Native makes her mark
WASHINGTON D.C. — A Le Mars native is making her mark in the nation’s capital.
Kathy Nuebel Kovarik was named Chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in early April.
Nuebel Kovarik, daughter of Lynn and Donna Nuebel, graduated from Gehlen Catholic in 1994.
“I grew up reading newspapers, from stuff about baseball standings and the Cubs to the editorials. I remember reading them every Sunday,” Nuebel Kovarik said. “I also had a great high school teacher, Dick Seivert, who had a passion for civics and history. I loved history and social studies.”
After graduating from Gehlen, Nuebel Kovarik moved on to Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
“I took a lot of political science classes and studied the Iowa Caucuses,” Nuebel Kovarik said.
Next up, Nuebel Kovarik moved out to Washington D.C. to work in Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office.
“I did an internship between my sophomore and junior year and I loved it. It was a great experience and I knew I wanted to go back,” Nuebel Kovarik explained. “After I graduated from college I applied for a job. I think I got the notice on Friday, and I ended up driving out and started the job on Monday.”
Nuebel Kovarik spent 17 years in Sen. Grassley’s office, working on a variety on issues, including immigration.
“I started immigration in 2001, just before 9/11. I focused on 9/11, visa policies and legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS),” Nuebel Kovarik said.
Nuebel Kovarik was made advisor to DHS Secretary John Kelly in a short term role, and then took the job of Chief of the Office of Policy and Strategy for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, where she stays plenty busy.
“The schedule ebbs and flows. It’s a high priority for me to be at home to feed my kids and put them into bed,” Nuebel Kovarik said. “Ever since I’ve started this job, I put them to bed at 9 p.m., and then I work for three to four hours. I don’t go into the office on weekends but I’m working on my computer.”
Though D.C. is a large, bustling city, Nuebel Kovarik likened life on Capitol Hill, where she and her family live, to small town life.
“It is a small community on Capitol Hill. Even though we’re part of the city, it doesn’t fell like city life,” Nuebel Kovarik said. “Capitol Hill has a lot of families, it’s a very family friendly part of D.C. My kids just have a different upbringing.”
“My kids go to a Catholic school and our school community is very tight knit. We have neighbors that go to the same school. It’s just like Iowa. They would do anything for you and your kids just as they would do in Le Mars. It’s a nice little haven in the city,” Nuebel Kovarik continued.
While she enjoys her life in the capital, Nuebel Kovarik said she had never forgotten her roots.
“Growing up in Iowa, I loved it and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’d love to go back. It’s always been a desire of ours,” Nuebel Kovarik said. “My husband is from Iowa as well and we’d love to have our kids grow up there and go to school where we did and experience the upbringing that we did. I remain very connected to my family and friends and hopefully one day we go back.”