Becca Vargo Daggett was happiest when she felt she was making a difference, and she wasn’t shy about getting involved.
“She’d be the one in the room to notice the person standing in the corner who looked worried, or the child who wasn’t playing,” said husband Paul Daggett. “She’d draw them out and find out what they needed.”
As an activist and researcher, she applied that same sense of concern to a long list of Twin Cities community groups and organizations. Daggett, of St. Louis Park, died peacefully on Oct. 17 after a long illness. She was 43.
Daggett grew up in Mound. She spent her teen years with her family near Heidelberg, Germany, then studied philosophy and social anthropology at the University of Texas, Austin, and the University of Minnesota. She earned a master’s degree in public policy at the Humphrey Institute, where her faculty adviser was former U President Ken Keller.
David Morris, a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) and director of its Public Good Initiative, hired Daggett fresh out of the U in 2003. Initially, she was charged with working on energy issues, but in 2005 Minneapolis issued a request for proposals to develop a privately owned wireless network. Morris said Daggett was concerned that the city had decided to embrace private ownership without analysis or public hearings, and she plunged into the issue.
“Becca was extraordinary,” said Morris. “She was dogged, spirited, dedicated and unafraid of taking on the unknown. She had a … keen sense of right and wrong and an innate ability to empathize with those on the outside.”
Daggett believed public ownership was a better option for the city and became an advocate for municipal networks, helping launch ILSR’s Municipal Broadband initiative, which has gained international recognition and influence.
“Becca faced significant challenges in her quest to try to change Minneapolis’ mind,” said Morris. “She had to educate people about a complex and intimidating technology. She had to assure people that public ownership was possible and profitable. And she had to do this in the face of criticism that often bordered on outright condescension from corporate representatives and city officials who dismissed her because of her youth, and possibly her gender. She never lost her poise or wavered in her determination.”
Daggett was also a world-class multitasker. She was a member of the Seward Neighborhood Association, was part of the first caucus to elect Keith Ellison and was a supporter of Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. She was an early booster of MinnPost, a nonprofit news organization, and City Council Member Cam Gordon asked her to serve on the city’s Capital Long-Range Improvement Committee (CLIC,) which reviews capital budget requests for the city.
Daggett also believed that people needed to vote with their pocketbook, so in 2007 she started training to become a financial adviser with a focus on helping people make socially conscious investments. Until 2011 she was a financial planner for UBS.
In the midst of embarking on her new career, Daggett embraced a new challenge at home. Paul’s parents both had Alzheimer’s, but were living separately in the same facility in Phoenix. So in 2009, Paul and Becca moved into a larger house with room for his parents so they could live out their final years together. With a toddler at home, Becca was a full-time caregiver until they died.
The experience inspired Daggett to advocate for and promote alternate forms of caring for seniors at home. She lent her support to a free Minnesota information service called Senior LinkAge Line by writing essays about her experience as a caregiver.
“She was happiest advocating for things that would change people’s lives for the better,” said Paul. “She was a crusader.”
In addition to her husband and son, Max, Daggett is survived by her mother, Cynthia Vargo, sister Abbey and two nephews.
A private family service has been held.