Syeta Glanton
Syeta Glanton
Age 31 | Administrative law judge, Iowa Board of Parole

Syeta Glanton knows that she carries a big responsibility in upholding her prominent family name. Those who have worked with her say she’s exceeding all expectations.

Glanton’s aunt and mentor, Willie Stevenson Glanton, broke racial and gender barriers when she became the first black woman to be elected to the Iowa Legislature in 1964. Two decades later, she became the first black woman to serve on the Des Moines City Council.

“Understanding the expectations of the Glanton name here in Des Moines, that was a little different for me,” said Glanton, who received her law degree from Drake Law School in 2005. “I went through my first year of law school without anyone knowing who I was, and then one of my professors ratted me out.”

Earlier this month, Glanton began serving as an administrative law judge for the Iowa Board of Parole, working for another mentor, Elizabeth Robinson, the first black woman to chair that board.

Prior to beginning her present position, Glanton served for four years as a criminal justice and human rights senior policy adviser for Gov. Chet Culver’s administration. In that role, she worked to address the disproportional number of African-Americans in the state’s prison system.

As a volunteer, Glanton is active in the Des Moines chapter of The Links Inc., an international nonprofit service organization for professional women of color. As the college and university liaison, she leads fund-raising efforts to endow scholarships at 17 historically black schools across the country.

Glanton also co-founded Investing in My Future Inc., a nonprofit organization that hosts college tours and college testing preparation to encourage students to pursue post-secondary education. She recently accompanied 15 high school students on the organization’s first out-of-state college tour, visiting campuses in Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Last year she was elected president of the Iowa National Bar Association.

“Since Syeta was elected president of the Iowa National Bar Association, the group has witnessed a revitalization of spirit and energy,” Judge Odell McGee II wrote in a letter supporting her Forty Under 40 nomination. “Ms. Glanton is not only tenacious, smart and organized, but also very intuitive and good with people.”