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A Tribute to DSM Leader Steve Roberts

Steve Roberts Tribute

December 1, 2020

Steve Roberts passed away Saturday, November 7. Steve made significant contributions to our region and his reach and impact extended far beyond the business and political communities. In 2017, Steve was recognized as a Sages Over 70 by DSM Magazine. Steve previously served as Chair of the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Government Policy Council and on The Partnership’s Board and Executive Committee. His tribute is below. – Jay Byers, CEO of the Greater Des Moines Partnership

A Tribute to Steve Roberts by Tim Coonan

The living are left to describe the departed. I’m not sure I can do Steve Roberts and his legacy justice but I am honored to be asked and have the opportunity to try. Steve went by many titles: lawyer, lobbyist, chairman, board member, partner, husband, father, grandfather. These titles are held by many but not many have held them like Steve. He gave selflessly of his time, treasure and talent to any number of philanthropic organizations over the years. He suffered from significant health issues for all of the time I knew him and he never let that stop him. He handled it all with strength and grace and dignity. He was trusted by Democrats and Republicans at all levels of elected office and throughout state government as an honest broker of information and an effective advocate for his clients. This was despite the fact that he had been active in partisan politics having served as the Iowa Republican Party Chair twice in his career as well as the longtime Iowa representative on the Republican National Committee. He always said “lobbyists and law firms can’t afford to lose elections. Our clients demand that.”

The Bleeding Heartland interviewed Steve Roberts in March of 2016 (the year he retired) and he shocked them with a great story (he had many) about a computer malfunction that may have robbed Ronald Reagan of a 1980 Iowa Caucus victory. This is one of a thousand stories Steve had at the ready. If it happened in Iowa politics from the 1970s through the mid-2000s, Steve Roberts was there. With the passing of Steve Roberts, many stories of Iowa politics, good and bad, have passed with him. I guarantee he is sitting up there right now telling stories with his childhood friend and longtime partner (in politics, law and many other endeavors) Dick (Buddha) Thornton. We could all use his take on what is going on in politics today because his compass was always true and his instincts always right.

He always said he was keeping good notes and that a book would be published upon his passing but I would be surprised. As with any good attorney, Steve was a good secret keeper.

On a personal note, Steve was a mentor and a friend (if I had to bet, hundreds of people would describe him that way). He always had time for me from the very beginning of my lobbying career 14 years ago, and so it was an honor for me to be his colleague in his last year here at the firm where he continued to mentor me and take time for me. I spoke with him on the phone from time to time but hadn’t heard from him in a while. The last time we spoke, his wife had to get on the phone and translate because his ability to speak had diminished so much. Speaking of his wife Dawn, those two were a force to be reckoned with and shared a deep, abiding love that continued to grow over the years.

He was truly the gold standard in the legal and lobbying communities, not so much for his win/loss record (which was pretty good), but because he was a good, kind and trusted person. I count myself lucky to have known him. The world would be a better place if there were more people like Steve in it. But there will only be one Steve Roberts.

He will be greatly missed by me and by many others.

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