On a 17-degree February day this year, Andrya Coutts sidled up to a hole cut through the ice atop frigid Lake Monona, and took a leap. It was no ordinary day, and Andrya was no ordinary participant in the annual Special Olympics fundraiser. This was her sixteenth year as a plunger, one of many Special Olympics events that Andrya takes part in throughout the calendar year. "I was cajoled into doing it" initially, Andrya laughs. But after taking that first plunge, a close friend and colleague approached her. Andrya recounts that her old friend shared that his son had just been diagnosed with special needs, and it was so meaningful to him that Andrya took part. She's never looked back. From waving atop a Dunkin Donuts for "Cop on a Rooftop," to bussing tables at "Tip a Cop" and doing support for the annual Torch Run, Andrya's commitment to all things Special Olympics runs deep.
That commitment is emblematic of Andrya herself. Officer Coutts joined MPD in 1999, and for over twenty years she has served as a front-line patrol officer. "Patrol is the baseline" Coutts says. "It all starts here." Andrya has a unique affinity for building relationships with stakeholders in her beat, from hospitals and the Tellurian Detoxification Facility to property managers and families. Property manager Brandy Mortensen worked with Officer Coutts on the city's south side for years, and vividly describes what made Andrya's service so important in her neighborhood. "She actually knew the residents," Brandy says thoughtfully. "And she wasn't just here when someone was in trouble. She was here for the fun stuff, too" including school supply handouts and picnics.
Married, and the mom of an adult daughter, Andrya woodworks, crochets, gardens, loves to cook, taught herself to drywall, and can plumb "a little bit." If you catch her sitting down (a rarity) it's pursuing another passion: reading 19th century English literature. Coutts hopes to retire abroad, a fitting next chapter for a woman always on the move.