116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Voters in Iowa’s second-largest city Tuesday elected Women Lead Change Chief Executive Officer Tiffany O’Donnell to lead change as the next mayor of Cedar Rapids, handily defeating TrueNorth employee Amara Andrews in a runoff.
O’Donnell staved off any close competition from Andrews, emerging with 68 percent of the ballots cast, or 13,479 votes. Andrews had 6,358 votes, according to unofficial results with all precincts reporting.
“It’s clear that it matters that everybody shares this vision of a better and brighter Cedar Rapids,” O’Donnell told a crowd of dozens of supporters at Lucky’s on Sixteenth in Czech Village, after her father handed her flowers.
O’Donnell campaigned on finishing derecho cleanup, fixing city streets and accelerating flood recovery on both sides of the Cedar River. She also has centered leaning on the city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem for the recruitment and retention of workers and businesses, as well as creating a more vibrant urban center surrounded by unique neighborhoods.
Previously, O’Donnell was a news anchor for CBS2/FOX 28. She helped launch NewBo City Market, which she touts as a “linchpin for growth” after the 2008 flood, was a founding board member of Revival Theatre Company and is active in other community groups, capital campaigns and school organizations.
Campaign disclosure reports filed Oct. 28 and Monday show O’Donnell raised a total $201,290 in her bid for City Hall — close to the overall $201,702.47 Andrews raised. Most of Andrews’ money came from out-of-state donors, while O’Donnell raised the highest sum from Iowa and Cedar Rapids contributors.
Voters counted Mayor Brad Hart out of the race Nov. 2 — he finished 41 votes behind Andrews, who had 7,360 votes in that race. O’Donnell, who was the top vote-getter that day with 11,023 votes out of a total 26,176, landed Hart’s endorsement when he opted not to seek a recount.
Most of the eight other council members have stayed out of the mayoral race, though council members Scott Olson and Ann Poe contributed to O’Donnell’s campaign. Several area business leaders also backed her mayoral bid.
Lura McBride, president and chief executive officer of electrical supply distributor Van Meter, said she is eager to see O’Donnell’s vision for revitalizing downtown, enhancing the riverfront and strengthening neighborhood associations.
“When we think about being the second-largest city in the state, Tiffany’s motto has always been we need to act like it,” McBride said. “Our ability to attract great talent and people and families, our ability to retain great talent, people and families — we live in the heart of the Midwest. Cedar Rapids is in the heart of the Midwest and we need to be proud of that, and Tiffany will help us champion the pride that we have in Cedar Rapids.”
Now elected to the part-time role of mayor, which pays about $39,000 a year, O’Donnell will be only the third woman to have served in this position. The last female mayor was Kay Halloran, who left office in 2010. O’Donnell’s four-year term begins at noon Jan. 1.
On the campaign trail, O’Donnell faced a battle overcoming attacks from Andrews’ campaign tying her with Republican state and federal elected officials and suggesting she emulated former President Donald Trump. O’Donnell has maintained that City Hall is no place for partisan politics.
O’Donnell told supporters she looks forward to being the person who gets to tell Cedar Rapids’ story and drive the conversation forward.
“When I say I want a better brighter Cedar Rapids, I actually mean it,” O’Donnell said.
A campaign mailer sent in October took aim at O’Donnell for calling herself a “Reagan Republican” and supporting people such as U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, who Andrews characterized as a Trump enabler. Andrews’ campaign coordinated the mailer with some members of the Linn County Democratic Central Committee, through the Iowa Voter Info political action committee filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
The mailer resulted in ethics complaints that are still under investigation by Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board staff.
But supporters see O’Donnell as someone who can work across political parties to reach out to various stakeholders, form relationships and build consensus to get work done.
“Tiffany’s got energy and a vibe that just exudes optimism, happiness and progressiveness, like, ‘Let’s get stuff done. Let’s love where we live, and let’s make sure that we’re making this a better place for the future generations to come,’” McBride said.
Rama Muzo, president and chief executive officer of the Intercultural Center of Iowa, said he liked that O’Donnell ran on local issues — “what Cedar Rapids needs” — which matters after the city has faced challenges like the Aug. 10, 2020, derecho.
“Our demographic and our challenges in Cedar Rapids are different,” Muzo said. “It’s not a national issue … We need somebody that is going to be able to put us together and unite us as opposed to somebody who is going to divide us.”
Muzo, who works with immigrants and refugees in his role, said his first encounter with O’Donnell was when she connected him with GreenState Credit Union and advocated for a housing program that would help immigrants, low-income people and others who have not built credit and face cultural or language barriers access homeownership.
“I believe that she’s going to hit the ground running,” Muzo said. “She didn’t talk about it. She actually made something happen.”
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