CM – Carlson

VICTORIA (RAY) CARLSON

President, West Des Moines

Victoria Carlson

As the daughter of Iowa’s 38th Governor, Vicki Ray grew up in the shadow of the Iowa State Capitol, a curious teenager peering down from the bell tower of the Terrace Hill mansion. She attended public schools in Des Moines, graduating mid-term from Theodore Roosevelt High School with the Class of 1979.

In her sophomore year while competing on the TRHS diving team, her frequent numbness and imbalance drove her to several medical specialists to determine her condition. After six months of conflicting analysis, a trip to the Mayo Clinic confirmed a diagnosis that few people would have predicted for a 16 year-old girl: she has Multiple Sclerosis. Determined to continue her education and begin a promising career, she pressed on past her medical limitations and onto college courses at the University of Iowa, Drake and Lewis University.

Following her passion for politics and government, she moved to Washington DC for stints with The Department of Energy, HUD, and on the support staff for Senator Bob Dole. Returning to Iowa as Victoria Ray in 1991, and inspired by her own health challenges, she continued a career focused on helping others, first with Junior Achievement, followed by Executive Director of the Iowa Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS Patient Liaison at the Ruan Neurological Center at Mercy Hospital, and a Commissioner for the Iowa Commission for Persons with Disabilities appointed by Governor Terry E. Branstad.

Love and family took Victoria Carlson to the Chicago suburbs for twenty years, where she raised three daughters with her husband, Mark. In 2004, she was appointed by President Bush to serve on the National Council for Persons with Disabilities. In between soccer mom duties, she kept busy – and in shape – by becoming a licensed personal trainer, working in fitness clubs, running two marathons, and competing in a regional bodybuilding competition…all while selling cosmetics on the side.

Soon after her father’s passing in 2018, the Carlson family returned to their Iowa roots, settling in West Des Moines. Immediately upon her return, she reached out to Governor Reynolds to explore opportunities where she could use her experiences to help other Iowans. She was subsequently appointed to a position on the Statewide Independent Living Council, now serving as president. She was also appointed to again serve as a Commissioner on the Iowa Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

When she is not doting on the lives and continuing education of her cherished daughters, or cheering on her beloved Hawkeyes, she surrounds herself with another joy in her life: her animals. She is a proud owner of two dogs, three cats, and a timber-filled backyard full of wild critters.