When Connie Boesen sees something that needs to get done, she steps in to help. Boesen, most widely known for her current role as a member of the Des Moines School Board, is driven by a sense of pride in her community and a determination to use her skills to help others. “Getting involved is what you do,” Boesen said. “If I can help make an impact or make things better for somebody, it’s worth the time commitment.” -Business Record 2006, Women of Influence Award
Not much has changed as far as Boesen’s attitude in the past 11 years as she prepares to leave her seat on the Des Moines School Board to make a bid for the at-large City Council seat currently held by incumbent Skip Moore. Boesen’s drive and dedication to hard work and problem-solving shouldn’t come as a surprise given she grew up watching her father, Kenneth Fulk, transform the Iowa State Fair over the course of a dozen years after being appointed the Fair’s Director in 1962. That’s when Boesen moved to Des Moines from Clarinda with her parents and four sisters, one of which was her twin, to live in a house located on the fairgrounds.
Boesen’s father would bring in record attendance and profits to the Iowa State Fair during his tenure successfully building it from a primarily agriculturally centered exhibition event to what we know it as today, featuring a variety of attractions and bringing folks from all walks of life together for 10 days in the late Iowa summer. Boesen herself started working concessions at the Fair at age 14, the beginning one of her many passions – creating, owning and growing her own Applishus and Salad Bowl concessions to become a dependable Fair favorite for many.
In addition to her family and the Fair, life on the East side of Des Moines would play a big part in molding Boesen into the person she would become. She attended Des Moines Public Schools – Willard Elementary for primary, Woodrow Wilson for junior high, and finally was a proud Scarlet graduating from East High School in 1969. Boesen would eventually raise her own two daughters on Des Moines’ East side and through the Des Moines Public School system to also become East High graduates. During her daughters’ school years, Boesen was an involved parent serving as president of the East High PTA as well as president of the Council of Des Moines PTAs. She still stays heavily involved with the East High Alumni Association.
In 1998, Boesen was approached to assist with the campaign to approve a local-option sales tax to raise money to rebuild Des Moines’ public schools. She served as Co-Chair and treasurer of what was then known as the Schools First Local Option Sales Tax campaign. After one unsuccessful bid to get the tax passed, Boesen committed herself to working even harder and the campaign was successful. The tax passed and would be adopted statewide becoming what we now know as the Statewide Penny or SAVE.
It was during this campaign and through walking neighborhoods and talking to the city’s residents that Boesen’s eyes were opened to even more opportunities to work on projects that would benefit the city. Soon after, Boesen became involved with the Greater Eastside Development, the Des Moines Public Library Board of Trustees, and the Blank Park Zoo Advisory Board. In 2002 she served as Chair of the East Des Moines Chamber, bringing together community partners for increased development for the East Village and Eastgate project. She would even go on to be the campaign chair for her former husband’s successful bid to a seat in the Iowa House of Representatives.
Boesen’s longest stretch of public service to date started in 2003 when she was elected to the DMPS Board of Directors. Over the course of her 14-year school board tenure, Boesen can point to countless successes. Some of those include increasing graduation rates, increased funding for 4-year-old preschool – most notably successfully lobbying for a $2.5 million Harkin grant to do so, increasing safety at schools with infrastructure changes using SAVE, increasing access to Advanced Placement classes and for all DMPS high school students, and increasing access to rigor to improve outcomes for all K-12 DMPS students. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
Boesen has also experienced numerous scenarios that would create challenges and tough decisions for the DMPS Board: budget shortfalls coupled with declining enrollment; across the board budget cuts by the state; and changing demographics and increasing enrollment coupled with stagnant and/or declining state aid among many others. Boesen recognizes that some of the decisions she has been a part of making have not necessarily been popular, some drawing very vocal criticism. She also recognizes that this is a part of leadership. “At the end of the day, there will always be critics and there will always be someone to say you could have done better,” Boesen says. “Open dialog and public input is important, but not everyone is always going to agree. My goal has been to weigh every decision to the best of my ability to do the best I can for students.”
Through it all, Boesen remains committed to public service. Aside from the School Board, she currently serves on the Des Moines Parks and Rec Board, The United Way Education Cabinet, and the Polk County Housing Trust Fund Board. She looks forward to extending that service through election to the Des Moines City Council. “I’m running for City Council because I believe Des Moines is at a crossroads today,” Boesen says. “We have a lot to brag about as a city, but we can no longer ignore the fact that too many of our neighborhoods are plagued by blighted properties and violence.”
Boesen works fulltime for Polk County and continues to live on the East Side of Des Moines with her husband, Ted Boesen Jr., CEO of Iowa Primary Care Association. In addition to her two daughters, she has four stepchildren and six grandchildren.
Boesen was recognized as the East Des Moines Citizen of the Year in 2003. In addition to her Business Record 2006 Women of Influence award, she was inducted into the East High Alumni Hall of Fame in 2009 for exemplifying the East motto, “For the Service of Humanity” as a leader in the community and as someone who would serve as an inspiration to current students through their life pursuits. Most recently, Boesen received the 2017 Louise Noun Visionary Woman Award and the 2017 United Way Advocate of the Year Award.