By Starrla Cray
WAVERLY, MN As former senior vice president for the National Mining Association, married to a computer scientist with the CIA, Connie Holmes might not sound like the type who’d settle in the small community of Waverly.
“I was really lucky,” Connie said. “I had a lot of variety in my work, and often traveled overseas.”
Places like Japan, South Korea, South America, Australia, Thailand, and several European countries couldn’t compete with Waverly, however.
“Waverly is a unique town,” Connie said. “Compared to other places . . . there really is no comparison. The people are so open and friendly, and they make you feel very welcome.”
Connie and her husband, Dave, moved to Wilson Street near Big Waverly Lake in 2007.
“We always knew we wouldn’t retire in DC,” Connie said. “It’s a nice place to live, but it’s very congested and crowded. It’s also very expensive.”
Connie grew up on a dairy farm in Michigan, and Dave was raised in a tiny town in southern Iowa. Although they enjoyed the thrill of big city life, both of them have a heart for the rural Midwest.
Neither of them thought about living in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, however, until their son, Derek, took an engineering job in Minnetonka in 1995.
“He’d never been to Minnesota,” Connie said.
Pretty soon, however, Derek had settled in Waverly with his wife, Tina, and daughter, Sophia.
When Connie and Dave retired, they also began looking for a place in Minnesota.
“We always wanted to have a lake home,” Connie said, adding that they searched for about two years (off and on) before finding the right fit.
In September 2007, shortly after she moved to town, Connie happened to see a sign for an open position on the Waverly Planning and Zoning Commission.
“Then, they had an opening on the [Economic Development Authority] EDA, as well,” she added. “I’d never been involved in local politics, but Dave and I both said we wanted to be involved in the community, wherever we retired.”
Connie was selected for both positions, and quickly learned the differences between national and local government.
“I really like local better,” she said. “At the local level, if you pass an ordinance or make a budget, it affects people now. This year, we reduced the city budget by 13 percent. We’re able to see a direct impact, and that, to me, is very satisfying.”
Midwest to East Coast
When Connie was growing up, she had no idea she’d be involved in government. After high school, she attended Iowa State University with plans to become a veterinarian.
After marrying Dave, however, Connie decided to work in the economics department of the college, while Dave attended graduate school for political science and economics.
Then, the family moved to Washington, DC, where Connie got a job at the National Mining Association doing statistical analysis.
She later became vice president and then senior vice president of the association.
During that time, she also went back to college and earned her bachelor’s degree in business.
“I had a lot of great bosses, and was fortunate to move up,” she said.
As part of her job, Connie chaired the Global Climate Coalition, focusing on the industrial perspective (not environmental).
This position provided a wide range of unique experiences, including being in Kyoto, Japan, at the time the Kyoto Treaty was created.
Serving on such a large organization could sometimes be frustrating, however, according to Connie.
“On the national level, you never see results,” she explained.
Of local importance
In Waverly, Connie said communication is often a “two-way street,” because she gets feedback directly from the public.
“I’d really, really like to see more people involved in local government,” she said.
Connie encourages people to attend council, EDA, planning and zoning, and other local meetings, and call if they have questions.
“You’re worn out and you have kids, and I understand that,” she said. “But, at the same time, it’s really important. The council needs input from residents in order to make informed decisions.”
Connie said she feels fortunate to work with a good city council.
“Everyone has the same goal, which is to provide services at a reasonable cost, keep taxes low, and make Waverly a great place to live,” she said. “We’re all working toward that. We have a good level of communication. No one’s afraid to speak up.”
Even though she’s only lived in Waverly a few years, Connie said she considers it home.
“My husband and I both really like it here,” she said. “If you want to be part of the community, you can be. It’s really a nice feeling to know people and have them talk to you.”