Mary Dipboye says she has joined the League of Women Voters several times during her life – first when she was a young professional in Knoxville, Tenn., and had an interest in how government worked.
Then when she retired and moved to Orlando, she met Jean Siegfried and worked alongside her for two years to open and establish the Ten Thousand Villages store on Park Avenue in Winter Park in 2006.
“Jean introduced me to her large circle of friends. I realized that a large portion of them were members of the local League of Women Voters and that Jean had served as League president at one point. When she invited me to a League meeting, I attended and then joined.”
However, Mary let her membership lapse until another LWVOC president, Sara Isaac, invited her to rejoin. “I heard there was a Natural Resource Committee forming and that jump-started my attendance and involvement. I was delighted to be learning about environmental issues, the players and the politics.”
In 2014, she says, “Something unexpected happened. I had been feeling frustrated that Florida regulators were disbanding the state's solar rebate program and dropping the requirements of utilities to provide energy-efficiency programs.”
She had her “driveway moment” in November when she heard an NPR story about how a woman in Washington, D.C., had created solar co-operatives to empower her neighbors to access rooftop solar for their homes. “I reasoned that these co-ops were needed in Florida and that I could help to make that happen, but I didn't bring the idea for the co-ops to the League right away.”
Along with friends from the First Unitarian Church (including League stalwarts Joan & Jim Erwin), she helped launch two successful co-ops in Orange County.
In December 2015, Mary approached Deirdre Macnab, former LWV state president and an enthusiastic supporter of solar power & renewable energy, about hosting a small fund-raiser at her home as part of the larger campaign to raise money for a statewide nonprofit. Turns out Deirdre had a bigger idea – making it a project of the League of Women Voters.
The upshot is that, since 2015, more than 70 solar co-operatives and some 2,000 Florida homeowners have gone solar. “It was a privilege to get to know Deirdre and absorb some of her amazing insight on how to launch a new project and motivate people,” Mary says.
These days, the Florida LWV Clean Energy Committee holds Zoom meetings monthly to keep local Leagues updated on solar co-ops and solar policy. The scope has been expanded to include two other tracks: electrification of transportation and improving energy efficiency in buildings. Mary serves as co-chair of that committee along with Maxine Connor from the LWV Citrus County.
Mary says she is a League member “because I am passionate about good government and environmental protection, and the League provides me the opportunity to work on both at the same time. I especially enjoy working with people who ‘show up’ and become League members. They are curious, smart, hard-working and willing to do the work needed to study and advocate for issues.
“This is my tribe.”