Meet Iowa’s Newest Hall of Fame Inductees

The state’s first Black woman judge, a longtime mayor and a health-focused community organizer are this year’s three new honorees inducted into the Iowa’s Women’s Hall of Fame.

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services announced District Associate Judge Romonda Belcher, Johnston Mayor Paula Dierenfeld and RN Bridget Reed are the three women who will be honored and inducted in 2023.

The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame was established in 1975 with the goal of bringing awareness to the various contributions to society made by Iowa women and highlight women’s heritage.

Every year, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women (ICSW) and the governor’s office welcome new women into the Hall of Fame.

The commission also names one recipient of the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice—awarded to an individual “who has made significant contributions to the principles of equality and justice in the state of Iowa.” This year, that honor goes to Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson, who has served Des Moines and Polk County in a variety of ways since 1988.

Here’s more about this year’s entrants to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and the recipient of the Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice.

Hall of Fame

Romonda Belcher

In 2010, Belcher became the first (and still only) Black woman appointed as a judge in Iowa, and she worked for years to get there.

After graduating from Drake University in 1995, Judge Romonda Belcher started working in as an Assistant Polk County Attorney. For the next 15 years, she prosecuted juvenile and criminal cases and represented county officials and department heads in civil cases.

She applied multiple times to be a judge but was always denied because her youth and lack of experience at the time.

Now sitting on the bench, she’s also an adjunct professor at Drake Law School and she serves on various committees to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system and conducts training for handling trauma cases.

Advertise on Iowa Starting Line

Paula Dierenfeld

Mayor Paula Dierenfeld of Johnston is also the longest-serving female mayor in the state of Iowa.

She was first elected in 2008 and has led efforts to license and investigate massage businesses to confront sex trafficking, as well as oversaw the building of a 200-acre city park and 50 miles of recreation trails. Dierenfeld, an avid runner, has also raised nearly $58,000 for the Johnston Food Pantry in her annual Mayor’s Run for Food.

Dierenfeld’s experience in law and public service go back to her serving 15 years working in state and federal government as Gov. Terry Branstad’s legal counsel and working for Sen. Chuck Grassley, working for the Iowa Senate and serving as a commissioner on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Bridget Reed

A registered nurse and community organizer in Waterloo, Bridget Reed is being honored for starting a few different public initiatives for diabetes and prostate cancer.

Focus on Diabetes helps diabetes patients connect to doctors, education and treatment options, and Project Health has partnered with the University of Iowa and the Iowa Cancer Consortium to expand research into disparities in outcomes for common cancers in men.

She’s also a community organizer and works to increase the number of Black women in health care, help women over 35 return to college, and engages with candidates and elected officials to teach them about health care disparities and their effects.

Christine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice

Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson

Serving the Des Moines community in a variety of roles, Teree Caldwell-Johnson has earned this award for decades of service.

It started in 1988 when she was appointed executive director of the Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines.

Now, Caldwell-Johnson serves on:

  • Board of directors for Des Moines-based, nonprofit housing and human services agency Oakridge Neighborhood and Oakridge Neighborhood Services
  • Des Moines Public School Board
  • president of the board of directors for the National Civic League, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing civic engagement and creating better communities
  • Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines
  • Capital Crossroads
  • Polk County Housing Trust Fund
  • OpportUNITY
  • Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa
  • Planned Parenthood North Central States
  • chair of The Directors Council, a nonprofit comprised of Black CEOs and executive directors who collaborate to address disparity and inequity for Black people in greater Polk County


Nikoel Hytrek

If you enjoy stories like these, make sure to sign up for Iowa Starting Line’s weekly newsletter.

Have a story idea or something I should know? Email me at You can also DM me on Twitter at @n_hytrek

​​Iowa Starting Line is part of an independent news network and focuses on how state and national decisions impact Iowans’ daily lives. We rely on your financial support to keep our stories free for all to read. You can contribute to us hereFind ISL on TikTokInstagramFacebook and Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *