116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - In the mid-1980s, Tammy Stines was a graphic designer at Frank Magid Associates and Monica Vernon was a consultant leading marketing projects.
In effect, Stines worked for Vernon and was impressed by her leadership skills, drive and strong communication between each other and with the clients.
'She was just always on the ball,” recalled Stines, 58. 'She was able to seek out the client's needs, develop a marketing plan, put the plans into motion and accomplish the goals that needed to be accomplished for clients.”
Monica Vernon, 60, is competing against Brad Hart in Tuesday's runoff for Cedar Rapids mayor.
The same abilities that she saw in Vernon, Stines said, also would apply to her being mayor - with citizens in the role of clients.
Those experiences motivated Stines to open her checkbook. She was among 185 people and organizations who contributed to Vernon.
Of the total contributors to Vernon's campaign, 132 - or 71 percent - were from a Cedar Rapids mailing address. In contrast, most of the total value of contributions came from outside the city. Of $48,624 raised, about 43 percent - or $20,852 - came from a Cedar Rapids mailing address, according to a Nov. 2 campaign disclosure.
Contributors, some of whom like Stines knew Vernon personally and others who observed her from afar during her time in the public eye, paint a picture of a level-headed, hard working decision-maker with a wealth of experience as an elected official and businesswoman - one who stuck her neck out to run for higher office, albeit unsuccessfully.
Vernon describes herself as a tested leader in business and government, closely familiar with the intricacies of city affairs and who would be ready on Day 1.
She said she plans, if elected, to convene regular meetings in neighborhoods across the city.
Vernon differentiates herself by saying she views the mayor as a full-time job, although it is considered part-time, and would have no conflicts of interest.
By comparison, Hart plans to continue at the Bradley & Riley law firm, where he has acknowledged he'd at least have minimal conflicts of interest to manage.
Born on a military base in Cheyenne, Wyo., Vernon's family relocated to her parents' home state where her dad was from Keokuk and her mom drew from the rich Czech heritage in Cedar Rapids. She attended Regis High School and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and master's of business administration at the University of Iowa.
Along the way she met her husband, Bill, and they have three adult daughters, Natalie, Frances and Eleanor.
After working in public relations at Dickenson State College in North Dakota, Vernon returned to Iowa reporting for The Gazette, and later developed a marketing strategy to reconnect with alumni as the public relations director at Mount Mercy University. By 1987, she had started a marketing company called Vernon Research Group, which now is under the umbrella of The Gazette's parent company, Folience.
On the side, Vernon was building her community credentials, volunteering in leadership roles on nonprofit boards including the Chamber of Commerce, the Junior League, Four Oaks and Jane Boyd. She served 10 years on the city's planning commission.
Vernon was elected for the first of two terms as the District 2 City Council member, and spent six years as mayor pro tem through which she traveled the state lobbying for Cedar Rapids flood recovery help and led the effort to find a new city manager.
Vernon, who had eyed the mayor's seat back in 2007, said she decided to leave when Ron Corbett disclosed his plans to seek a second term as mayor in 2013. She said local leaders thought someone needed to step up to represent Cedar Rapids at a higher level, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 flood.
She ran twice as a Democrat for the U.S. House 1st District and once as lieutenant governor on Jack Hatch's ticket, unsuccessfully.
Despite the setbacks, running for mayor this time made sense, she said. She surveyed the field and felt she brought unique attributes.
'Because helping my community is important to me,” she said of why she'd go through a fourth campaign in four years. And 'I know I have the experience, energy and skills to excel at the job.”
Marion Patterson, who lives just outside of Cedar Rapids in unincorporated Linn County, said she's known Vernon for several years and trusts her. While some have criticized the unsuccessful runs for higher office, Patterson called Vernon 'brave” for trying.
'While I may not always agree with where her position is, she's even-keeled, levelheaded and I know she's done her homework,” Patterson said.
Ann Struthers, 87, of Cedar Rapids, recalls that during Vernon's second congressional run, the candidate met with neighbors at Struthers' condo complex. She was struck by Vernon's attentiveness and described her as an 'extremely experienced and competent woman.”
'She listened to the concerns that people there had, maybe 10 or 12 of us, and listened very carefully to the needs,” Struthers said. 'I think it is important to have competent, experienced, well grounded people in government and she struck me as being a person who lived in Cedar Rapids for a long time and understands people who live here.”
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