While covering a local visit by former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad a few years ago, I became fully aware of how well Edith Pfeffer was known outside of Clinton's city limits.
It's not rare for state officials to tour the state to reach out to constituents and pitch plans for the future. In my time covering those speeches, though, it is rare for a person with that much clout to single out a specific individual in the room. Pfeffer was the only one in the room that day who earned Branstad's full attention.
When Branstad, a man who symbolized the inner workings of Iowa government for decades, talked about Pfeffer that day, it didn't reflect an attempt by Branstad to make himself look good by mentioning a person who would advance his personal agenda. Instead, it expressed how much effort and energy Pfeffer had put into the single topic of U.S. 30 funding throughout the years.
During his speech, Branstad made clear that he wasn't forgetting about U.S. 30, and acknowledged to the room that it would be impossible to lose sight of U.S. 30, thanks to Pfeffer's insistence on making that a priority.
Her vision for U.S. 30 was never going to be realized during her lifetime, though. On Friday, she died at the age of 76 after suffering a stroke.
Her shared vision for U.S. 30 has been a common sighting for decades with state officials. And while many of those officials have changed, from local to state to national, Pfeffer's voice remained constant.
She believed in four-laning U.S. 30, opening up Clinton to more traffic and better visibility throughout the region. I believe in that. Pretty much everyone you talk to on the street in Clinton would believe in that plan.
What made Pfeffer so important to this area is that she not only believed it, she lived it.
Even though there have been a multitude of roadblocks to the state committing to the U.S. 30 four-lane project, she kept pushing for better access along U.S. 30. As someone who grew up in western Iowa and saw the attitude many in central Iowa had for those in eastern Iowa, I can imagine that constant nudging for attention was not only daunting, but demoralizing at times.
Despite the failures, she pressed on, along with several other committed voices in the region. And after I spoke with her on the phone months ago when the Illinois plan for U.S. 30 looked to be completely wiped out, it seemed like she was attempting to shake out some of the negativity I was professing after the decision, as only Pfeffer could. While all seemed lost, she wasn't giving up, and wouldn't allow me, or anyone else for that matter, to throw in the towel.
Weeks later, good news came to those hoping for four lanes across U.S. 30, when the Iowa Department of Transportation designated portions of U.S. 30 as a priority.
After the Illinois Department of Transportation recommended a no-build as part of a potential U.S. 30 project in Morrison, Illinois, in March, I wrote about the need for more voices in the U.S. 30 debate.
I cannot stress that enough still today. Pfeffer was a constant communication source for state officials when it came to U.S. 30 and other endeavors. A core group of Clinton County residents have stepped up, but there is still much do.
And that's not just concerning U.S. 30.
Pfeffer believed in Clinton County. And she didn't sit around and wait for the county to get better by osmosis. She did something to help. Just look at her obituary to see how she impacted several groups and paved the way for the Clinton County you currently call home.
Though not always the most gentle voice in a room, she still had a heart that went far beyond her own desires. I saw that firsthand as a member of the same church and I'm sure many witnessed that unselfishness during their time spent with Pfeffer.
If you ever needed anything, you could call on Edith. And she would deliver.
That community service doesn't have to disappear. If you have a passion for Clinton County, don't let obstacles get in your way. Edith didn't.
When it's time to step up for your community, deliver in the way Edith did for decades.
Scott Levine is the associate editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ScottLevineCH on Twitter.