I was proud to be part of our Salute to Women Awards last week honoring local women who have contributed to our community in a positive way.

We give four awards, but this year, six women were honored because the Woman of the Year turned out to be three women. Dereka Williams, Gwendolyn Fountain and Monique McCauley stand individually as mighty forces. Together, the trio of longtime girlfriends call themselves the Queens for Peace, striving to empower women and educate the public about discrimination and racial injustice, all while promoting peaceful gatherings as platforms for those marginalized to tell their story and have a voice.

Another award winner recognized was Kelly Larson, a woman with a similar mission she has crafted into a career. Nominated as our Woman Who Makes A Difference, she is well-known and well-respected throughout the community for her longtime leadership as the director of the City of Dubuque’s Human Rights Department, which strives to uphold equality for Dubuque residents.


As the BizTimes.biz featured cover story, Danielle Urbain is honored as our Woman of Innovation for her role at John Deere Dubuque Works and John Deere Davenport Works, leading the development and implementation of technology solutions to improve the company’s workflow.

And lastly, we always honor an up-and-comer in the community that stands out as someone on the cusp of doing tremendous things that we believe will only have more to come. Nicole Salazar fits the bill. As an officer with the Dubuque Police Department and avid volunteer, the Loras College graduate is driven by faith and a will to help others through community engagement and making an impact through positive dialogue and personal connections.

Typically these awards are steeped in the business community, and most of the nominations have a lot to do with what the individual brings to the workplace. This year’s Women of the Year was different. Of course it was — everything about 2020 is different, right? As I reflected over the stories of these three women, and the role they played when protests across the country were turning violent, I realized what an incredible gift they had given our community.

Think back to those summer nights, when rumors of violence swirled, prompting some businesses to board up their windows or fortify their entry points. How did Dubuque manage to hold night after night of peaceful protests without problems? Much credit goes to the Queens for Peace and the example they set with their leadership. It was important to them that their statement of protest not turn violent. And so it didn’t. It took their voices speaking out in the community to pave that path. Every business in the community should be thankful for their efforts.

I loved, too, that this event also honored a young Dubuque Police officer who gives back to her community in myriad ways. I thought this combination of awards was befitting the journey we’ve been on in 2020.

You can read all about the winners in this month’s issue of BizTimes.biz and Her magazine. If you’d like to see our Salute to Women event, and the inspirational keynote speech from Nancy Van Milligen, director of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, you can check out the livestream at tinyurl.com/yxnqubrj.

Email Gilligan at Amy.Gilligan@thmedia.com.