Can loving roast pork and sauerkraut be an act of treason? It could be to Patricia Dwyer’s mostly Italian family. Maybe it was her trip across Switzerland to Austria that made that hearty dish her favorite, or maybe it was just Dwyer’s tremendous curiosity and sense of adventure that developed her palate. Board Member and adjunct professor in public administration, Dwyer has packed her accomplished life with equal parts passionate interest and hard work.
Growing up in Middle Village, Queens, she describes her milieu as solidly middle class. She was the first in her family to go to college. While she did well in school, her good grades required diligence at her competitive high school. “I was a good student,” she commented, “but I wasn’t at the top, I wasn’t cracker jack.” She took loans and worked three jobs as an undergraduate.
Choosing Dyson College of Arts and Sciences at Pace University after high school allowed Dwyer to strike a compromise with her uneasy parents. It was close enough to go home, offered easy access to the city, and was located on a beautiful, “upstate” campus in Westchester, safer for their daughter. “When you grow up in Queens, anything north of the Triborough Bridge is upstate,” she points out. Dwyer remembers her parents as always supportive and proud, and her dad as one of her most important influences. “My father didn’t want his daughters to settle for anything in life. He valued intuitiveness and encouraged us to trust our instincts. Even without much formal education, he had a great deal of emotional intelligence and was always an effective, quiet parent and leader.”
At 23, Dwyer was the youngest person ever in the nation to hold an appointed municipal manager’s position, and a position rarely given to women to boot. “I give Pace all the credit for my training and confidence. Pace has always supported my career and credentials.
In addition to her father, Pace University has been central to Dwyer’s life and career. She always comes back to the experiences and opportunities Pace gave her. While many of her classmates followed the then-new trend towards computer science, even today Dwyer values the psychological awareness that she developed as sociology major in the liberal arts. That and other social science knowledge, such as marketing and economics, had been useful in her position as village administrator of the village of Pleasantville.” I was essentially the professional CEO of the village. There can be a lot of chaos and instability in this position, whether because of changing politics or budget concerns. There’s a lot of uncertainty.” Hers is an appointed position, and she worked to keep the operations of local government running. Her tireless work for the village was recently acknowledged when Dwyer was named the 2017 Appreciation Awardee by the Pleasantville Chamber of Commerce. The honor is awarded annually to community members for their contributions to the village. Dwyer has served as municipal manager of the Village of Pleasantville for more than 18 years. She stepped down from the position in spring of 2018 and launched Sourced Municipal Solutions, LLC, a consulting practice.
A Pace internship took Dwyer in this career direction. Although she was not aware of the workings of local government, as she was approaching graduation, the faculty encouraged her to enter the newly established public administration program in order to develop her talents and further her career in municipal government. Through a graduate assistantship, she could afford to continue her studies. Also as part of that assistantship, Dwyer interned with the manager’s office of the town of Croton-on-Hudson. There she became fascinated with the operations of municipal government. “That was a turning point,” she acknowledged. She clearly had found her passion because she was hired, even before graduating, as the village manager of Walden, NY in Orange County. She completed the master’s degree in 1987 while working full-time. At 23, Dwyer was the youngest person ever in the nation to hold an appointed municipal manager’s position, and a position rarely given to women to boot. “I give Pace all the credit for my training and confidence. Pace has always supported my career and credentials,” she underscores. She even returned to Pace for a second masters in accounting, completed in 1997, when she found she was increasingly dealing with municipal budget and finance in her work.
“It's important when you have a consuming job to be mindful of other milestones in your life such as aging parents, holiday and family obligations and to make time to celebrate and enjoy them. What matters most is to have emotional health, to stay connected to your social support network and family.”
Then in 2007, she returned yet again in another role: she joined the faculty of what has now become a respected public administration program. “I was over the moon when I was asked to teach. I had arrived. To share the expertise of my thirty-year career and to mentor the next generation helped me feel that my life’s work had mattered.” Dwyer added, “I often share this lesson with my students. In order to be successful in public management, one must be able to master the ABC's of politics: the ability to bargain and compromise.” Working with the Dyson College Advisory Board since 2012 has been meaningful for her as well. “It’s an opportunity to give back to an institution that gave me so much. It’s exciting to be part of shaping and preserving the unique identity of Pace and its mission with peers from my program. It’s a different kind of creativity for me.”
As an adjunct professor at the graduate level, Dwyer can see that finding a life-work balance is harder for young people today. Today’s more competitive workforce is impressively credentialed with degrees and certificates, and two careers in a family are usually a necessity now, not a choice. She advises young people to prioritize their families and to carve out time for other interests. “It's important when you have a consuming job to be mindful of other milestones in your life such as aging parents, holiday and family obligations and to make time to celebrate and enjoy them. What matters most is to have emotional health, to stay connected to your social support network and family.”
How does she achieve that balance? “I do it pretty well,” she says. “I still get excited about my weekends; I fill them up with activities. My weekends are exhausting!” And what are her other hobbies? Believe it or not, she’s a philatelist, with an impressive stamp collection. “I’ve learned so much about history and design from the stamps. As a child they were an opportunity to learn, question and imagine for me.” These days she’s especially interested in the art and design of older stamps, those prior to 1930.
Dwyer has enjoyed a lot of domestic travel as well. She drove horizontally cross-country from California to New York, and vertically from Maine to Florida and from San Diego to Vancouver. She has visited every major metropolitan area in the United States. “I’m adventurous. I make a point of discovering local, authentic dining experiences: clam chowder in sourdough bread bowls in San Francisco, breakfast burritos in Santa Fe, jambalaya in New Orleans, deep dish pizza in Chicago, barbecue in Nashville, lobster in Kennebunkport, Primanti's in Pittsburgh. I also loved the visiting the museums and parks in those cities,’ she adds.
Then there’s New York. Dwyer is a city girl through and through, whether it is a chocolate tasting or a travel show at the Javits Center, a Mets game or a Broadway show, the bustle, lights and noise of her hometown city are in her veins. “I’ve never vacationed on an island other than Manhattan. I know people love the Caribbean, but I love the crowds, the lights, the noise; everything big and bright.” She’d love to get back to the “stunningly beautiful” Southwest, but even in Taos or Southern Colorado, she feels bored without some city-style energy. “I don’t go there to meditate or do yoga.”
What she’s reading: “I can’t recall the last time I read fiction. My nightstand has a stack of books in organizational theory, the graduate course I’m teaching right now. I’m kind of a policy wonk.”
If she were a city, which one would she be?: Of course, the Big Apple, her favorite and her hometown. “I adore a 24-hour world.”
How she spoils herself: Wine and chocolate, chocolate and wine!
Women who inspired her: astronaut Sally Ride; journalist Linda Ellerbee; athlete Billy Jean King.