Cindy Maves, a Rochester school bus driver who shook up the local political scene by helping found the Rochester Tea Party Patriots and later running for mayor, died Friday at her home after a long battle with cancer. She was 58.
From the moment she became active in politics, Maves was an outspoken advocate for limited government and low taxes and a voice for the common man.
During its heyday, Maves and other representatives of the Rochester Tea Party were a pervasive presence, holding rallies, attending school board meetings and hosting debates.
Cynthia A. Maves, 58, of Rochester, passed away peacefully, surrounded by her family on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, at her home.
"She laid it on the line," said Bill Kuisle, a local GOP activist and a cancer survivor who stayed in touch with Maves through Facebook. "If she didn't like what you were doing, she told you. But there was no more loyal friend than Cindy."
The national Tea Party movement was born a decade ago in reaction to what its members viewed as the federal government's overspending and takeover of health care. It was also animated by local concerns and the perceived lack of transparency at the local government level.
"She really got stirred up by the issues," said Jen Jacobson, a friend and a volunteer of her mayoral campaign. "She wasn't one to sit by and let things happen. She was going to make something happen."
Rochester resident Greg Gallas said Maves had a unique ability to draw people into her orbit and motivate them to get involved.
A one-time Rochester school board candidate, Gallas recalled meeting Maves for the first time during a forum hosted by the Tea Party. He realized he was in the presence of the ultimate activist, and her passionate example helped draw him into the party. He later became chairman of the local organization.
"(She had) so much enthusiasm, so much confidence," Gallas said. "I thought, 'this may be an organization we might want to look into."
Maves ran for Rochester Mayor in 2014. By that time, she had already been a two-time cancer survivor. During one campaign outing in the Sunset Terrace neighborhood, she wore pink to convey what she had been through.
"After the second one, I really felt like I needed to do something with my life," Maves said. "God doesn't save you twice for nothing."
She lost her mayoral bid to then-incumbent Mayor Ardell Brede, but it was clear she struck a chord with many voters, outpacing him in fundraising by two-to-one. Her emphasis on representing the "common man" and the "average citizens" of the city harkened to the populist message that would carry President Trump, whom Maves supported, to the presidency in 2016.
"I would reverse that around. I think Donald J. Trump was a Cindy Maves' supporter, because she was the average everyday citizen," Gallas said.
Kuisle said Maves was "very proud" of her children and grandchild, a side of her the public didn't see when she was out advocating for a cause but one that became evident in a personal chat.
Even in her last days, friends say, Maves remained interested in local issues, talking to friends about the Elton Hills road project— or helping those around her, like her elderly parents, or scrubbing walls to help a friend move.
"She was just always the mom and the friend to everyone," Jacobson said.