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Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson

2023 Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice Recipient: Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson 

Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson smiling, wearing a fashionable sweater with complimenting accessories in front of a dark background.

Teree L. Caldwell-Johnson - Des Moines, Iowa (originally Salina, Kansas)

Teree Caldwell-Johnson has a B.A. in English from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and a M.P.A. from the University of Kansas.

In 1988, Teree was appointed Executive Director of the Metro Waste Authority in Des Moines, Iowa. She served in that position until 1996 when she was appointed to the position of Polk County Manager, a position she held from 1996-2003. In April of 2004, Teree was appointed to the position of President and CEO for Oakridge Neighborhood and Oakridge Neighborhood Services.

Oakridge Neighborhood is a non-profit that provides housing and supportive services to over 1,000 low-income individuals and families as they strive for stability and prosperity. Over half of the residents are immigrants and refugees, the majority from African nations, speaking a multitude of languages. As the Oakridge Executive Director for 19 years, Teree has developed staff and programming that provide equal opportunity for Oakridge residents and clients, from infants through adults, to prosper. 

As a community leader, Teree is a known advocate and champion. Teree was elected to the Des Moines Public School (DMPS) Board in 2006 and re-elected to four year terms in 2009, 2013, 2017 and 2021, serving as President. She has worked tirelessly to provide an education for ALL children in the district and to see that ALL children are included and treated with respect.

In addition to serving on the DMPS Board, Teree serves as President of the board of directors of the National Civic League. She also serves on the boards of directors of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Capital Crossroads, Polk County Housing Trust Fund, OpportUNITY, Refugee Alliance of Central Iowa, Planned Parenthood North Central States. Furthermore, she is a founder and currently Board Chair of The Directors Council, a nonprofit comprised of Black CEOs and Executive Directors who collaborate to launch solutions to the disparity and inequity troubling African Americans in greater Polk County.

Teree is a member of St. Paul A.M.E. Church where she is an active participant of the Steward Board and William Sampson Brooks Missionary Society. Additionally, she is also a member of the Des Moines Chapter of The Links, Incorporated and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Teree is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including:

  • WHO TV 2022 Remarkable Woman
  • Iowa women’s Foundation Ovation Honoree in 2021
  • Faith and Freedom Community Leader Award in 2018
  • Arthur Davis Distinguished Community Leadership Award in 2017
  • President’s MLK Drum Major for Service Lifetime Volunteer Award 2014
  • Iowa African Americans Museum’s 2010 History Maker
  • Business Publications 2002 Women of Influence
  • Black Ministerial Alliance 2002 Leadership Award
  • Business Record Best Female Business Leader 2001
  • YWCA 1999 Women of Achievement

She is proudly married to Vernon C. Johnson, a retired non-profit executive, and they have two adult children, Baley and Baxtyr.