Editor’s note: The Journals will be profiling the self-declared candidates for mayor for the next several issues leading up to the DFL City Convention on June 15. This is the second profile in our series. We have profiled Mark Andrew and will be publishing stories in coming weeks on Don Samuels, Gary Schiff, Betsy Hodges, Jim Thomas and Cam Winton, an Independent candidate not seeking the DFL endorsement.
Jackie Cherryhomes said she has learned some lessons since her time in City Hall.
For one, she said she’s become a better listener.
“They way I look at things is I’m not the same person I was when I left office 11 years ago — I should hope not,” she said during a recent interview. “I hope we’ve all grown in that period of time. I want to take what I’ve learned both personally and professionally back to City Hall.”
Cherryhomes, 58, served on the Council from 1990 to 2002, representing the 5th Ward, which includes neighborhoods in North Minneapolis. She was elected president of the Council her second term and held that post until she was defeated by Natalie Johnson Lee for reelection in 2001 by a mere 72 votes.
After she left City Hall, she launched a consulting business to help companies and developers navigate the city’s bureaucracy and connect with community groups. Some of her recent clients have included Covanta Energy Corp., which runs the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, and Mortensen Construction. She has since parted ways with those companies because of her mayoral bid.
“I’ve learned that we are not as business friendly a city as we could be,” she said of her private sector work. “That is something I will bring to City Hall. I have learned that we need to have a more engaged citizenry. People need to be heard and have that opportunity to be heard.”
She’s said she’s motivated to run for mayor for several reasons — both professional and personal ones.
“First of all, I’ve lived here all my life, and I see an opportunity to contribute what I’ve learned as a community organizer, as an elected official, as an engaged citizen and a private business owner,” she said. “I’ve done all those things and I see the opportunity to contribute what I’ve learned back to the city to make it even better for the future.”
Her 16-year-old daughter Emma Sipora Tyler is another source of inspiration.
“She sees firsthand commitment to public service, what women do and what it is to be a woman running for office,” she said. “She sees firsthand you really can indeed make a difference.”
Other critical life lessons come from time on the campaign trail, too, she said, such as learning to develop a thick skin in the face of criticism.
Cherryhomes said her top priorities, in no particular order, would be public safety, maximizing the value of public services for taxpayers and job creation/economic development.
Cherryhomes, a resident of the Homeward neighborhood (also known as Willard Hay) on the North Side, said her family has been impacted by crime.
“We had a couple of break-ins in our house when my daughter was 2, and then again when she was 6, and it left a huge, huge impact on her life to this very day,” she said. “I take public safety personally.”
She would also prioritize a high level of public services to ensure taxpayers are getting their money’s worth — making sure the city’s infrastructure, streets and curbs are in good condition.
“That’s not the most exciting or glamorous thing to talk about, but at the end of the day, we’re paying property taxes and everyone should be getting good services for what they are paying for,” she said.
Cherryhomes said she was in the middle of studying the city’s budget to come up with ideas on how to keep property taxes down.
“Property taxes are absolutely a number one issue because if we’re going to attract young families to this city and help our seniors stay in their homes as long as they can, we need to make it a fair tax structure,” she said.
Her other top priority would be job creation and economic development.
“For me the bedrock of everything is we have to find ways to get people employed,” she said. “We have to increase our opportunities in manufacturing and jobs at all levels of government.”
Kathleen O’Brien, former vice president of University Services at the University of Minnesota and a Minneapolis City Council member from 1982 to 1989, is supporting Cherryhomes’ campaign.
O’Brien said Cherryhomes’ strong community organizing skills, work ethic and ability to empathize and listen to people would be strong assets for her if she was elected mayor.
“She’s worked on issues important to our city for 30 years,” O’Brien said. “She has a very broad knowledge of the city.”
Walter Rockenstein, a retired attorney and former Republican Minneapolis City Council member who served from 1974 to 1983, is also working on Cherryhomes’ campaign. He represented the city’s 11th Ward, which includes neighborhoods in South Minneapolis.
He said he believes Cherryhomes is the most qualified candidate because of her track record on the City Council, her work in the private sector with her consulting business and her experience community organizing in North Minneapolis.
He said he’s always been able to trust her word, too.
“She doesn’t always tell me what I want to hear, but I always know that when she says something, that’s where she’s going to be. You can trust that,” he said.
While Cherryhomes and Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton were in office, they oversaw the city’s purchase of Target Center to keep the Timberwolves in town and the redevelopment of Block E — a project that included a $39 million public subsidy and has since been the object of criticism.
Cherryhomes noted that despite the many vacancies in the entertainment complex, the businesses on the 1st Avenue side — Kieran’s and the Graves hotel — are doing well.
“In retrospect, I think we made the best decisions we could make at the time,” Cherryhomes said, reflecting on the original Block E deal. “Frankly it functioned pretty well until the latest owner bought it and cleared it out for the casino that didn’t happen.”
She said the building is designed poorly and needs to open up more to the street, particularly on the Hennepin side. She would also like to see the Target Center renovation move forward and connect better with Block E.
“I have come to have a much deeper appreciation for design and the power of design than I had before. That was not on my radar and now I have learned that design can really make a huge difference in how things work,” she said.
As for the Vikings stadium, Cherryhomes was originally a proponent of building a new home for the team at the Minneapolis Farmers Market site.
Now that it will replace the Metrodome, she wants to see downtown’s east side revitalized and better connections between the new stadium site and Target Field.
“The challenge is how do you bridge that great divide that has always existed between downtown east and the rest of downtown. I think we have a real opportunity with that public plaza to do that,” she said.
When asked what sets her apart from the other candidates in the crowded mayor’s race, she said she’s got three major assets going for her.
“No one else in the race has the experience I have in community organizing. I have done it. I continue to do it. It is what made me successful as a council member,” she said. “Secondly, I’ve done the job. There is not a whole lot of difference in responsibility between council president and mayor. … And thirdly, I’ve run my own business and I’ve worked with private sector businesses."
One of her proudest accomplishments has been her work fighting absentee property owners — both as a community organizer and as a council member.
“I did it so effectively that the landlords came and picketed my house to say how awful I was because I wasn’t going to settle for people having inadequate housing and being take advantage of,” she said.
She said she is also proud of her work fighting crime in North Minneapolis while in office. “I’m not easily intimidated, and I’m really tenacious.”
At a glance: Jackie Cherryhomes
Neighborhood: Homeward (Willard Hay)
Family: husband F. Clayton Tyler and daughter Emma Sipora Tyler
Resume snapshot: Founded Cherryhomes-Tyler Inc. in 2002 (a consulting business); City Council member 1990-2002 (served as president from 1994-2002).
Education: bachelor’s of arts degree, Augsburg College; reflective leadership program, Humphrey School of Public Policy and Affairs
Fun fact: In college she belly danced in a talent show at the Minneapolis Public Library.