by J.O. Parker
Millersburg, population 150 plus, is home to a café and catering business, fire station, community center, city park, auto repair shop, beauty salon, library, Methodist church and a handful of ag-related and other businesses sprinkled across town.
It is also the hometown of two young ladies who are now working and making a difference in the Washington, D.C. area.
Andrea (Hall) Cerwinske, the daughter of the late Sally Hall and Loren Hall, is the Vice President of Marketing for Aimpoint, Inc., an innovator of red dot sighting technology for the firearms industry. The company is located in Manassas, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Amelia Koehn, the daughter of Kevin and Chris Koehn, also calls Washington, D.C. home, where she is the host of Inside Judicial Watch, a conservative government watchdog organization that promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law.
Here are their stories:
Andrea (Hall) Cerwinske
Andrea grew up in an upstairs apartment on the main drag in Millersburg. Her parents were the former owners of Hall’s Grocery Store in Millersburg, a business that served the Iowa County community for 20 years.
“I grew up riding my tricycle down the aisles of the store,” recalled Andrea. “My parents taught me how to count change to customers before I could see over the counter.”
“The grocery store was an amazing place to grow up in as a child,” she added. “During the day, I spent my time helping my mom in the store, at my grandma Helen Hall’s beauty salon down the street, or Alan’s Hardware store causing mischief with Fuzz (as Alan Husband was known).”
Andrea attended Deep River-Millersburg Schools and graduated from English Valleys High School in 1994. At EV, Andrea was involved in athletics, Model United Nations, and served on the student council.
Andrea attended Central College in Pella and majored in Political Science. At Central, Andrea was involved with Pi Sigma Alpha – National Political Science Honor Society and the student senate. She also played basketball for the Dutch and participated in track and field.
In 1996, Andrea studied in London and was selected for an internship at the British Parliament in the House of Commons. This was her first career opportunity in politics.
Andrea’s last semester at Central was spent in the Iowa Legislature working as a Legislative Clerk and the Commerce Committee Secretary in the House of Representatives.
“This job led to a series of positions in Iowa politics,” she said.
In 1998, Andrea served as the legislative clerk for Rep. Janet Metcalf of Clive and the Commerce Committee Secretary. That same year, she served as field representative for Senator Charles Grassley’s Iowa Senate race.
In 1999, Andrea served as legislative clerk for Rep. Dan Huseman of Aurelia and as the Natural Resource Committee Secretary.
“From 1999 – 2000, I was the organization and caucus director for the Republican Party of Iowa,” she said. “I organized and managed the 2000 Republican Presidential Caucus and the General Election efforts in Iowa for the state Republican Party.”
She also served as the lead staff member for the Iowa Delegation to the Republican National Convention during that time frame. While working for the state party, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Drake University in 2000.
“After working the 2000 Presidential Election with the Republican Party of Iowa, I was offered a position in the President’s Office of the National Rifle Association (NRA), “Andrea noted. “Kayne Robinson, the exiting Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, was serving as First Vice President of NRA under Charlton Heston. Kayne opened the door to an opportunity with the NRA.”
“The position allowed me to live in Iowa while traveling to Washington and throughout the country,” Andrea went on to say.
The position with the NRA allowed her to work as a political consultant. In 2001, Andrea was an analyst with Iowans for Responsible Redistricting. “Our group provided detailed analysis of the 2001 Iowa Redistricting Plans,” she said.
In 2002, she served as Senator Grassley’s Campaign Finance Director.
“In 2005, I changed roles within the NRA and the job required a move to the D.C. area,” noted Andrea. “At the time, I was traveling 20 to 25 days a month and spent very little time at home,” said Andrea. “My husband and I viewed it as a new adventure, and it allowed more time for us to be together.”
In 2007, Andrea took leave from the NRA to assist the Republican Party of Iowa with the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 Republican Presidential Caucus.
In her current role as Vice President of Marketing for Aimpoint, Andrea manages all corporate public relations, marketing, and trade show activities for the United States military, law enforcement, hunting, and civilian markets.
“We manufacture sighting systems used on a wide variety of weapon platforms, from military rocket launchers to small red dot optics for pistols,” she said of her company.
“I oversee our US company’s branding, advertising, social media channels, media relations, product messaging, photography and video productions, and exhibitions. Our corporation is based in Sweden and I have been fortunate to travel there regularly.”
When asked if she had met President Trump, Andrea said she was a volunteer for his Presidential campaign in 2016 during the Iowa Caucuses as a staff person for Don Jr., Eric Trump, and their families. She has also met President George H. W. Bush and President George W. Bush.
Growing up in politics
When asked what drew her into the world of politics, Andrea recalled growing up siting on her great-grandpa Roy Taylor’s lap during Millersburg City Council meetings.
“He served on the city council as well as my father, Loren,” said Andrea. “My mother, Sally, served as city clerk. I started attending the council meetings when I was a little baby. Our family has always been involved in local government and the community. Government and how it worked always fascinated me. During the 1980 election, my mom told me that I insisted we watch the Reagan/Carter Presidential debates. It grew from there.”
Andrea met her husband, Tim, who grew up in Colorado, at Central College in Pella. They married in 1999 and the couple has twin daughters, Emma and Abby, who are nine. Tim is a fifth-grade teacher in the Prince William County School District in Virginia.
Andrea and Tim currently live in Gainesville, Virg., which is about 40 miles west of Washington, D.C.
“We live on the western edge of the D.C. region (referred to as Northern Virginia, to locals NoVA). Our town Gainesville is close to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and rural Virginia,” Andrea said. “It is the best of everything. Camping in Shenandoah National Park is one of our favorites.”
When asked what it is like living and working in D.C., Andrea said the area is rich with incredible history, museums and attractions.
“Every weekend you could visit a new historical landmark and not visit the same place twice,” said Andrea. “We are blessed to have so many important places to American history a short drive away. Our daughters are getting to experience them firsthand. Our church, Sudley United Methodist is located on the Manassas/Bull Run Battlefield and was used as a Civil War hospital.”
Another aspect of living in D.C. Andrea said, is the constant traffic.
“My travel time into the city can take anywhere from one hour to more than two hours one way,” she said. “In my current job, travel into D.C. is infrequent, thank goodness. Many people in this region work for the government in some capacity (federal, military, government contracts, etc.). Because of the intense traffic, telecommuting is widely accepted.”
In spite of all the traffic, Andrea prefers driving to work and for sporting events (Go Nationals!), the Cerwinske family travels the Metro.
“Amtrak has a great train system long the East Coast,” said Andera. “I travel to New York City frequently for work and will take the Amtrak Acela direct from the D.C. Union Station to NYC Penn Station. It is faster than flying to New York and you can stay connected the whole trip.”
When asked what her future work and life goals are, Andrea said life had been an interesting journey. In high school, she said her goal was to work in international relations and government. In college, her focus was to work for the U.S. State Department in the Foreign Service.
“My internship in the Iowa Legislature opened new possibilities,” she said. “While I was at NRA, I was able to follow my passion and served with a team that represented gun rights issues at the United Nations. It was a dream come true. Now, I work for an international corporation with distributors and dealers all over the world. It exposed me to international corporate relations. Another great opportunity.”
Down home Millersburg
When asked how often she gets back to Iowa to visit family, Andrea said for several years she was traveling home every month to help her mother, Sally, who had health issues. She passed away in June 2019.
“We typically come back to Iowa for an extended stay in the summer when school is out and a few long weekends during the year,” she added. “Our families travel out to Virginia a couple times a year.”
When asked how life in Washington, D.C. compares to life growing up in Iowa, Andrea said when she comes home to Iowa and turns off Interstate 80 at the Millersburg exit, she is greeted by people in every car she meets. Even though they do not know her, she said they wave or say “Hi.”
“When I come back to our area in Virginia, this is the first thing I notice,” she said. “No one waves, the connection with your neighbors is not there. The area is very transient. Government workers and military personnel move constantly. Connections with your neighbors are infrequent. It is not that Northern Virginia people are less friendly, most people live here a few years and leave. No one retires to NoVA.”
“We have created a wonderful family here in Virginia through our jobs and church,” Andrea went on to say. “It has helped fill that void of family and community we had in Iowa. I am thankful my daughters can experience so many aspects of American history. I am so glad our girls hold a special place in their hearts of Iowa. They are always excited to travel back to visit friends and family. It makes me so happy that they love Iowa. Some of their closest friends live in Iowa. It is their second home.”
Amelia grew up in rural Millersburg on the Koehn family farm. She is the youngest of four children – Shara Axmear, Caleb Koehn and Jeremy Koehn.
“My family lives very close to each other and work on the farm besides me,” said Amelia. “I currently have seven nieces and nephews. My parents are Kevin and Chris Koehn. My grandfathers are the late Harold Koehn and Bill Brown. My grandmothers are Martha Koehn and the late Marlys Brown.”
Amelia graduated from English Valleys High School in 2014. She attended the University of Iowa, graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a minor in History.
At Iowa, Amelia participated in the women’s rowing team, which she said took up a majority of her time.
She also founded Young Women for America (YWA) chapter at Iowa. YWA is an organization with a mission to train the next generation to protect and promote Biblical values and Constitutional principles through prayer, education and advocacy. She also served as a women’s ministry leader for Veritas Church in Iowa City and she was a member of the College Republicans.
When asked how she got interested in the political arena, Amelia said her family instilled a love for God and country in her growing up on the family farm.
“I love the people from Iowa and the good people of this nation,” side Amelia. “I look out for their best interests and follow Constitutional principles. From a young age, I remember seeing injustice on the news and I wondered how we can put an end to it. That’s when I decided to take a stand. My thoughts are always on how policies and issues affect the folks back home and our nation.”
While at the University of Iowa, Amelia interned with Congressman Robert Aderholt in Alabama in the Summer of 2015. She also interned for the National Republican Committee in Iowa during college.
“I was offered a job at Concerned Women for America in D.C. right after college,” she said. “I was selected as a president representative to attend the two-week Passages Israel Conference to gain cultural and political competency. I interacted with civilian and government leaders who represent Israel and Palestine.”
Amelia joined Judicial Watch in April 2019. The organization advocates for high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life and seek to ensure that political and judicial officials do not abuse the powers entrusted to them by the American people.
“Judicial Watch fulfills its educational mission through litigation, investigations, and public outreach,” said Amelia. “We have had several victories recently. We are currently taking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to court over her emails and the Benghazi scandal. We have also obtained receipts from aborted baby body parts that have been illegally used for research using taxpayer dollars.”
Some of the people Amelia has interviewed at Judicial Watch include Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, an Iowa native and former Hawkeye football player; former Deputy Assistant to the President, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, Rep. Louie Gohmert, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Trump Advisor, Carter Page.
Amelia said she has met President Trump and has worked with his Administration during her time in D.C.
When asked what is like living and working in Washington, D.C., Amelia said it is a lot different than growing up in rural Millersburg.
“D.C. is nicknamed the biggest small town in America because just about everyone knows each other,” Amelia said. “I run into several people a day I know. There is always an event to attend, meetings, dinners, etc. D.C. rarely sleeps.”
“I’m thankful to live next to Shenandoah National Park and in such a historical part of our nation’s founding from battlefields to our ivory capitol building,” added Amelia of the D.C. experience. “I’m always on my feet just like everyone else. Working in D.C. consists of early mornings and late nights.”
Amelia lives right in D.C. not too far from Union Station. She mostly walks to and from work, which is a four-mile round trip every day.
“Several days, I have meetings before and after work so I will walk, Metro or take the uber,” she said. “D.C. is a very walkable city. Hence, why you see so many runners!”
When asked what her least favorite part of living in D.C., Amelia said the homeless population breaks her heart.
As for her favorite part of D.C., she said museums, parks and events are always enjoyable.
“The Fourth of July is always unforgettable,” she said. “I am able to frequent the State Department and other government buildings for meetings. I love to wake up at around 5 a.m. sometimes and run on the National Mall with the sunrise. I also head to the beach and go hiking on the weekends.”
She also enjoys playing volleyball and softball on the National Mall, paddle boarding on the Potomac, attending operas, concerts and musicals at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where she once was invited to watch a performance from the President’s Box; attending museums of the Bible events and conducting research, congregating in the Georgetown neighborhood to be with friends and colleagues and also attending hearings and panels on Capitol Hill.
When asked how life in Washington, D.C. compares to life growing up in Iowa, Amelia said she misses her friends and family.
“I miss living around farmland. D.C. is fast paced. Folks in D.C. are always networking in an effort to land their dream job,” she said. “Everyone in my (Iowa) community knows everyone very well (and many people are related). In D.C. people from all over the world come to visit.”
When asked how often does she get back to Iowa to visit family or have family visit her, Amelia said she tries to come back to Iowa for major holidays.
“My family has visited me a few times now,” she said. “I was able to get them inside the White House for a tour with a close friend who works there.”
As far as her future career in politics and life, Amelia said the short answer is, “Wherever God leads me.”
“I would love to continue to do camera work in the realm of politics to make a difference for our country and world,” she added. “If God calls me to work within the government, I will follow Him.”
If you would like to see Amelia in action, you can watch her interviews on Judicial Watch’s website: judicialwatch.organd on Judicial Watch’s YouTube page.