“City Councilman” is just one of the many titles Altoona resident Josh Dunwoody goes by.
Altoonians could also call him an “Altoona Palooza Executive Board Member” or “Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce President”, and before that—“Altoona Soccer Club Head Coach”, “Altoona Baseball League Head Coach”, and “Altoona Sesquicentennial Celebration Board Member.”
That’s quite the list, especially when you consider that Josh and his family have only been living in Altoona since 2015.
Why is he so heavily involved in our community? What motivates him to pursue so many avenues of civil leadership?
To Josh, the answer is simple. His goal is simply to improve the lives of Altoona residents. He always finds a way—it’s just how he operates.
SMALL-TOWN ROOTS, BIG-CITY CAREER BEGINNINGS
Josh Dunwoody grew up north of Altoona in the small town of Cambridge, Iowa.
After graduating from high school, he married his wife Kristin and then went on to get a degree in Biblical Studies from Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary in Ankeny.
LESSONS OF LEADERSHIP IN THE TWIN CITIES
When it was time to start his post-graduate career, Josh left the Hawkeye state and wound up in the Twin Cities, working as an assistant coach for Crown College’s men’s and women’s soccer teams from 2004-2006.
This experience helped Josh realize his leadership potential. Learning about managing time, talent and resources was something he became very interested in.
So, Josh went back to school at Crown College to get his master’s degree in organizational leadership. Afterward, he worked as the school’s Director of Athletics from 2009-2015.
But the time came when Josh and Kristin wanted to try something different—they both wished to shift their careers into business.
Upon seeing the many small business opportunities in Iowa (Altoona specifically), they decided to move back in 2015.
COMING BACK TO A DIFFERENT ALTOONA
Altoona looked a lot different to Josh when he returned after being away for over a decade. It didn’t feel like the same city he knew in his youth, but in a good way.
“When I grew up, my family was in construction,” Josh said. “The only reason that I ever came to Altoona was to go to the lumberyard with my dad, and there just wasn’t much to it.”
Oh, how the tables did turn.
Josh said, “Fast forward to when we moved back…pretty surprised at how much the community had grown and what it had to offer.” He mentioned how he and his wife “really fell in love with the community right away when we moved back.”
FINDING THE PERFECT BALANCE HERE
What was the cause of this immediate love for Altoona? If you ask Josh, it was (and still is) the incredible balance our city offers.
“Altoona just has such a neat balance,” said Josh, “of [those] big-city amenities and access, with that small-town style of living.”
He said, “All those things that make up a community are right there…If you want to be involved in them, people are welcoming to you.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The big-city amenities Josh is referring to—like Adventureland Resort, Altoona Campus, Terrace Hills Golf Course, etc.—are what make Altoona so unique. It’s no surprise to him that our city draws in over 4 million visitors per year.
“When you aggregate all the things that Altoona has going on, there’s a lot more than people think,” Josh said. “That’s pretty impressive.”
BUILDING A SUPPORTIVE NETWORK & GETTING INVOLVED
But Josh wasn’t just excited about Altoona’s amenities when he and Kristin moved here. Remember those small business opportunities they were so excited about? Turns out they were 100% worth pursuing, eventually leading Josh to join the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce.
“When I came back, I wanted to get involved,” said Josh, describing his entry into the world of community leadership.
“I made a call to Melissa [Horton] at the Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “That’s what sped up my process of building a network in Altoona, faster than anything else I could’ve done.”
Even when Josh and Kristin opened up a business in a different city, their colleagues from the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce went above and beyond with their support.
“The store was packed with people who came from the Altoona Chamber of Commerce and drove all the way out to West Des Moines for our ribbon-cutting,” said Josh. “That just represents that organization…They really go out of their way to encourage the success of the small businesses that make up our membership.”
ALTOONA 150, ALTOONA PALOOZA, ATHLETICS COACHING & NOW CITY COUNCIL
While serving on the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce, Josh became involved with an event in 2018 that inspired him to explore even more Altoona leadership avenues.
“The Altoona 150 sesquicentennial a few years ago was kind of the catalyst,” said Josh. “I was able to get involved in some volunteering and get to know people throughout the community.”
This experience led Josh to meet Steve Moyna, who helped him begin his now 4-year ongoing journey with Altoona Palooza.
If you’re wondering when Josh’s “Altoona Soccer Club Head Coach” and “Altoona Baseball League Head Coach” titles come into the story, it’s now. He’s put his athletic background into action over the last few years, helping lead local teams while multiplying his connections within our city.
In January of 2022, Josh Dunwoody was eventually elected to Altoona City Council. And it’s not hard to see why, either.
With a community leadership background that includes the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce, Altoona 150, Altoona Palooza, youth sports, and the Army National Guard (more on that later), residents collectively decided that Josh has what it takes to help lead our city.
ALWAYS GUIDED BY A SERVICE-ORIENTED MINDSET
It’s impossible to talk about Josh’s career of service and leadership without mentioning his involvement in the Army National Guard. He’s been serving since 2013, now an Executive Officer for the Adjutant General for Alpha Company 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry Regiment based in Council Bluffs.
His military experience has taught him a lot about organization, tact and follow-through, but the number-one lesson that has transferred over to his role as an elected leader is the importance of having a service-oriented mindset.
Josh simply cares about helping others, a characteristic that’s shared by his fellow city government leaders.
“When you’re involved in something, like anything from the Chamber to Altoona Palooza, to youth sports coaching…even City Governance,” said Josh, “It really is always made up of people that have a service orientation. They want to contribute. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.”
Josh said, “They’re willing to serve because they live there, they raise their families there. And at the end of the day, you’re gonna be at a Southeast Polk football game on a Friday night with people whose lives you’re impacting.”
REFLECTING ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT
Whether you’re looking to become a civic leader or not, Josh believes that getting involved with the community is one of the most important things you can do, especially in a place like Altoona.
“There’s always opportunities to get involved, to volunteer,” said Josh. “Somebody, somewhere would welcome you.”
Josh said, “You’re going to be able to probably find something that aligns with your interests…anything from the Historical Society to business…even little things.”
To Josh, “little things” are the everyday happenings that make residents feel at home. They could be anything from huge parades and block parties to small, local get-togethers.
“We live in Falcon Ridge, and that community will bring in food trucks throughout the year to get the neighborhood together,” Josh said. “Well, somebody has to do that and help with that.”
And he’s right. Our community’s fantastic events and organizations like Altoona Palooza, Altoona Kids Café, and countless others wouldn’t be possible without the help of volunteers. Somebody does have to do it.
Josh hopes that you’ll be the one who steps up someday.
“I think there’s lots of ways, big and small…to kind of put your hand up and say ‘hey, I’d like to help with that,’” he said. “People appreciate that, and it’s probably the fastest way to ingratiate yourself to a community and start to build a network.”
Josh said, “It’s the best thing you can do.”
Thanks for reading this #PeopleofAltoona feature!
Just minutes from Des Moines, Altoona is home to amenities that everyone can enjoy—from major entertainment attractions and shopping destinations to beautiful metro parks—as well as good schools, cozy neighborhoods, fun community events, and a thriving economy.
Want to learn more? You can meet the Altoona resident who’s nourishing Eastern Polk County’s underserved youth, learn how a real estate professional helps people feel at home in our community, or discover more about life in Altoona.