WOMEN LEAD CHANGE: Cournoyer in Iowa legislature

Mar. 11—Republican Iowa State Senator Chris Cournoyer's 23-year-old daughter was recently attending graduate school when she received a notification on her phone that told her she was being tracked.

She went to police who located an Apple AirTag in her backpack. The AirTag was being used as a way to digitally stalk her.

Cournoyer recounted her daughter's experience to the Herald while traveling to the state capital for Funnel Week. As chairwoman of the Senate's new Technology Committee, the bills she'd soon address involved providing resources to local governments to make sure they have the resources they need to protect themselves from a cyberattack and in turn protect the privacy and data of citizens, criminalize the launch of a ransomware attack as a Class C felony, and consider other measures to ensure that cyber criminals don't see Iowa as being an easy target.

A native of Texas, Cournoyer earned a bachelor of arts degree in computer science from the University of Texas before working as a senior consultant in the Technology Division at Anderson Consulting, serving in the Ecommerce Community of Practice. Since 1997, she has worked as a self-employed website designer and developer and in 2019 was elected for her first term in the Iowa State Senate. She currently represents the Scott, Jackson, and Clinton counties of District 35.

"My goals are to make sure that I am representing all 62,000 people in my Senate district," she says, "and making sure that the bills they pass represent and are good for all Iowans."

When not at the capital as a legislator, Cournoyer is focused on her four children and juggles the responsibilities of regular everyday life.

"We are a part-time citizen legislature, so we're only there for January to April and we have jobs and lives back here in our home districts and we're just normal people," she says. "It's really important to me to speak in a language that normal citizens understand. I think when we get up to the legislature, a lot of people start using acronyms and abbreviations and no one knows what the heck they're talking about, so I like to try to explain things to people and explain things the way I would want to hear them and I would want to hear about things I care about."

While advocating for the improvement of the educational experience provided for children, strengthening communities, tax relief, mental health reforms, and protection against cyber crimes, Cournoyer says she had never intentionally sought after being recognized as, specifically, a woman leading change within local communities.

"As I got more involved with my children and my community," she says, "I've learned over many years how important it is to be engaged and be part of change and improvements in society and make sure that voices are heard. I think the more voices you can get into a conversation or a discussion, the better it is for everyone, and I've seen that at the legislature. The more diverse our legislature is, the better the conversation, the better the policy is for all Iowans."