When Bill Sperfslage was first approached about taking on the position of deputy director of institutions, he knew it would be hard to turn down.
“I like challenges,” he said. “I’m gonna be 60 years old and starting a new job, but that excites me.”
Despite the fact that Sperfslage started his career four decades ago inside the walls of the Anamosa State Penitentiary (ASP) and that he’d brag every time that he had “the best job in the state of Iowa” as the ASP warden, he saw the central office as a place where he could make an even greater difference.
“Maybe I can help Anamosa from a higher level, and other institutions as well, with resources and guidance and set the table for the next deputy director that comes in,” he said.
The decision to take the new position was assisted by the fact that he did not have to move away from his grandkids, and his wife was fully behind the move to the new position.
Just to be sure he was making the right decision, he met with the Department of Corrections Director Beth Skinner. After discussing her vision and goals and how the two might work together, Sperfslage was sold.
“I left thinking this was a wonderful fit, and I want to be a part of Director Skinner’s team,” he said.
“Warden Sperfslage is the right person for this job. He has spent his career preparing for a position with this amount of responsibility, and his knowledge of Iowa Corrections will lend itself well to the safety of our staff and the rehabilitation of our incarcerated population,” Skinner said in a statement about the hiring.
Sperfslage has only worked at the two of the nine state correctional facilities, Anamosa and Fort Madison, so he’s been getting to know the other facilities. While he’s had roles in the past where he’s done a bit of traveling, none of the positions required the level of detail as this one.
“One of the things I’ve enjoyed in my travels is…each institution almost has its own personality,” he said. “You want to build on their strengths but make sure there’s uniformity where it’s needed.”
Each building contributes to the puzzle and has their own role, his job now is to offer them the support they need in order to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. With his previous background, he said he feels like he can offer the heads of the other institutions the type of leadership that he would’ve wanted from Des Moines, a supportive leader that doesn’t try to micro manage the institution. At the same time, uniformity is needed in some areas, to ensure consistency, even as personnel changes.
Even as he takes on this new role, Sperfslage’s time at Anamosa will remain special.
“There’s something about being the warden at this penitentiary,” he said. “I was blessed to do that.”
Since his appointment, Mike Heinricy has been serving as the interim warden. Sperfslage’s official replacement has not been announced as of yet.