‘I will bring a new vision to local government’: Amara Andrews begins her campaign for mayor of Cedar Rapids

Amara Andrews is head of business development and communications for the transportation division of TrueNorth Companies in Cedar Rapids. She is running for Cedar Rapids mayor. — Jason Smith/Little Village

Businesswoman and community leader Amara Andrews kicked off her campaign for mayor of Cedar Rapids on Thursday evening with a event that was livestreamed on her campaign’s Facebook page.

“I will bring a new vision to local government,” Andrews said during her speech at the event. “I will be an advocate for labor unions. I will be an advocate for equal opportunity. And I will be an advocate for working people.”

If elected, Andrews would be the first African American to hold the top spot in municipal government in the city and the second African American woman to lead a city in the state of Iowa, according to a news release from her campaign.

Prior to the her campaign kickoff, Andrews sat down with Little Village for an interview.

“I really am running to represent the people of Cedar Rapids,” Andrews said. “I really want to … represent the voices of people who nobody is paying attention to, and I have a team that is dedicated and feels the same way and has shared values that I believe the majority of people in Cedar Rapids have about equality and justice [and] jobs for everyone. So I just really want to convey that this campaign is not about me. It’s really about the people of Cedar Rapids.”

Andrews, who is originally from California, graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. She was an elementary school teacher for several years before going to the UCLA School of Law, where she received her law degree.

Andrews and her husband, Kahlil, lived in eight different states before moving to Cedar Rapids nearly 10 years ago with their four kids. She is currently the head of business development and communications for the transportation division of TrueNorth Companies in Cedar Rapids.

“Over the years I have lived in many states and cities across the country, from small towns to suburban areas to big cities,” Andrews said. “I plan to bring a fresh perspective, a new vision to Cedar Rapids, that is reflective of my varied experiences and my diverse views.”

Andrews has served on the board of the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Rapids and is currently the president of the board for the Academy for Scholastic and Personal Success. She is also the vice president of the board for the grassroots group Advocates for Social Justice.

According to Andrews, her community work made her aware of a “gap in leadership and that there was really a need in our community for better leadership.”

“I felt with my background, being from California and having varied work experiences, that I can bring a new vision and new leadership to Cedar Rapids, and with that, I decided to go ahead and run for mayor with the support of not only my team but a lot of people in the community,” she said.

Her campaign focuses on three key priorities: recovery, the economy and community.

Andrews said leadership in the city “failed in the response to derecho and to the COVID-19 pandemic” and new leadership is needed to set Cedar Rapids on the course to recover. New leadership is also needed to strengthen the economy, she added.

“If you think about the economy, the people of Cedar Rapids are suffering,” Andrews said. “The unemployment rate is six and a half times what it was before the pandemic, and so we need direction. We need people who are focusing on the people and providing jobs and really bringing a new vision for the city.”

“We need leaders who are focused on workers, who support labor, who support working mothers,” Andrews said. “We need people who are thinking out of the box about new opportunities for the citizens of Cedar Rapids.”

Andrews said Cedar Rapids needs to be attractive for businesses but also ask the businesses to invest back in the community. Toyota Financial Services announced this week that they will be relocating their customer service center that employs 600 people. Earlier this year, Collins Aerospace had its third round of layoffs due to the pandemic.

For her “community” priority, Andrews said there is “so much divisiveness,” and she wants to bring people together. She said the city should continue working with ASJ to address the remaining six demands, especially making significant investments in diversity, equity and inclusion. The first demand, to establish a citizen review board in Cedar Rapids, received final approval from the city council in February.

“I really see the potential in one Cedar Rapids and focusing on bringing people together across cultures, across nationalities, across religions,” Andrew said. “It’s my hope that we can bring the community together and that I as mayor can represent one Cedar Rapids.”

Andrews also hopes to get the community more involved in local government and the mayoral race, especially with it being an off-year election. She added that participating in local government, such as city council meetings, should be easy and accessible.

“My hope is to get the community invested in this race, get the community to really understand what’s at stake, so that they feel empowered, and they feel that their voice matters,” Andrews said.

Her campaign is being co-chaired by entrepreneur Steve Shriver and community advocate Anne Harris Carter, and Andrews has received endorsements from state Sen. Rob Hogg, state Rep. Liz Bennett, Iowa City Mayor Bruce Teague and Linn County Democrats chair Bret Nilles, according to a news release. Linn County Supervisor Stacey Walker also expressed support for Andrews’ candidacy earlier this week after a Cedar Rapids rental property was vandalized with a racist slur.

Andrews is running against Mayor Brad Hart, who announced his reelection bid earlier this year, as well as CEO of Women Lead Change Tiffany O’Donnell and business owner Jake Brummer.

The mayoral election will take place in November.

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