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Stephen Larson
Administrator, Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division

Administrator Stephen Larson
Administrator
Stephen Larson

Mr. Larson was appointed to his third term as the Administrator of the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division by Governor Kim Reynolds. He was previously appointed by two former Iowa governors – Chet Culver in 2010, and Terry Branstad in 2014 – and was overwhelmingly confirmed in all prior confirmations by the Iowa Senate. This bipartisan confidence in Mr. Larson is a testament to his exemplary work in establishing the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages as a successful state executive branch agency creating a valuable return on investment to the citizens of Iowa.

During his tenure Mr. Larson has sought to modernize the Division in its dual role as both a governing authority of the alcoholic beverages marketplace and operating as the sole wholesaler of alcoholic spirits as a business. He has achieved this through pragmatism, transparency, and a belief that collaboration creates opportunity. No matter the endeavor he has always sought to bring all stakeholders to the table to find solutions and solve problems.

Prior to his appointment in 2010, the Alcoholic Beverages Division regulatory compliance program was dormant. Mr. Larson made it one of his first priorities to reactivate and rebuild the program. He established a Regulatory Compliance Bureau and proceeded to rebuild it. Today there are six business units’ comprising the bureau – Alcohol Compliance, Tobacco Compliance, Education and Outreach, Alcohol Licensing, Administrative Actions, and Administrative Affairs.

During this time, the bureau been recognized with various awards issued by state and national organizations for innovation and strategic leadership. Most recently StateWays Best Practices 2020 for Best Technology and 2019 for Best Distribution/Warehouse Innovation. One of the most important initiatives for educational and outreach efforts on a yearly basis are efforts in conjunction with the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), a major cycling event taking riders from the Missouri River on the western side of the state to the Mississippi River on the eastern side.

Mr. Larson has been instrumental in reviewing and refreshing Iowa’s alcohol laws to ensure that they meet the needs of the modern marketplace while protecting public health, safety, and welfare. This initiative began in 2016, along with Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham, which formed a working group to begin an unprecedented review of Iowa’s alcohol laws. The working group consisted of stakeholders representing all three tiers of the alcoholic beverages industry, public safety officials, state public health officials, legislators and the general public. Over the course of this review the working group made recommendations which became legislation and passed with bipartisan support, with many legislators lauding the collaborative efforts of all involved.

In 2017, he along with agency staff continued the review of Iowa’s alcohol laws, focusing on Iowa’s alcohol licensing process, administrative actions, and administrative appeals. Over the course of eight public forums conducted across the state, local licensing authorities, local law enforcement, public health officials, substance abuse prevention groups retail licensees, and others shared how Iowa’s alcohol licensing laws affect their communities and how the process could be improved in the future. On July 1, 2018, Mr. Larson released a study on “Iowa Tied House Laws” to the Iowa Legislature and members of the alcohol beverage industry. The information within this study will be used by legislators as a foundation of work to assist in making decisions in the future about whether or not Iowa tied house laws work and are relevant to the Iowa marketplace. On March 18, 2019, he submitted a report to Governor Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor Gregg and the legislature with recommendations for streamlining the alcohol licensing process and helping ensure a fair and level playing field within the alcoholic beverages industry in Iowa.

During his tenure, Mr. Larson has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring public health, safety, and welfare are protected in regards to alcoholic beverages. His efforts to re-establish the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division as a governing authority have contributed to a fair and level playing field within the industry, and his innovative and collaborative approach to modernizing Iowa’s alcohol laws has resulted in laws that are easier to understand and govern. On the business side of the agency operations, which is the sole wholesaler of alcoholic spirits many improvements have occurred. Most notably, on April 15, 2019, the Ruan Transport Corporation assumed responsibility for the distribution of spirits on behalf of the Division as part of a public-private partnership.

He currently serves as a member of the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association executive board of directors, and served as past Chairman from 2015-2016. He is a member of the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA), and has made various presentations on governance issues and tied house laws.

Mr. Larson’s public service career began in 1984, as an unclaimed property auditor, and at the time of being appointed in 2010, he worked in the Iowa State Treasure Office as a Deputy State Treasurer for State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. His role in that position was serving as Deputy of Governmental Relations, additionally serving as a member of the State Appeals Board, Vision Iowa Board and the Underground Storage Tank Board. During his public service career, he has received many awards, served on various state boards, and national associations. He is past Chairman the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, and received various honors during that time.

Mr. Larson graduated with honors from William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration. Mr. Larson resides in Polk City with his wife Jane, has two sons and is a proud grandparent of two granddaughters. Hobbies and what brings joy is golf, traveling and spending time with family and friends.