We look forward to learning about your Iowa experiences when we meet you in your part of the state!
Suzanne’s Iowa Experience
My story illustrates that overall my community, my state and my country have served me very well throughout my life. I believe it is my obligation to do what I can so that my fellow Iowans and Americans have at least as many real opportunities to succeed.
I was the 4th of 7 children born and raised in rural Cedar Rapids. My parents had considered joining the newly-founded Peace Corps in the 1960’s and were very active in their Christian community – taking social service to heart. We hosted foster children for Iowa DHS – sometimes for years at a time, and later welcomed exchange students into an often chaotic home. But the chaos offered a sense of personal peace in knowing that we were doing what we could to look out for others.
My community and large public high school offered me amazing learning opportunities. I used money I earned detasseling corn to travel to Costa Rica and spent the summer of 1984 in the home of one of our former exchange students. The next year a local private exchange student program collaborated with local schools to award scholarships, which enabled me to spend the summer of 1985 in Zacatecas, Mexico so that my Spanish skills could really take hold. The American Cancer Society sponsored another scholarship offering an award for high school students to participate in biomedical research at the University of Iowa – another summer program that granted me college credit for my participation.
I met my future husband at U of I and briefly moved to Puerto Rico before his job took us to southern Florida. I started studying nursing and working in hospitals there while expecting my 2nd child. In 1992, we returned to Cedar Rapids with our very young family to complete my last year of nursing school at Kirkwood Community College.With toddlers at home, alternating work, classes and childcare with my husband – I would not have been able to complete my education so soon without the support of Federal Pell Grants and subsidized student loans, so I know how life-changing these programs can be.
My first job as a registered nurse was at the VA hospital in Puerto Rico. Later I worked in the emergency department of a private hospital not far from where the cruise ships dock at the port of San Juan. Living there offered wonderful opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Upon moving back to Iowa in 1995, we found that West Des Moines also offered a culturally-enriching and diverse community. Children who spoke French, Hindi or Russian at home were among our kids’ neighborhood friends, and together they benefited from our excellent public schools. Like many parents, I balanced working nights and weekends with quality family time, and attending school activities and field trips. A supportive community and education system made parenting easier. My son was able to earn a full year of community college credits in high school so that he could enter college in Washington, D.C. as a sophomore. My daughter benefited from great high school skill development opportunities like auto-CAD and shop class, eventually becoming a mechanical engineer.
Caring for Iowans in the busiest emergency department in the state for so many years was truly a rewarding experience, but my in-depth observations made it painfully obvious to me where our healthcare system is failing. My job conditioned me to not hesitate in taking action, and I expected to see more immediate improvements. I also worked on medical relief teams for several weeks in El Salvador in 2001 after both natural and man-made disasters, and in Louisiana with FEMA after hurricane Katrina in 2005 – experiences that further illustrated the difference between misguided or inadequate measures, and effective, practical solutions. I realized that I needed a degree in economics to contribute to the more cost-effective, practical solutions that politicians seem to repeatedly overlook. Economics in its best sense is a social science with the ultimate objective of determining ways to empower people. We do this by offering fair access to the resources, information, opportunities, rights and protections people require to have the best chance of reaching their full human potential. I can’t wait to finally help realize the long-overdue, effective healthcare reform that has been much of the focus of my life’s work. As Iowa’s first independent U.S. senator, I pledge to uphold and strengthen founding principles of our Democracy, while working to create a more functional and efficient government.
Thank you for your time, and please feel free to ask me any questions by clicking the link below!
Suzanne’s children, Morgan and Sammy Lopez at the Iowa State Fair 1996
Suzanne with her children at “El Morro” national histroic sight in San Juan, PR 1994
Suzanne’s children Morgan and Sam Lopez 2015
Suzanne’s daughter Morgan Lopez – new graduate engineer 2012
Jim’s Iowa Experience
I was born in Ft. Dodge but by my first birthday my family had settled in Jefferson. I grew up with 3 siblings in a middle-class family. My father was an insurance agent and owned his own independent insurance agency. My mother (an ex-teacher) ran a nursery school for ten years and then was extremely active in the community throughout her life. My father coached little league and was involved in many civic organizations. My parents were great examples of volunteerism and giving back to the community. Through AFS (American Field Service) they hosted a total of 6 foreign students, and also experienced cultural exchanges with Japan that enriched us with a great exposure to other cultures.
Jefferson was a very safe place to growing up. We rode our bikes to the swimming pool, played in vacant lots and walked half a mile to school without fear. A small town school gave me the opportunity to participate in a variety of sports. We had excellent, dedicated teachers and they helped me further my love of Literature and books (thank you Mr. Dillard), Geography and maps (thank you Mr. Rowland), History (thank you Mr. Kinley), Science (thank you Mr. Smith & Mr. Menz, upper deck boy).
I was raised by parents who were Episcopalian and I think they handled religion admirably. Rather than being overbearing, they quietly lived it. They taught us to care for and respect others and they did it by example. Because of that I honed the idea that a person’s religious beliefs should be within themselves and not brought into politics. I do believe we need to have more people in government with a strong code of ethics, wherever they get the building blocks for those ethics.
After high school I was able to travel to Europe and broaden my horizons. The diversity of culture I observed drew me to venture abroad several times. I studied insurance at the University of Iowa and then moved back to Jefferson to be part of my father’s agency. I was married and worked while my wife attended Drake Law School. We had two wonderful children and chose to raise them in Jefferson; to give them our same childhood, small town experience. During that time we hosted two foreign students and I was highly involved with civic activities. My volunteering adventures include: Interact Club (high school students doing charity projects), Chamber of Commerce Board, Jeffereson Bus Tourism guide, Jefferson Library Board, Swim Team Board, Jefferson Boosters Board, Little League Board, Rotary Club Board and I was instrumental in our Rotary Club’s wildly successful charity auction.
After 20+ years of insurance work I sold the agency and (newly divorced) I decided to move to Des Moines. For a new life experience I worked at Homemakers Furniture where I was consistently one of their top salespersons for over 4 years. I love engaging with people so next I went to work at one of my favorite places – Trader Joes. It has been a great experience as I found the management to be refreshingly superior and the work environment to be friendly and enjoyable. As an insurance agent I gave out magnets with our agency name. Because of my love of Iowa, I made my magnets special. When I started working at Trader Joes, I would quiz kids on their Iowa facts and hand out my left-over magnets (with the agency name cut off).
My hobbies include reading, writing, movies and golf. As I read presidential biographies and history, I find that politics needs an injection of intelligence and ethics. I hope that this country can shift in that direction.
Eight years ago I was very lucky to find my “adventure companion” – Suzanne. I encourage and support her as we share in our commitment to offer Iowans (and this country) a sincere non-partisan focus on the most important issues of our times.