On Sunday, January 5, we lost one of our most important leaders and a dear friend. For the past three+ years, Lynne had been one of the anchors of Retake. Today, we pay tribute to her life and spirit.
After a tribute from Retake Our Democracy, we offer words from two activists with whom Lynne worked very closely: Heather Karlson, New Mexico Climate Action, and Paul Biderman, Citizens Climate Lobby.
Remembering Lynne Fischer
A Gentle Spirit, a Determined Force, a Peace Maker
After a six-month battle with cancer, Lynne Fischer died Sunday morning, January 5, at 4am. We have lost a truly remarkable activist and, for Roxanne and I and so many others, a valued friend. Today we pay tribute to her spirit, her kindness, and her dogged determination, and we share a little bit about who Lynne was outside her activism.
Lynne was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, perhaps explaining where she got her progressive values. She earned her B.A. in Psychology at Lawrence University in Wisconsin and M.A. in Counseling Psychology from Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado. Before retiring and moving to Santa Fe in 2014, Lynne lived in Durango, Colorado for 20 years, where she had a private therapy practice and worked in leadership development at Lore International Institute and Korn Ferry for a decade.
While in Durango, she met her husband, Dan Fischer, who she married in 2012. From our many conversations sitting in Roundhouse hearing rooms, waiting for something to happen, I know that Dan was the love of her life. While I didn’t know Dan well, from a recent conversation with him, it is clear that he feels the same about her.
People who work together, whether as volunteers or as co-workers, often get to know each other very well and are very close, but may not know much about their friends or family and often do not socialize outside the work involved. That was the case with Lynne and Roxanne and I, so in this post we do not want to venture into that aspect of her life. It would be disingenuous and inauthentic. But we knew Lynne very well in her activism.
Lynn was a passionate climate activist, and shortly after moving to Santa Fe, she became a volunteer for Citizens Climate Lobby and also with the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club for many years. In 2016, feeling as if there really wasn’t one “go to” site for climate action information, she founded the New Mexico Climate Action Network and built and managed its website, while Heather Karlson managed the ever-so-informative e-blasts that went out so often, to so many. Lynne was an active volunteer in the Bernie Sanders campaign where Roxanne and I first met Lynne.
In 2017, she reached out to Roxanne and I and said she’d like to join forces with Retake. She assumed responsibility for organizing and managing what we later called the Roundhouse Advocacy Team or Rat Pack, a team that met during the legislative sessions, but met even more frequently between sessions.
Between sessions, she coordinated efforts to develop a statewide survey on bills we might support, recruit more member of the RAT pack, and faciltate the process of narrowing our focus to a slate of bills Retake would support.
During sessions Lynne was at the Roundhouse several times a week and we often sat together in hearings. While she had a career in leadership coaching and in counseling, Lynne was basically a private and shy person, so speaking in a hearing really was not something that came easily to her. But she didn’t let that deter her. She embodied a person who was willing to move beyond her comfort zone. It may not have been something she liked doing, but it was necessary, and so she did it. And did it well and often.
Lynne also served on the Retake Leadership Team and it is here that her contributions were so important. Perhaps the quality that Roxanne and I our leadership appreciated most about Lynne was her ability to see all sides of an issue and of people. Nowhere was this more important than during the 2019 legislative session, when environmental groups parted ways in their positions on the Energy Transition Act. As a longtime Sierra Club volunteer and a member of Sierra Club’s Alliance, she had roots and relationships with Sierra Club and other climate organizations that supported the ETA, a bill Retake opposed strongly.
But while also opposing the bill, Lynne was ceaseless in advocating for Retake to moderate our opposition. In large part, because of Lynne we supported New Energy Economy in meeting with ETA proponents to seek a middle ground. But even once that effort failed, she was ceaseless in stressing the need to remember that on 90% of climate, water, air and land issues, Sierra Club and Retake were aligned, encouraging us to maintain relations, restore bridges.
She has left a void that can’t be filled, but she has also left a legacy to live up to. And she left behind memory of her compassionate and moderating approach to advocacy. We will miss her dearly, but we will not forget her. We are lucky to have known her for these last few precious years. Retake Our Democracy’s efforts at 2020 Legislative Session will be dedicated to Lynne Fischer. We offer our profound sympathy to Dan, her family, and to all who knew Lynne.
As arrangements are made for a memorial, Dan has indicated he will keep us posted.
In gratitude and sorrow,
Paul & Roxanne
From Heather Karlson, New Mexico Climate Action
Lynne and I met in the spring of 2015 through our shared passion for the health of the environment and the risks to it from climate change. We had long conversations about how to help people become more engaged with the climate crisis and ways to encourage the many environmental groups to come together in collaboration on issues related to climate. In the summer of 2015, I had just started an email newsletter on climate change issues, and Lynne enthusiastically wanted to spread the word in a larger way. We decided to call the effort New Mexico Climate Action, and use the name for both a website that she developed and for my newsletter. She dove into the project with excitement, designing a creative and attractive site that included a blog, recent articles, a calendar, and resources for contacting legislators. Her brother, Chris Zimmerman, supported her work by hosting the website for her at www.newmexicoclimateaction.org.
Since January of 2019, I have been posting the calendar and other items under the “Action” tab on the site, but all other elements of the website as it currently exists are her thoughtful and dedicated work, and will remain online to honor her.
Lynne’s dedication to the environment and a just and peaceful world also showed through her efforts working on the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, volunteering with the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, New Energy Economy, 350NM, the Santa Fe chapter of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and other environmental groups as well as extensive work with Retake Our Democracy. She committed wholeheartedly to all of these efforts, always with an eye to helping people collaborate on the issues that truly matter.
Lynne was a bright spirit, full of warmth, humor, and hope. I feel honored to have known, worked, played, and laughed with her. I miss her deeply.
From Paul Biderman, Citizens Climate Lobby
Lynne enlivened our Citizens’ Climate Lobby group for several years. Her poise and skill particularly stood out when she took on a coordinating role for our fall 2017 statewide conference on climate change, the first our group had undertaken. She brought a calm organizational insight to our efforts to overcome what seemed like endless challenges. The success of the conference owed a great deal to Lynne’s attention to detail and good judgment.
It is hard to imagine that Lynne has left us. Her vivacious spirit and unswerving commitment to social justice lit up every room she entered, every group in which she participated. We will miss her deeply.