A Dubuque doctor running as the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate died in Monday’s plane crash in the Key West area.
Dr. Doug Butzier, an emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center-Dubuque, was piloting the single-engine Piper PA-46 from Ankeny, Iowa, to Dubuque Regional Airport, according to family spokesman Dr. Tom Schreiber.
Butzier, 59, had been an emergency medicine physician in Dubuque for 17 years.
“Doug touched many lives and will be greatly missed. He was a great guy,” said Schreiber, a family medicine doctor at Medical Associates Clinic.
Schreiber and Butzier had been in each other’s weddings.
“He was one of my best friends,” Schreiber said.
Butzier married Ann Sawvel Chapman in 2010. He is survived by her, as well as two sons and three stepchildren.
The Butzier family requested privacy after Schreiber briefly spoke to media members at the crash scene Tuesday morning.
In addition to his role as a physician at the hospital, Butzier was serving as president of Mercy’s medical staff and served on the hospital’s board of trustees at the time of his death.
“Dr. Butzier was one of the pillars of the emergency department for the past 17 years,” said Mercy President and CEO Russell Knight in a statement. “His influence was felt throughout the hospital, as he led one of our key quality-improvement teams with skill, knowledge and enthusiasm, helping to produce the outstanding results Mercy has become known for. He was a leader among his peers, and we will all miss his strong, intelligent, thoughtful presence, and we express our collective condolences to Doug’s family, friends, and colleagues.”
Butzier was born in Mount Pleasant and grew up in Cedar Falls, Iowa. A graduate of Northern University High School (Price Lab) in 1973, Butzier moved on to University of Iowa, where he obtained a general science degree in 1980 and a medical degree in 1984. He obtained an MBA from Iowa in 2007. After an internship in Spokane, Wash., and residency in Tucson, Ariz., Butzier practiced emergency medicine in the Twin Cities and Tucson before coming to Dubuque. He served as a physician in the U.S. Army reserves for eight years.
Butzier served as the medical director for the Dubuque and Asbury fire departments.
“We adored him,” said Wayne Dow, city EMS supervisor with the Dubuque Fire Department. “He was a former paramedic who put himself through medical school, and he brought that earthiness to his role. He appreciated what we did, and he never forgot where he came from.”
Dubuque City Council Member Ric Jones, a former city EMS supervisor, first met Butzier 17 years ago.
“He was a real likable fellow and an excellent doctor,” Jones said.
Jones admired Butzier’s ability to lead the city’s paramedic efforts with neutrality, despite being an emergency room doctor at one of Dubuque’s two competing hospitals.
“When the hospitals would scrimmage over what patients should go where, he would always look out for the patient’s best interests,” Jones said.
Butzier was the chairman of the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council and had served on the council since 2006.
“A lot of people are going to miss him for what he did for promotion of EMS in Dubuque County,” said Asbury Fire Chief Dave Grass.
Outside of his medical roles, Butzier had coached and officiated youth soccer in AYSO and at the club level in Dubuque.
“It was something passionate to his kids, and that passion spilled over to him,” said Jason Berna, administrator of Dubuque Soccer Club and assistant athletic director and head women’s soccer coach at University of Dubuque.
Berna knew Butzier for about 10 years.
“Two years ago, he was seriously researching bringing an indoor athletics complex to the Dubuqueland area — it was his dream project,” Berna said.
Butzier entered politics this fall. He told TH Media that his strong belief in the need for smaller government and the principles of the Libertarian Party led him to become a candidate for U.S. Senate.
As the Libertarian candidate in the highly contentious race featuring Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst, Butzier acknowledged it was “nearly impossible” to get his message out amid all the campaign rhetoric of the major party candidates. Braley and Ernst both issued statements of condolences today.
But being on the campaign trail also allowed Butzier to reconnect with an old acquaintance. Robert Miller, of West Des Moines, said today that he and Butzier were friends in the early 1970s and worked together at a national park in Colorado. The men drifted apart over the years, until Miller saw a campaign sign of Butzier’s about two weeks ago.
It prompted Miller to call up Butzier, and the men talked about old times, Miller recounted Tuesday.
It also prompted Miller to invite Butzier down to his home in West Des Moines on Monday night for a small campaign event.
Butzier was flying back from that event when he crashed, a tearful Miller said today.
“I’m glad I got to see him, but ....,” Miller said, his voice trailing off.
— The Associated Press contributed