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Kenyon comes back to his roots

Longtime county attorney cited for service to schools

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 11:08 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013 11:46 a.m. CDT

EDITOR’S NOTE:This is the first in a three-part series on 2013 inductees into the Creston Community Schools Hall of Fame at 12:15 p.m. Friday in the CHS auditorium. Today’s feature on Tim Kenyon will be followed by Curt Olson Wednesday and Thelda Bender Williams Thursday.

Tim Kenyon is the third member of his immediate family to serve as Union County Attorney, having worked in the office as a criminal prosecutor for 30 years. He follows his father, the late Arnold O. Kenyon II, county attorney from 1953 to 1956; and older brother Arnold O. “Skip” Kenyon III, county attorney from 1978 to 1983.

In fact Skip, who now shares duties as Creston city attorney with Todd Nielsen, worked together with Tim in the office for a time in the early 1980s. When Skip became city attorney, Tim was elected county attorney in 1986. It became a full-time position by the Union County Board of Supervisors in 1990.

With the onset of additional drug cases and various other crimes, the office under Kenyon’s direction has prosecuted more cases (6,100) than in 80 years of records before he joined the office (4,000).

That amount of public service is notable in itself, but when Kenyon is inducted in the Creston Hall of Fame Friday in the Distinguished Alumni category, it will be as much for his countless volunteer hours to the school district in his hometown.

School service

In a nutshell, these are the three areas in which Kenyon has made significant contributions over a span of many years:

• He received the Governor’s Volunteer Award from Gov. Terry E. Branstad in 1998 for his work with local middle school students in mock trial competition.

• He is past president of Creston Activities Booster Club, having been especially active on the CHS band parents committee. He was involved in obtaining the marching band’s first travel trailer, and served as chaperone for the band’s first two performances in Florida at Disney World in the early 2000s.

• Many Creston High School students have taken classes he has taught as an adjunct instructor at Southwestern Community College. With a deep background in psychology as an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa, Kenyon has taught psychology along with business law and, more recently, criminal justice classes. He has also appeared frequently as a guest speaker in high school and middle school social studies classes.

Nobody appreciates Kenyon’s support more than Mike Peters, CHS director of bands.

“Tim has always been an active member of our band department,” Peters said. “First as a student, then as one of the strongest band parents I have ever had. We used to joke that he was still gaining band letter points as an alum, because he continued to play with the pep band all the years that his children were members of the CHS band program.”

Peters also mentioned Kenyon and other “Band Dads” for establishing the tradition of being on the band trailer crew.

“Tim has always been an amazing friend of not only the CHS band program, but to the entire Creston instrumental music family,” Peters said.

For Kenyon, a professed “Type A workaholic,” it’s been a labor of love. After graduating from Creston High School in 1976, he continued playing trumpet in college with the University of Iowa jazz band, and later with the University of Iowa Medical School jazz band, for which he took some razzing from his law school classmates.

Kenyon has also regularly played “Taps” at local Memorial Day programs with either his brother, Skip, or son, Alex.

Tim and wife Barbara Kenyon were honored, along with a group of other CHS parents, with “Friends of Fine Arts” awards in 2007 for their volunteer service while their children were students. Daughter Elizabeth has followed her father’s footsteps. She is a recent graduate of the UI Law School and this summer passed the bar exam.

“Rick Shelton spearheaded the job of fundraising for our first band trailer,” Kenyon said. “Until then they had rented a U-Haul truck. We got it done. It was a gift to the school, all through donations. As soon as we got it, everybody realized how wonderful it was.”

Kenyon became a “roadie” for the band, helping to load and unload the band’s equipment for weekend contests in the fall.

“It would last from 6 in the morning until midnight maybe, especially at (West Des Moines) Valleyfest,” Kenyon said. “But we all had a lot of fun with it.”

The original trailer, along with so many memento photographs inside, was blown away in the April 2012 tornado, but insurance allowed for a replacement trailer.

Mock trial

Kenyon first got involved in helping middle school TAG (Talented and Gifted) students prepare for mock-trial competition in the late 1980s, well before his own children were in school.

“Working with Lauris Heinzel to help the kids for mock trial was very near and dear to my heart,” Kenyon said. “I did it for at least 10 years. They felt like they wanted to do something for me, but I can’t accept gifts as an elected official. So, lo and behold, I find out in 1998 that I was going to receive a Governor’s Volunteer Award for my work in mock trial. That still means a lot to me.”

His work at Southwestern Community College began as an emergency “fill-in” for a local attorney who moved to another community, in the middle of a semester of teaching business law at SWCC. He got a call from a longtime friend from his Creston High School days, Dr. Barb Crittenden, SWCC president.

“I finished that semester, and I realized that I liked it,” Kenyon said. “I taught some psychology courses, taught for a time for Buena Vista classes, and now I’m teaching business law and a new criminal-law class. I was on the curriculum committee for that.”

Meanwhile, he remains busy prosecuting Union County criminal cases, as well as representing all Union County offices and elected officials. He has also served other counties as a special prosecutor, and is past president (2010) of the Iowa County Attorney Association.

He said it’s not always easy to prosecute cases in his hometown, a small enough community that it’s not unusual to be familiar with the parties involved. Since the office is full time — he has no duties representing anyone in private practice — he’s able to avoid conflicts of interest in most cases.

“I try to deal with the behaviors, I don’t judge people,” Kenyon said. “You deal with it objectively. I have this overriding sense of fairness and justice, but I also like to help people.”

Helping them, he said, in some cases means serving time in jail, or in a rehabilitation facility. It also means helping victims of crime.

“I like to help the community deal with these situations,” Kenyon said, “by working with the police, to right the wrong, and sometimes it means getting their stuff back. I’ve been blessed to work with some really good people to accomplish those things.”

His only assistant in the office that handles 200 prosecutions a year is Teri Siddens, legal secretary and office manager. The work remains a passion, and he has no regrets about building the career in his hometown.

“I was very fortunate in high school. I had the benefit of great people helping me,” he said. “(Principal and baseball coach) Ron Levine, (instructors) Chuck Eilers, Dave Rissler and Dick Bauman, just to name a few. And the neat thing is, I still get to work with great people.”

Wednesday: The late Curt Olson, longtime assistant principal and activities director, inducted as Distinguished Faculty.

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