The Cedar Falls Human Rights Commission (HRC) was formed under the leadership of Mayor Jon Crews on June 10, 1974. Advocating for such an established group was the local League of Women Voters as well as the United Methodist Urban Ministry and Catholic Charities (Ryerson, 1973). But the support didn’t come without contention. According to an article in The Record (1973), it was only after much deliberation that the initial efforts for a human rights commission failed, 4-3, in a lengthy City Council meeting on March 12, 1973. Just over a year later, however, the motion passed.

Through the enactment of Cedar Falls Ordinance 1430, the HRC’s mission was set for implementing a non-discrimination policy – on the basis of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, sex, age, physical and mental abilities – for the Cedar Falls public. The commission was tasked with confidentially investigating complaints of discrimination within the city, including bringing criminal and civil sanctions against persons who violated this ordinance, as well as holding essential public hearings and presenting education on discrimination prevention (Ordinance No. 1430, 1974). 

The original 11-member commission consisted of: Harold Burris; James Day; Daleth Reitzel; Karen Sund; Phil Dorfman; Gordon Harrington; Mary Powers; Dean Ryerson; Rev. Ralph Anderson; Mary Kay Eakin; and Mary Haskell (Municipal Code Corporation, 1971). 

Per Iowa Code §216.19, the City of Cedar Falls – as a city of 29,000 or more residents – is legally obligated to maintain an independent agency or commission that oversees local civil rights issues (Iowa Code, 2022). 

Today, the central focus of the HRC is on education, outreach and advocacy for the diversity and equity of all people. And while the commission no longer takes an active role in investigating discrimination claims, they continue to operate as a resource for anyone voicing discrimination. 

For information on your civil rights and how to report a civil rights violation, visit the Iowa Civil Rights Commission website


Iowa Code. (2022, December 29). §216.19, Civil Rights Commission. Retrieved from         https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/code/216.19.pdf 

Municipal Code Corporation. (1971). Code of Ordinances City of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Tallahassee, Florida. 

Ordinance No. 1430. (1974, June 10). 

Ryerson, D. (1973, March 13). Rights commission plan defeated, 4-3. The Record