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Effecting statewide change keeps Davis-Cook motivated


It’s difficult for Lisa Davis-Cook to leave her two children every day and head to the office. But it’s a little easier when she considers the opportunity to make a difference in the future for her children and countless others.

Davis-Cook, 35, is in her seventh year with the Iowa Citizen Action Network, serving since 2001 as co-executive director of the non-profit organization. ICAN consists of more than 15,000 members from across the state and a coalition of about 40 organizations, from labor unions to environmental groups. Staff members and volunteers work year-round on research, lobbying, organizing, public education and community outreach on a variety of issues, primarily health care, the environment and energy policy.

“Some of the things that I try to do with my work are the very values that I want to instill in my kids,” Davis-Cook said. “I want them to not only think about what’s best for them, but is there someone else that needs help that they should be concerned about.”

In 1997, Davis-Cook was asked to speak to state lawmakers regarding tort reform, having gone through legal battles as a child after being involved in a house explosion. Her experience at the statehouse piqued her interest in lobbying.

“I thought, ordinary citizens do need somebody up there talking for them and watching out for their best interests,” she said.

Her experience put her in touch with the director of ICAN, who hired her as a program organizer and lobbyist for the organization on environmental issues.

“From there it’s really grown to a passion for all the issues we work on,” Davis-Cook said. After a one-year hiatus from ICAN (although she was still serving on the board of directors), she was hired as the co-executive director.

“I think our biggest accomplishment that I feel so good about is, when I came back, the organization was having financial difficulties that we’ve really been able to turn around to where the organization is much more financially stable,” Davis-Cook said. “We’ve got more people on staff and more programs that we’re doing now than we’ve had in many years.”

Her experience landed her on the Governor’s Energy Policy Task Force from 2000 to 2001, having been appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack following her work on electric utility deregulation. She is in her second term on the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, representing the public at-large, overseeing several divisions within the Department of Natural Resources.

The Drake University graduate is now serving her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, as a Panhellenic representative of the alumnae chapter.

She has also taken her professional experience to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, where her daughter, Alex, 8, will be a third grader and Zach, 4, will be enrolling in kindergarten. Davis-Cook volunteers as the chairperson of the school’s policy committee.

“I do a lot of the things I do because I have two kids,” she said. “It’s a juggling act. And at the end of the day what’s most important is that I’m a good mom.”

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