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Iowa DHS Director Jerry Foxhoven’s Tupac obsession gets him fired

Jerry Foxhoven
Why is Jerry Foxhoven, director of Iowa Department for Human Services, resigning? Pic credit: DMRegister/YouTube

Jerry Foxhoven, a former Drake University law professor who was appointed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds in 2017 to head the Iowa Department for Human Services, was a huge fan of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. So much so, that he never missed an opportunity to spread the good news the Dear Mama rapper.

The agency that Foxhoven headed, the Iowa Department for Human Services with headquarters in the Hoover State Office Building in Des Moines, provides services for the poor, seniors, physically and mentally disabled citizens on a yearly budget of nearly $7 billion. And based on emails that AP obtained, Foxhoven may have been ousted from his position as director partly due to his enthusiastic promotion of the gospel of Tupac Shakur alongside his official duties as director.

About 350 pages of emails obtained by AP under the open records law — which cover Foxhoven’s correspondence with subordinates and colleagues during his two-year tenure at the agency — included frequent references to to Tupac (2Pac), and he often exchanged lyrics with subordinates who shared his interest in Tupac’s music.

The 66-year-old regularly sent messages to his subordinates telling them how much he loved Tupac’s music and lyrics and that he’s been a fan of the late rapper for years.

The emails revealed that he held “Tupac Friday” every week in his office, during which the late rapper’s music was played and some employees joined him to listen to Shakur’s rap music and talk about the rapper’s work and life.

He even celebrated his 65th birthday with cookies decorated with Tupac’s face and captioned with the phrase “Thug Life,” a reference to the hip hop group that included Tupac, Big Syke, Mopreme, Stretch, Macadoshis, and The Rated R (the group also released an album titled Thug Life: Volume 1 in 1994).

Foxhoven marked the anniversary of Shakur’s death and shared Tupac love lyrics on St. Valentine’s Day. He also often invoked the rapper’s lyrics and philosophy to inspire subordinates and improve the agency’s work culture. In one email he quoted Tupac: “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”

In his last email as director of the agency — a mass email he sent to about 4,300 agency employees — Foxhoven wanted to remind everyone that Sunday (Father’s Day) was Tupac’s birthday. The email included a large image of Tupac and a Tupac rap quote: “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means you are 2 steps ahead.”

Unfortunately, many of Foxhoven’s subordinates and colleagues did not share his enthusiasm for Tupac. One employee reportedly complained to state legislators about Foxhoven’s obsession with the late rapper while subordinates who shared his interest in Tupac approved and cheered him on. One female employee, identified as Lisa Bender, even sent her boss an email praising him and encouraging him to keep up the good work despite opposition from “the haters.”

Others appeared only to appreciate his efforts to liven up the otherwise dull and stressful work environment with his lighthearted references to Tupac in the workplace.

Apparently encouraged by the support from some of the employees, Foxhoven reportedly said that he was “going to hang in there on him — despite all of the naysayers.”

But “the haters” apparently got their way on June 17 when Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds asked Foxhoven to resign. He was approached on his first day of work after sending out the email reminding agency workers about Tupac’s birthday.

While it was not clear that he was asked to quit because of his email about Tupac’s birthday and his obsessive promotion of Tupac at work, the timing sparked rumors and speculation.

A spokesperson for the governor responded to AP’s inquiry saying that “A lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction.”

The speculation was further fueled by the refusal of the governor’s office to explain the “factors” that contributed to Foxhoven’s resignation. AP noted that the refusal to explain the reason for the resignation apparently contravened an Iowa law that requires agencies to release the officially documented reasons for the resignation of state employees.

However, AP also noted that Foxhoven’s resignation came at a time that the agency was embroiled in multiple controversies, including problems with ongoing contract negations, a trial following allegations of abuses at a juvenile home, and an unexplained increase in deaths at a home for disabled persons.

But many of Foxhoven’s supporters appeared to believe that the problems were not sufficient to explain his sudden resignation and that it was likely due to his over-the-top enthusiasm for Tupac Shakur.

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