About me

366pV-xF_400x400MacKenzie covers Des Moines  for The Des Moines Register. She’s a Midwestern-born, globally-minded journalist who speaks fluent Spanish and keeps a tent handy should she find a good camping spot.

Follow her on twitter @mckelmer or email her at melmer@dmreg.com.

She listens to her investigative instincts, no matter the subject.

Without her Spanish-skills, the story of a Des Moines man who fought to keep his brother from being deported back to Mexico might have gone unnoticed. Constantino Morales Roque was eventually murdered, his family says, by cartel members though local Iowans fought to get him asylum. The story was featured on John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.”

Roque’s family won asylum after the system failed their father.

She recently uncovered how the Iowa Insurance Division is ignoring state law which would otherwise prevent convicted felons from becoming licensed bail bondsmen. The results of the oversight have been deadly.

She and a colleague uncovered how Iowa’s largest property tax cut in history failed to deliver what it promised both sides of the aisle.

MacKenzie spent weeks compiling records to uncover the affair behind the and eventual murder-suicide of a troubled ex-Des Moines cop and his secret girlfriend. The series shed light on advocate’s concerns that Iowa’s domestic abuse law fails to provide enough protections for partners in dating relationships.


MacKenzie previously covered education and health at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, winning two investigative journalism awards for a series on mental health. Before that, she roamed the halls of the Iowa State Capitol covering the 2013 legislative session for the for The Associated Press.

She got her first professional journalism job at The Burlington Hawk Eye, reporting on the highly-controversial construction of a fertilizer plant by Egypt-based Orascom near the tiny town of Wever, Iowa. She left after four months to join The Associated Press, but not before publishing an investigation into a county narcotic’s task force and sale of seized goods over Ebay to cushion its budget.

During her college career at the University of Iowa, she worked as web manager and staff writer for the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. At IowaWatch, she wrote multiple long-form investigative pieces that underwent a grueling fact-checking process that has made her obsessive about accuracy.

While at IowaWatch, she spent a month following an HIV patient to show how Iowa’s now-reformed HIV criminal law stigmatized those struggling with the disease. She also wrote in-depth pieces on radon mitigation legislation and wrote a statewide piece for a national story with the Investigative News Network on the EPA’s Brownfields program.

She interned at two publications in Madrid, Spain and learned fluent Spanish there. While working for El País, she covered a demonstration by the 15M protestors and their scuffle with the police preceding the march.


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