This week’s Meet a Mom is a name you hear and see all over town; Jenn Leeper. She is the newly elected State Representative for Fairfield and Southport. She has 2 young boys and is married to her college sweetheart, Nick, who owns a small business. Her professional background is in public policy and data analysis with a focus on education and she has worked as a school administrator in an elementary school in NYC and later as an analyst for CT’s State Department of Education. In 2017, she felt called to get off the sidelines and ran for the Board of Education. She served on the BoE until December 2020 and now represents all of Fairfield and Southport at the capitol. Read more about Jenn below!
Where are you originally from and how long have you been in the area?
I am originally from a small town in New Hampshire where I grew up with 2 wonderful parents and an older brother who I completely idolized and really, still do. He is now a Lt. Col. in the US Air Force.
I met my husband in college while I was at Wellesley College and he was at MIT. We lived in Boston, then Chicago, while I was in graduate school and he was a trader on the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, and then we moved to NYC for my job. He took a job in Darien and did the reverse commute. Like so many people we know, once we wanted to start a family, we decided to leave the city.
I’m from New Hampshire and Nick is from rural Alaska and we just didn’t envision our family in the city. This is where the serendipity of life is really just incredible…when I was in high school I was recruited to play field hockey at Fairfield U. I even did an overnight there and was offered an athletic scholarship. I remember my parents talking about what a nice community Fairfield was. So, when Nick and I decided to move to CT in 2013, knowing nothing about it, I remembered Fairfield. We rented a car and drove up and as soon as we drove down the Post Rd, we were in love. We moved here 2 months later.
Children / Age(s)
Sam is 6 and in first grade at Riverfield.
Ben is 4 and is in “Kindergarten-prep” at Bright Horizons.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you?
I studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa and in graduate school, I interned in Pretoria with John Snow Inc. working in partnership with the Ministry of
Health to improve PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission) programs. I love South Africa! It was this experience, however, that changed my policy focus from
international relations to education.
One thing you wish someone would have told you about motherhood?
I wish someone would have told me just how much about motherhood is completely outside your control. It’s the motherhood lesson that I keep learning over and over.
Favorite local things to do in Fairfield?
I live walking distance to downtown so before my sweet Bernese Mountain Dog, Penelope, was too old, I loved to walk with her downtown and get a chai from the
Pantry. Now that my boys are older, we love to ride bikes to the beach.
What’s your favorite thing about raising a family in the area?
I will never get over how lucky we are to live in this community. There is SO MUCH we love about raising our family here. Chief among them are of course the excellent schools and the warm, supportive community. We also love how easy it is to get outside—from walking downtown to riding bikes to the beach or hiking around Lake Mohegan or the Audubon—there is so much to do.
Do you have a favorite family friendly restaurant? Date night?
With young kids, for so many years our family go-to was breakfast at Circle Diner! Yum! Another great part about being walking distance to downtown is how easy it is to enjoy all of our incredible restaurants on a date night (which pre-Covid was much more frequent).
What is your go-to activity for your family? For yourself?
A “go-to” activity during Covid is hard to come by but this winter we have gotten the boys skiing, something Nick and I both grew up loving (of course it looked a little different for Nick in Alaska) and it has been a blast to watch them take to it. As for me, I don’t have much free time but when I can, I love to exercise at Bar Method.
Best mom hack that makes your life easier?
I MUST put EVERYTHING in my calendar with an alert (sometimes 2).
Name one thing you regret when learning the ropes of parenthood and what you learned from it?
I wish when I first became a mom, I was kinder to myself. I really felt like every time my baby cried (and he had severe reflux, so there was a LOT of crying) was because I was failing him. It took me a little time accept it wasn’t all my fault. I have so much compassion for first time moms because it is so wonderful and can also be a really lonely time. I always reach out to everyone I know when they first have a baby just to let them know I’m there if they ever need anything.
Tell us about your career, how you got into it and why? How did you decide that this was the right career move for you while having a family to raise?
To run for office and lose your anonymity, and feel like you are taking that from your family as well, is an impossible decision. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. But I felt called to do it. The 2016 election was a real wakeup call for me. I had a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old and I was so afraid of the future they would inherit. So, I felt called to get off the sidelines and try to make it better. I feel strongly that we need a new generation of leaders and more women with seats at the tables where decisions are being made. After learning so much from serving on the Board of Education, running for State Representative seemed like the opportunity to do this critical work at a higher level and have a greater impact. I spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of good leadership and trust. They are principles that I think we need to
recommit to and to which I am deeply committed. I hope that my work will make for a brighter future my kids, and for all of our kids.
What do you see for the future of Fairfield?
I see such a bright future for Fairfield. Despite Covid, we still have new businesses opening, more people wanting to move here, and I think a renewed and heightened sense of community. It has been incredible to watch the ways in which our community pulled together to support neighbors, those in need, local businesses and restaurants, and our first responders through this incredibly challenging time. There is still a lot of
work ahead but I feel confident Fairfield will emerge stronger and more united.