Iowa prison will get first female warden in 178-year history

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Patti Wachtendorf. Photo courtesy LinkedIn.

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s maximum-security prison for male offenders will have the first female warden in its 178-year history.

The Board of Corrections on Friday approved the appointment of department veteran Patti Wachtendorf as warden of Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

Wachtendorf has been warden at the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women in Mitchellville, the state’s prison for female offenders, since 2009.

Wachtendorf will replace Nick Ludwick, who recently informed the department of plans to retire later this month.

The prison’s history dates to 1839, before Iowa was a state. The old prison closed in 2015, and a high-tech replacement opened that houses hundreds of the state’s most dangerous male offenders. Ludwick had been warden since 2010 and was instrumental in moving to the new prison.

Department spokesman Fred Scaletta said Ludwick’s retirement isn’t tied to the recent homicide of an inmate, who was beaten to death by another.

Clarinda Correctional Facility warden Sheryl Dahm will replace Wachtendorf at Mitchellville.