Jerry Foxhoven had some wisdom to impart.
Then the director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, Foxhoven was dispensing some career advice to one of his agency’s 4,300 employees.
“Yes, let’s talk,” he wrote in an email. “I can certainly relate, as I have made plenty of career changes from time to time and haven’t regretted any of them.”
Or, he added, in the words of his favorite rapper-poet-philosopher: “We gotta make a change . . . It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”
It wasn’t the first time he quoted Tupac Shakur to his staff — and it was far from the only time, a proclivity some have speculated eventually led to his ouster.
The ex-government official and self-described “66-year-old white guy” has reportedly been a devotee of the lyrical luminary since the ’90s. He hosted “Tupac Fridays” and turned the office into a listening lounge. On his birthday, staffers gifted him baked goods decorated with the rapper’s likeness and the names of his biggest hits.
Then, on June 14, he sent what would be his final all-staff email celebrating the man who sometimes went by the moniker “Makaveli.” Father’s Day was coming up, Foxhoven noted, and so were two important anniversaries: his own two-year as department director and Shakur’s birthday.
“I hope you all enjoy the day as well — and take the time to enjoy one of his songs,” Foxhoven wrote. “‘Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.’”
The very next workday, Foxhoven was forced to resign.
The timing of the email and Foxhoven’s departure — along with the breadth of his fandom — was first reported by the Associated Press, which received more than 350 pages of emails that included the words “Tupac” or “2Pac” in response to the outlet’s public records request.
But in interviews with other news organizations, Foxhoven has expressed doubt that it was his love of Shakur that prompted Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) to ask for his resignation.
“I think it’s a coincidence,” Foxhoven told the New York Times, adding that Reynolds had requested a meeting with him days before his June 14 email.
“I always try to assume the best of everybody, and I can’t imagine that [the governor] would base her decision on the Tupac incident,” he told NPR. “If this is the reason, I’m really disappointed.”
Reynolds’s spokesman, Pat Garrett, directed The Washington Post to a statement he provided the AP, wherein he attributed Foxhoven’s dismissal to “a lot of factors.” But he did not answer questions about Foxhoven’s Shakur fixation and whether that played a role.
Foxhoven did not respond to repeated interview requests.
One message hinted that someone at the department had complained to lawmakers about the frequent quotations, and in another exchange, Foxhoven acknowledged that not everyone enjoyed them.
“I love your 2pac messages . . . and the fact that you still send them (despite the haters) makes me appreciate them even more,” one employee wrote him.
“I agree totally. I am going to hang in there on him — despite all of the naysayers,” Foxhoven responded.
According to NPR reporter Tim Mak, who diligently documented the contents of the email dump on his Twitter page, the positive responses far outnumbered the negative reactions.
“Oh my gosh!!! I ABSOLUTELY love it!!” another staffer wrote.
“Thanx for sharing that :)” said another.
Foxhoven told Mak that he often uses his love of rap to “reach out to our staff, tell them that I’m human, have a little levity.” On the 22nd anniversary of Shakur’s death in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting, Foxhoven admitted to a staff member that he “might seem a little down.”
He said he began listening to Shakur’s music nearly 30 years ago, when the rapper was still alive. He’s a West Coast guy, he said, referring to a famous cross-country beef between rappers from the East and West coasts, and his second favorite artist is Snoop Dogg.
The longtime Drake University professor took over the $7 billion agency as it navigated multiple scandals and dealt with low morale. Reynolds, who appointed and praised Foxhoven in June 2017, told him last month that she decided to “go in a different direction,” AP reported.
It’s unclear what, if any, farewell message Foxhoven sent to his team. But, if he had a chance, he might’ve chosen the final bar from one of Shakur’s seminal songs:
“And it’s crazy, it seems it’ll never let up. But please, you gotta keep ya head up.”