. 6 ballot. His opponent is Ron VanRavenswaay of Ireton.
“To provide and maintain the quality of the organizations and departments for the welfare of the citizens of Sioux County,” said Degen about seeking another term. “We have top-notch people running the departments, who are elected, and what we do as a county board is manage it.”
It is a challenge every Fall with harvest but throw in a general election, and it can be even more of a tax on one’s time.
“I think I am well known in all parts of the district, through the Sioux County Emergency Management and Executive Committee for Sioux County Communications. I am also well known through the fire department,” said Degen after a day in his fields. He noted all those boards have meetings which require his attention plus six of the 13 county municipalities are in his District No. 1, which was redrawn in 2010. Degen is also Sioux County Committee Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) member.
“Sioux County is in very good shape financially because of growth and better evaluations,” said Degen. “We should continue to grow and our services are managed very professionally and well.”
He noted the offices of Nate Huigenza, a sheriff’s deputy, whose duties are also Emergency Management and the full-time veterans affairs division with Shane Walter.
“Walter and his staff are very knowledgeable about helping veterans out,” said Degen.
One challenge facing all counties is the regionalization of Mental Health, which has been addressed for months. Sioux, Plymouth, Cherokee and Woodbury counties are working to form one region.
Another effort will be to renew the Local Option Sales Tax, which brings in $1 million a year, said Degen.
Degen, 61, is still very active at Hawarden Fire Department. He competed with a local team in the 50-and-over “seniors” division and the Hawarden-Veridian Team qualified for world competition. Degen’s task was to pull a hose.
“It’s definitely a young man’s job. I’ve thought about retiring but I feel good to give back to the community,” said Degen. “I was the first volunteer fire fighter who lived outside the City of Hawarden. Since we all had pagers, they rewrote the bylaws.”
Degen is proud of the Sioux County Dive Team department he helped organize. Hawarden Volunteer Fire Department twice named him Volunteer of the Year, most recently in 2003.
Degen said he especially enjoys his hobby of passing hunter safety instruction on to teenagers. In 2010, he was named the Legendary Sportsman of the Year by the Sioux County Sportsman’s Club. He is also a member of Sioux County Pheasants Forever.
A West Sioux Class of 1969 alum, Degen attended two years of college at the former Sioux Empire College in Hawarden and received hazardous material certification. He is a lifelong county resident, raised and live in rural Hawarden; has three children: Trent, Tami and Clinton and three grandchildren: Taryn, Taylor and Tristan. He and his wife, Joann, have been married for 35 years, the same time that Degen has owned and operated the now Iowa Century Farm.
“We earned it in 2007 but mom, Betty Keehn, wanted us to do it after dad (Norman) died,” said Degen.
In 1996, Degen received the Outstanding Service Award from Gov. Terry Branstad.
In 2004, Degen received the Sullivan Brothers Award of Valor from Gov. Tom Vilsack with other Hawarden Volunteer Fire Department representatives.