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Tammy de Weerd, 2020 Woman of the Year

Mayor (Retired)

City of Meridian

 

Tammy de Weerd, 2020 Woman of the Year.

Like many influential women in Idaho, Tammy de Weerd first got involved in politics because she wanted to make her city better for her own children.

She would go on to trailblaze a legacy as the first woman in a charter group for parks, the first woman elected to the city council and a four-term mayor of what would become Idaho’s second-largest city.

In that time, she accomplished a great deal. In the beginning, she helped to make Meridian’s parks better and safer, and has never given up on wanting to make Meridian a great place for families. She still glows with pride that Meridian has been named one of the top 10 cities in the nation to raise a family.

De Weerd also worked to make Meridian more inviting to economic growth, and she did it by helping groups of interested stakeholders speak as one.

Building coalitions

The first major example of her penchant for organizing coalitions came when she took on the transportation planning bureaucracy to get the interchange at Ten Mile Road and I-84 built. She made it happen 10 years ahead of schedule, and found extra funding to get it done.

It started when de Weerd and her team kept a careful list of everyone who ever complained to the city about transportation. Whenever an opportunity to comment arose, she sent them all emails so they could be heard en masse. The new mayor also got local businesses on board, in addition to then-Idaho Gov. Kempthorne and then-head of the Idaho Department of Education, Dave Ekern.

“I said, ‘here’s your opportunity for many voices to be one,” she said.

Next, de Weerd helped widen and repair the interchange at Meridian Road. Years later, traffic and safety have improved for all who travel through the area, and both areas have become a hub for business growth.

“There’s a lot of building going on out there, and they’re family wage jobs,” she said, highlighting one of her other goals for the city: to make it a place people could live, work and play close to home.

“We brought services and jobs closer to where people live,” she said, grinning. “Instead of a ‘through destination,’ (Meridian is) a ‘to destination.’”

Most recently, de Weerd helped pass a ban on hand-held phones for drivers in Meridian, the first city in Treasure Valley to enact such a ban. It came a few years after she broke a tie in city council to enact a texting and driving ban.

“The goal is behavior change,” she said. “When you’re driving, you should drive.”

The Village and Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park

In addition to enacting change for the city’s transportation infrastructure, de Weerd used coalition building to put Meridian on the map as a shopping and entertainment destination.

She worked closely with two brothers who were selling their father’s land to make way for a two-part project: the Village at Meridian, an outdoor mall and theatre that opened to great acclaim in 2013, and the nearby Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park, built in the memory of the mens’ late father.

The project showed that Idaho is a vibrant state, and that Meridian is a vibrant area that embraces choice and economic prosperity, she said.

Preaching passion and empowering youth

Throughout her journey, de Weerd has led by example and created opportunities for kids and teens. Early on, she created the state’s first all-inclusive playground for children and parents with disabilities. She also she created anti-drug coalitions and youth advisory councils, and worked with them closely.

She was able to do it all because she found her passion in local government, she explained. This focus on finding a passion and committing to it is a message she often shares with the young women and girls coming up behind her, as many staffers attested at a going away-party they threw for her at the end of 2019.

“While I don’t like politics, I love public service. It is what I’m passionate about,” de Weerd said. “When you follow your passion, it gives you drive to overcome the obstacles that are going to be thrown your way, and then the accomplishment and the victory is even greater.”

Anna Canning, management services administrator at Idaho State Parks and Recreation, attended the farewell event and said she has watched de Weerd’s journey from the beginning.

“I watched her go from council president to mayor and I was just so proud of the way she grew into the role,” Canning recalled. “She became who she needed to be.”

A focus on her own family

Click on the cover to view the digital edition of the 2020 Women of the Year publication.

De Weerd’s husband Jan de Weerd also attended the farewell event, and he told a story that illustrated not just her commitment to her role, but her unique way of making it her own. On her first day, as she was setting up her answering machine, she couldn’t bring herself to say “Mayor de Weerd,” he said. Instead, she said “Mayor Tammy,” and the moniker stuck.

“This was a job that she was extremely passionate about and she always remembered who she was,” he said, and explained that it had added immeasurably to his own quality of his life. “You really feel you live when you’re so intricately involved in the community where you live.”

At the sunset of her mayoral career, Tammy de Weerd also had high praise for her husband.

“My success is because I’ve had the support and encourage of my family, especially my husband,” she said, explaining that he left the corporate world and started a consulting business when she was elected so that he could be home for the kids after school. “I could not have done it without some of his big sacrifices.”

About Rebecca Palmer