CLINTON — U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., will be return to Clinton on Tuesday. He will be the keynote speaker at the 82nd Annual Iowa Professional Firefighters Convention to be held Monday and Tuesday at the Best Western Frontier.

Clinton firefighter Jeff Chapman is chairman of this year’s convention. He said he was taken a little off guard when he was told who the featured speaker would be.

Chapman described Kerry as a “pretty good guy. I’m not sure why he is speaking,” he said.

Kerry was a semi-regular presence in Clinton and throughout Iowa in late 2003 and early 2004 as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination.

At the Jan. 19, 2004, Iowa caucus, Kerry was supported by 52.5 percent of Clinton County Democratic caucusgoers. Only Shelby County Democrats, at 54 percent, were more supportive.

“I don’t know if this is leading to something,” Chapman said of Kerry’s speech next week. “I don’t know if he is going to endorse somebody or if he is going to thank us… I’m not sure what to expect.”

Chapman said the firefighters were very supportive of Kerry during his 2004 presidential bid and did a lot to support his campaign.

The convention will bring 100 firefighters and their families from across the state to Clinton.

“It usually comes here every 10 years,” Chapman said. The last time was 1997.

According to Chapman, it was in 1997 when the biggest cities in Iowa — Des Moines, Davenport, Sioux City and Waterloo, for some reason dropped out of the Professional Firefighters organization — the state union.

But now all is well.

“What’s special about this year is everybody in the state of Iowa is back together,” Chapman related. “This is the first time since ’97 — to show a new solidarity.”

The Clinton Firefighters Association Local 609 plans to show off the community. A golf tournament at Valley Oaks is scheduled for Monday followed by an evening watching the Clinton LumberKings at Alliant Energy Field.

“We rented the Lumber Lounge,” Chapman said. “We wanted to showcase Clinton and ‘Things to Do With a River View.’”

The firefighters will take care of business on Tuesday, which includes the Iowa Professional Firefighters Honor Guard that will honor all firefighters who have died in the last year. Chapman said it can be a very emotional ceremony.

Kerry will not be the only Democrat in attendance on Tuesday. Iowa gubernatorial hopeful Chet Culver, State Sen. Roger Stewart, D-Preston, and State Rep. Polly Bukta, D-Clinton, also will be making presentations during the day.

A banquet will be held Tuesday evening followed by Kerry’s speech at 7:30 p.m. There will be limited space available — 150 seats — for Kerry’s address.

“When the senator speaks, I don’t see anything wrong with people coming out,” Chapman said. “We’re not going to send anyone packin’.”

Members of the Clinton Labor Congress Executive Board have been invited and Chapman cautions that the first seats will go to the firefighters.

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