When Joni Axel first came to Muscatine with her husband in 1965, she had a passion for good government and promoting international exchange. In her 55 years here, Axel has contributed to these areas and many she never expected to.
Early on, Axel became a member of the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors. The youngest supervisor, Axel wanted to deepen her knowledge of the law. Upon finishing her term, she began law school at the University of Iowa. For three years, Axel commuted to Iowa City daily while raising her two sons. Though she found the experience taxing, it led to a fulfilling 32-year law career.
In college, Axel studied international trade and service, Russian, and history. These interests led her to Sarah Lande and Maxwell Stanley. Working with Lande, Axel made several trips to Russia (then the Soviet Union) as part of an envoy to one of Iowa’s sister states, Stavropol. Axel also accompanied Lande to China. Since then, Axel has traveled to many parts of the world, and has visited every continent except Africa, where she intends to go this summer. Axel also helped with the Stanley Foundation (now the Stanley Center for Peace and Security) in its early days, promoting positive international relations right from Muscatine.
When Axel retired from practicing law, she got involved with Muscatine Blue Zones project, serving as the Community Project Manager. Axel worked with restaurants, grocery stores, and schools to encourage them to provide more healthy food. She also worked with the city to make area parks more accessible, which led the city to work to connect bike trails, reconfigure Mississippi Drive to make it easier for people with mobility issues to cross, and the building of the roundabout and pedestrian trail on Cedar Street to make walking in the area safer.
Following her work with the Muscatine Blue Zones project, Axel served as the Interim Director of Senior resources, assisting in getting word of the organization’s services out to those who could benefit from them. Over the years, Axel has also volunteered extensively with the Nature Conservancy and with causes to improve access to healthcare in Muscatine.
In all her many roles, Axel has valued Muscatine’s many leaders and their commitment to improving the community. “There’s great leaders in this community,” she said. “We don’t just want to be good; we want to be excellent.”