Dwyer eyes comprehensive plan for county
Everyday people inspire Jefferson County Board of Supervisors Democratic candidate Margaret Dwyer.
“I’m inspired by ordinary people who keep their integrity and joy, even in the face of difficult challenges,” Dwyer said. “We don’t honor regular human beings enough — we look to heroes instead of looking to each other.”
If elected come November, Dwyer plans to bring Jefferson County residents to the table with the board of supervisors to create a comprehensive plan aimed at moving the county forward.
“I would like to achieve a healthy quality of life for both city and rural residents, pursue purposeful economic development — while at the same time preserving our rural lifestyle — to promote responsible care of our natural resources, and reduce local poverty,” Dwyer said. “I don’t think any of that can be done without proactive leadership and planning; we have to bring everyone else in; the supervisors can’t accomplish this by themselves.”
As associate vice president of business development support at Cambridge Investment Research, Dwyer is not afraid to lead. She said her best asset is that she’s willing to try new things and push past her fears.
“I don’t scare easily,” Dwyer said, telling a story about the time she had to walk around busy Boston streets blind-folded.
“I had to do it if I wanted my master’s degree,” she said, adding that her Master of Education, with a specialization in orientation and mobility, from Boston College, afforded her the opportunity to teach the visually impaired how to get from one place to the other in society using their other senses.
Dwyer, earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in speech communication from Penn State 1972.
“I graduated from Penn State cum laude,” she said, adding that she would go on to receive other honors and awards, such as the Better Boardsmanship designation from the Iowa Association of School Boards.
She was also selected to participate in Cambridge’s very first Developing Leaders program.
“I went to Cambridge in 1999; I was the 39th employee. I started out in an entry-level position,” she said. “I feel that it was a big deal to be able to change tracks and learn the financial industry. To go from an entry-level position to vice president, allowed me to support myself as a single mom, and I’m very proud of that.”
Dwyer said raising her children — Abby now 36, and Jesse, 33 — and being able to care for family members in their older years, have been the most important things she’s done in her life.
She was able to care for an ailing cousin, who fell victim to early Alzheimer’s disease, until her passing.
“It’s a difficult thing, but it’s a real honor and a privilege,” she said, explaining that she moved her cousin to Fairfield and was the “boot-on-the-ground,” while her sister furnished monetary support.
Prior to caring for her cousin, Dwyer had been a member of the Fairfield Community School Board for 10 years.
Her husband, Willy Koppel has also been a longtime public servant.
“He served for a long time on the Fairfield Public Library’s board of trustees, for at least 10 years and he was president for a while at that. He volunteered for the library foundation for four or five years,” she said. “Now, he’s a member of the City of Fairfield Planning and Zoning Commission. That’s been about four years so far.”
Now, with her role at Cambridge down to part time, she said she’s ready to step back into public service, which is something she enjoys.
“I feel like I’m a doer, and I take care of business. I’m forward thinking, and used to making and executing plans,” she said, adding that she would reach out and explore all sides of any given issue.
Dwyer, who moved to Fairfield 29 years ago, said things have changed in Jefferson County over the last two decades, and that a comprehensive plan is needed to help better manage those changes.
She explained that in the 1950s, 30 percent of Jefferson County residents were involved agriculture. Today, only 3 percent in are involved in agriculture fulltime.
“I just feel that there have been changes in our whole economy and things are different,” she said. “We have evolved, and we’re going to evolve more and [see] a lot more changes in the next few years.”
Dwyer said she has a lot of respect for the incumbent supervisors, but she feels that a strategic blueprint involving community input would be advantageous for not only the board, but also other elected officials.
“It would devise a plan for what to do in the good years or lean years,” she said, commenting that although the plan might not come to fruition right away, the process of trying would be beneficial to the county.
“Whether we are able to accomplish the whole goal or not, it’s good to aim high. It’s not something I would accomplish, it’s something collective that the community would accomplish,” she said.
Dwyer learned to aim high from her parents, who were first-generation American. Dwyer’s grandparents immigrated here from Ireland.
“They taught us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps — don’t whine; get busy,” she said, adding that if elected, she plans to do that in Jefferson County.
Dwyer is encouraged by the support she’s seen around the county, by those who have her campaign sign in their yards.
“It makes me feel hopeful and optimistic, that if I do win the election, there are some people who are willing to say yes in the comprehensive planning process,” she said. “I think we have a lot going for us in Jefferson County. We have a lot of passionate people and assets, and I would like to see us pull together and use our own assets to move us forward.”