Donald Dean Avenson was a state representative in the Iowa General Assembly from 1972 through 1990. Don Avenson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 16, 1944. Early in his childhood, he and his family moved to Oelwein, Iowa, where he graduated from high school in 1962. He received his B. S. degree in political science and history from the University of Wisconsin in 1970, and in 1971 and 1972 he completed graduate work in history at the University of Northern Iowa.
After graduating from college, Avenson became office manager of the family business, Oelwein Tool and Die Company. He remained at the company throughout his political career, becoming its president in 1984. He and his wife Diane, whom he married in 1964, have three children. He is an avid supporter of wildlife, as is evident from his memberships in the Fayette County Conservation Club, Ducks Unlimited, Wildlife Federation, and the Iowa Wetlands Group. Because of these interests, Don Avenson was a strong supporter of legislation for improving and promoting recreation and tourism in Iowa. He particularly focused on environmental legislation concerning natural resources.
In 1972, Don Avenson, a Democrat, was elected State Representative of the Fayette County district in the Iowa House of Representatives; he held this office until 1990. In addition to his responsibilities as a representative, he held three important leadership positions: from 1975 to 1978, he was Assistant Majority Floor Leader in the General Assembly; from 1979 to 1982 he was House Minority Floor Leader; and from 1983 to 1990 he was Speaker of the House. In 1990 he was unsuccessful in his bid to become Governor of Iowa, losing to Terry Branstad.