Title and organization: Director of Strategic Partnerships, City of Dubuque.
Number of years with organization: 25 years.
Education: Graduated with a degree in history from Clarke University in Dubuque in 1976. Attended Institute for American Universities, Aix-en-Provence, France, 1974-1975.
- Iowa Democratic Party Voter Identification Program, 1978.
- Elementary school enrichment French and Spanish instructor, 1985-1992.
- Dubuque County Historical Society/Riverboat Museum, marketing director and America’s River campaign coordinator, 1994-2002; Dubuque County Historical Society/National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium development director, 2002-2007; director of national advancement, contracted with Dubuque County Historical Society/National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium/National Rivers Hall of Fame, 2007-2012.
- City of Dubuque assistant city manager, 2007-2019; City of Dubuque director of strategic partnerships March, 2020-present.
Community outreach and volunteering:
- Political campaign coordinator/manager/chairperson, 1980-2007.
- Birthright volunteer, 1979-1987.
- Iowa State Historical Society, Governor Tom Vilsack.
- State of Iowa Vertical Infrastructure Advisory Committee, Gov. Tom Vilsack.
- State of Iowa Smart Growth Planning Task Force, Gov. Chet Culver.
- State of Iowa Commercial Property Tax Reform Task Force, Gov. Chet Culver.
- State of Iowa Mississippi Partnership Council, Gov. Terry Branstad.
- State of Iowa Norman Borlaug Congressional Statue Committee, Gov. Terry Branstad.
- Dubuque County Judicial Magistrate Nominating Committee, 2000-2019.
- EPA Administrator appointment Government Advisory Committee, advising the Tri-lateral (Canadian, Mexican and U.S.) Commission for Environmental Cooperation about the development of U.S. policy positions regarding implementation of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. The commission was established through amendment to NAFTA, 2010-2012.
- EPA Administrator appointment to the Local Government Advisory Commission to advise the Administrator on critical environmental issues impacting local governments, 2012-2018.
- Hillcrest Family Services, board of directors.
- Dubuque Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, board of directors.
- Dubuque Regional Airport commissioner, 2000-2007.
- Clarke University board of trustees, 2011-2018.
- Fountain of Youth, development and marketing committee, 2020-present.
- Dubuque Lantern Center, development and marketing committee, 2021-present.
- Dubuque County Historical Society/National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium board of directors, 2020-present
- Dubuque County Historical Society/National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, National Rivers Hall of Fame board, 2018-present.
- The Nature Conservancy Iowa Chapter, board member, 2004-2008.
- National Waterways Foundation board of trustees, 2002-present.
- Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana board of directors, 2001-2012.
- America’s Watershed Initiative steering committee and board of directors, 2010-present.
Number of years volunteering:
Volunteering has been an integral part of my life since childhood. While living in Dubuque, I would count 50 years of volunteering.
For the better part of my life, and for the betterment of my life, I have volunteered for various nonprofit organizations, city and county board positions, and for political candidates and campaigns.
In high school and college, I participated in student and faculty governance committees.
After I married, I volunteered for community organizations and at our parish for festivals and fundraising events. I served on the Holy Ghost School board and as a Girl Scouts leader for our daughters’ troops. Volunteering for and leading political campaigns in Dubuque has ranged from elections for county supervisor, county auditor, mayor and council members (before joining the City of Dubuque), for state representatives and state senators, for U.S. congressional candidates and for candidates for president of the United States.
As a lover of history and an experienced volunteer, I always am reminded of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” written following a trip to America in 1831-1832. His observations and accounts marvel about everyday Americans extending this original concept of American democracy outside formal governance to include the formation of associations of all kinds, including social, political and civic groups that would advance the common good. I keep that ideal in mind always. My professional success could not have been possible without the lifetime of volunteer work I have been fortunate to experience.
Family: Husband John Goodmann, daughters Emily Goodmann (fiancé Kevin Hudson) Ellen Goodmann Miller and spouse Tom Miller, son Edward and spouse Lindsey Meacham and daughter Elise Goodmann and spouse Austin Hoffman. Granddaughters Violet and Freya Miller and grandson Sammy Goodmann. I also am blessed with six sisters and a brother and incredibly loving and successful parents.
How did you get involved with your various organizations and within the community? I became involved in the Dubuque community through college, marriage and volunteering. I was particularly involved as a volunteer in local, statewide and national politics. Through these and other volunteer activities, I was fortunate to grow in my understanding of the community and the world.
My work for the river museum began in 1994, when Jerry Enzler — then the executive director of the Dubuque County Historical Society — invited me to apply for a marketing job at the Dubuque County Historical Society/Woodward Riverboat Museum. I had some trepidation and fear about returning to a job after a 16-year hiatus staying home with our children. However, I found that my volunteer work throughout those years fully prepared me for and helped me to succeed in my next chapter.
Upon the death of William “Bill” Woodward, president of the Dubuque County Historical Society board of directors, in 1995, and with the receipt of his generous legacy gift to the historical society, the river museum embarked on a major capital campaign.
In 1997, I was assigned a leadership role in the museum’s $188 million America’s River campaign. The capital campaign grew in scope to include the city’s plans for riverfront redevelopment at the Fourth Street Peninsula. This expanded vision and project led to the formation of partnerships with the City of Dubuque and the Dubuque Area Chamber of Commerce. Through these partnerships, relationships were developed with staff and leaders of these respective organizations. And because of these partnerships, the capital campaign goals were met and exceeded resulting in the opening of the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, the Grand River Center, the Grand Harbor Hotel and Waterpark, the Mississippi Riverwalk, the American Trust River’s Edge Plaza, the Alliant Energy Amphitheater, the Charles Stoltz Heritage Trail link to the Fourth Street Peninsula and the construction of the transient boat docks at the Ice Harbor.
In 2007, I changed my role at the historical society to a 30-hour a week part-time contracted employee and continued to raise funds for the museum, specifically for a national traveling exhibit and to launch the museum’s national education and outreach program RiverWorks Discovery. At this time, I was approached by the city manager and asked to consider 30-hour part-time work at the city also. My role would include assisting the City of Dubuque in expanding its partnerships with the private, nonprofit and government sectors and to identify potential funding sources for major city projects.
From 2007 through 2012, I concurrently held the position at the museum and worked for the city. After raising funds for the museum’s national traveling exhibit and launching the museum’s national education program, RiverWorks Discovery, I left the museum in 2012 and continued my professional full-time career at the City of Dubuque.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I left the city for six months to assist in the education of my granddaughters until they returned to school full-time. When they returned to the classroom following the pandemic restrictions, I returned to the city as director of strategic partnerships and continue in this role today.
What challenges have you faced in your role? My role at the city includes working with our partners in the private and nonprofit sector and with our partners in county, state and federal government. Challenges we face are inherent in all partnerships — like marriage or any close association — the imperative is to balance multiple demands, priorities and visions. As City Manager Mike Van Milligen reminds us, partnerships are strong and essential to a successful community, but partnerships also are fragile and require our greatest focus and attention. Partners can have competing interests and we must negotiate, compromise and seek the greater good for all.
Challenges with government partners — whether local, state or federal — involve significant competing interests. I have a long history of participation in local, state and national political campaigns; however, I have a longer history of working professionally in a bipartisan effort to accomplish city and community priorities as my appointments to state commissions by governors from both parties demonstrate. Some might see this as a challenge, but any challenge I might have perceived was put to rest by two excellent mentors on the staff of U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin in 1997.
While working on grants for the America’s River project, John Conrad, of Grassley’s staff, and Richard Bender, of Harkin’s staff, and I had a meeting. They explained the protocols essential to success that I was to learn, understand and follow at the U.S. Capitol. First, they said, no matter the partisan contests and campaigning in Iowa, no matter the party differences, the respective staff from the congressional offices would all work together for Iowa and they would work together for Dubuque. My job was to describe and advocate for the community’s goals and objectives.
I have followed their advice and good counsel now for 25 years. I must admit, things have changed on the national scene where rancor and distrust and misinformation appear to rule the day. This poses additional challenges for each of us individually and collectively. But through professional conduct, and across the aisle, we hold onto the hope that the positive and personal relationships we have built for Dubuque with elected officials at all levels will hold true and might prove once again to be the norm for our entire country.
Dubuque leaders have been welcomed into the offices of many members of Congress, at the White House and at the State Capitol. I have traveled with two mayors, business and community leaders to Des Moines and Washington, D.C., to meet with administration officials, elected members of Congress and to the visit with leaders of nonprofit organizations and foundations. We carry the aspirations and dreams of a community considered relatively small in the big scheme of things. But Dubuque always has competed above its weight for projects, programs and appropriations. We also carry the decades old hope that we will continue to be able to work together, in partnership, to negotiate and compromise for a prosperous, resilient, safe and equitable Dubuque. Challenges are to be expected, and we persist.
What is the most fulfilling part of what you do? It is difficult to express the joy I experience each day when I rise and go to the office to work with consummate professionals. And while everyone I work with is truly professional and arguably some of the brightest in their field, at the City of Dubuque, women constitute more than 50% of city leadership. In addition, I work in a diverse workforce. I am grateful for the fulfilling work I can perform for the community that I love and for my family who always have supported me.
What do you believe makes an effective leader?
Leaders do not exist in isolation but only in a group of people, so these characteristics reflect my belief.
Humility, inclusiveness and team-building skills — knowing that individually, no one has the perfect solution/answer, and we need a team to face, explore, dissect and successfully identify a path forward.
Collaboration — belief that we need others, working together to accomplish goals. This includes being an active listener. It is essential to see and to hear people.
Decisiveness — having the courage and the accountability to move forward.
Commitment — to the team and the process.
Compassion — understanding the human condition and all that entails.
Gratitude — expressing appreciation frequently.
Why is community outreach important to you?
Community outreach is essential to any role at the City of Dubuque. We hold the community trust, and the community needs to constantly be apprised of challenges and invited and included, to be a part of the solution.
When not busy in your various roles, what activities do you enjoy? Family. Family. Family. I spend most of my time with family and friends. I garden for fun and meditation — flowers and vegetables. I love to walk and enjoy hiking at the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area and at Swiss Valley Nature Preserve. I love to read nonfiction and travel.
What was your reaction to receiving your Salute to Women award? I was surprised, humbled and honored.
If you could offer one piece of advice to other women, what would it be? Find your passion and pursue it. Bring others with you.