Tom Slater knows everyone! Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. Tom knows that this world is about human beings and relationships, and he has always relished the chance to play in this world. Never shirking from risk, Tom lives by his “raging incrementalist” approach to everything he does.
Except, maybe, for those early years on the family farm south of Templeton, Iowa, when killing bull thistles with salt or watering the pigs to death shaped this man who would go on to work his way through college and attend enough classes to receive his BA in English from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Early career callings allowed him to foist his creative spirit on others, directing parks and recreation programs, including the Council Bluffs department. While running his first microenterprise – an advertising and public education firm – he sought and won a state Senate seat in 1976. After serving his “corn-stituents” of District 50 in Council Bluffs for eight rewarding and exciting years, Tom decided it was someone else’s turn and left the Senate.
Many Iowans benefitted from that decision as it allowed Slater to further play to his strengths and live out one of his best ideas, founding SPPG in 1984. Some people told him he was crazy to think he could make a living helping individuals and people who came together believing in issues to make real change in their own worlds. All these decades later, it is still one of the best ideas Tom ever had. He has paced before more boards, committees, task forces, and work groups than most Iowans know exist – always managing to aid their conversations and facilitate the recognition of common beliefs and commitments. He has taken his insights and instincts about how to bring people, ideas, and policy together effectively to countless towns in Iowa, the Midwest, the US, and more countries than he can remember.
Slater continues to support SPPG’s founding premise that people impacted by a policy ought to have a voice in shaping that policy. That is why it Is important to know everyone – it all fits together eventually. With SPPG going strong into the future, Tom notes, “This is hard and important work – you just need to get up every morning, put your pants on and go do it.”