People of Altoona: Elizabeth Burns-Thompson

In this week’s #PeopleofAltoona, City of Altoona Councilwoman Elizabeth Burns-Thompson reflects on everything from Pinterest projects to public service—and what makes Altoona just right for her.


elizabeth burns thompsonFinding the Right “A” Town

I was raised on my family’s farm in eastern Iowa, but I’ve called central Iowa ‘home’ since leaving for college. Coming from Alburnett, to Ames, a short stint in Des Moines, and then here to Altoona, you could say I have an affinity for “A” towns.

It may sound almost too practical, but when looking for a place to call home during law school, I considered that being on the east side of town cut time off my drive when I went back to visit the farm, and living east of school/work meant I wasn’t driving into the sun both morning and night on my commute.

But it was really the small-town charm that sealed the deal for me. I knew that Altoona was meant to be home.

Creating the ‘BT Ranch’

When I first moved to town, I joked with friends that I had finally found a place in the city where I could drive by livestock on my way home (hat tip to Prairie Meadows for the horses and Big Steer for the… well that one is pretty much a given). It brought this farm girl so much joy.

Now, after upgrading from that apartment to my own piece of Altoona real estate [commonly referred to as the ‘BT Ranch’ due to the ever-expanding vegetable garden, flower beds, and various Pinterest projects that seem to pop up at my home] about five years ago I still find myself filled with nostalgia as I pass by the local grain coop, the decorated lamp posts along old main street, and that just slightly rusted old water tower on my drive home. And while the infrastructure is what makes up a town, it’s the people and community that really make it home.

A Place that’s “Just Right”

Altoona has provided the perfect platform to prosper, both professionally and personally. Because of the nature of my work in public policy, I need to be near a capital city where most state-wide lawmaking is conducted. I can easily be downtown for a morning meeting at the Capitol in just 20 minutes, or 30 minutes from my doorstep to the airport. Logistically, it just makes sense.

Additionally, the area provided a unique opportunity for first-time homeowners. Altoona is filled with solid homes on large lots that not only are great investments for young people like myself to build equity, but our community has such a mix of real estate and an excellent school system that residents and families can continue to grow without ever feeling like they’ve outgrown the community. And, of course, there is entertainment around every corner, for people of all ages… They don’t call Altoona the entertainment capital of Iowa for nothing.

Stepping Up

Altoona has a special culture and community atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the metro. Almost everyone that calls Altoona ‘home’ has a story about what brought them here and/or why they’ve stayed for so long. It’s important to me – as a resident and local elected official –that, as we continue significant growth and development, we preserve the culture and unique characteristics that make Altoona the exceptional place that we all know it is.

On a Final Note

I grew up in a small town, where everyone stepped up and had a role to play. Some coordinated the weekly pre-game dinner for the football team, some organized the fish fry fundraisers during Lent, some helped clean the church each Wednesday night, and some [like my mother] served as leader of the PTA for nearly two decades, long after their own children had left.

I was raised with a strong emphasis on servant leadership. Everyone has a special talent or skill that can be shared to help make the community better for all. I’ve been honored that Altoona has welcomed me with such open arms and entrusted me with this opportunity to serve on the City Council. As I stated after I took the oath of office, I vow to be a diligent advocate, compassionate listener, and faithful servant for all of us that live, work, and play in our great community.


Elizabeth Burns-Thompson

Councilwoman, City of Altoona