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From Cleveland Magazine, December 2001
Jane Campbell seems more amused than annoyed by the question that has punctuated
her campaign. Asking a woman if she's tough enough to be mayor, after all, implies
that women aren't tough enough to be mayor.
And that's not how Campbell was raised. Her mother taught her to make protest signs, not potholders. Activists were around more in the Campbell house than Avon ladies.
Don't be fooled by the new Jennifer Aniston-style hairdo Campbell's been sporting since summer or by her pleasant smile; this is no delicate flower.
Catch a glimpse of candidate Campbell in action: It's pushing noon just two weeks before the election. Campbell storms into The Winking Lizard downtown as if lunch is a target. One of her staffers has done the advance work, and her chicken Caesar salad should arrive soon. Not soon enough, though. Campbell says there's no time for lunch unless it's ready right now. It's not, and Campbell heads for the door at the same heel-clomping pace she entered. This woman wants to be Cleveland's next mayor. Lunch can wait.
Those who know Campbell best — her mother, husband and close friends — describe her as tenacious, yet calm. She's got the fire of a Michael White, but not the explosive potential. "She has heart enough to be tough enough," explains Campbell's mother, Dr. Rev. Joan Brown Campbell. Jane's husband, Hunter Morrison, calls it a "quiet forcefulness."
Whatever it is, it worked. Campbell, 48, beat opponent Raymond Pierce by winning 54.3 percent of the vote. She now bears the title of Cleveland's first female mayor.
Beginning Jan. 7, it'll be her job to bring a convention center to town, fix the airport, stop the brain drain, repair potholes, improve the schools and keep everyone — from the cops to City Council to the granny who lives in Old Brooklyn — happy. Oh, and — like the rest of America — she's got other obligations: She has two daughters — Jessica, 14, and Katie, 12 — and a husband of 17 years whom she met while working on Ed Feighan's congressional campaign in 1979. She's an elder and a Sunday-school teacher at Heights Christian Church in Shaker Heights. And then there are such pesky concerns as the laundry (she does hers while watching "Law & Order" reruns in the basement on Sunday nights).
Cleveland has to understand that this is a standard workload for Campbell, what she considers a healthy challenge. Raised by a high-powered attorney father and a no-fear activist mother, she never got into the work/relax routine that most of us come to see as normal. For Campbell, "normal" meant having stones thrown at her as she and her mother campaigned on the West Side for Cleveland's first black mayor. There was no separation of home and work. It was all just life.
While Campbell's family says she inherited her analytical skills, loyalty and good financial sense from her father, Paul, she has always had a special connection with her mother. "Jane's not close to anybody the way she's close to my mother," observes Jane's brother, Paul Jr. "Their kinship is so strong. There's no doubt that my mother is more than simply Jane's mother. She's also her mentor, one of her key advisers, somebody that Jane leans on very strongly."
Later — during her 12 years in the Ohio House — Jane honed her own talent for taking care of business, regardless of the obstacles she faced. She hid her pregnancy to land a coveted committee assignment and went on to help draft welfare reform. From there, she served five years as a Cuyahoga County commissioner before joining the mayoral race. Along the way, she's developed first-name relationships with some of the country's most prominent Democrats — Bill, Hillary, Al and Jesse.
Now, she's ready to unleash her no-hurdle-too-high style of leadership on City Hall.
"She knows how to get the job done," says Mary Boyle, the former county commissioner who served as a bridesmaid at Campbell's wedding. "When she's focused on an issue, she will bring to bear whatever needs to be brought to accomplish the goal."
'I Promise ...'
A Letter To Cleveland
by Jane Campbell
Thank you for your faith and trust. I will work every day to earn that
trust. Together, we have work to do to make our public schools thrive,
to make our community safer and to increase our job opportunities.
I accept this extraordinary responsibility and Cleveland Magazine's
invitation to print my promises to Cleveland.
Being elected the first female mayor in Cleveland's rich history is
truly an honor, but with this honor comes the added responsibility to
do a good job because we're breaking a barrier, setting an example and
forging a new path. I have a family I love very much, and I pledge to
balance my responsibility as mayor with my responsibility as Mom.
While campaigning, I was invited to a West Side elementary school where
the students were swearing in their first student council. I talked with
the little girl elected vice president, and I asked her, "What were your
campaign promises?" She looked at me and said, "I promise to be truthful
and I promise to do my best." You know what? Those are pretty good promises.
My promise as mayor is to be honest, faithful and to do the best I can.
I promise to work with Barbara Byrd- Bennett and get her to stay here
to make our Cleveland public schools thrive. My first meeting will be
with Barbara Byrd-Bennett to talk to her about how valuable she is to
Cleveland's children. Together, we will engage parents in the education
of their children. We will work with Cuyahoga County's Early Childhood
Initiative to invest in the vitality of our youngest children and their
parents. We will engage parents in helping their children to succeed in
school, especially in the early grades so that our children will read
and learn. We will create a pre-apprenticeship program as part of the
school-rebuilding plan so that our children can learn skilled trades by
rebuilding our schools. We will structure quality training programs leading
to good-paying, skilled jobs for high-schoolers not bound for college.
I promise to give students a reason to stay in school and to help parents
provide the support that their children need.
Sadly, some of our streets and neighborhoods are not safe; commercial
areas especially are not well-lighted or very clean. As mayor, I promise
to forge a new relationship between the mayor, the city safety forces
and our residents so that we can create a safer community. After campaigning
throughout the city, I learned that our residents know their neighborhoods,
are ready to identify problem areas and are anxious to work together to
rid our community of drug dealers and violence. The Campbell administration
will work with residents, businesses, faith groups and police to strengthen
our community so that we know each other and help each other.
The strength of our city relies on the ability of our citizens to work
at good jobs, earning enough money to support their families. I promise
to create within each of our local development corporations an economic-development
specialist who will assist small and medium-sized neighborhood businesses
in using all of the tools government provides. Our economic future depends
not only on expanding local businesses, but also on fully engaging our
traditional manufacturing industry with the tools of new technology. Finally,
we must unleash the extraordinary energy of our medical community and
our colleges and universities as we create a biomedical industry.
The end of this past century has brought the world technology beyond
our wildest dreams. I promise to rethink government's functions involving
the Internet. I envision using technology to spread City Hall to the neighborhoods.
No longer do we have to be tied to downtown. With just a laptop computer,
all of a sudden, boom!, you have a neighborhood office that can get residents
the information they need.
All of my plans rely on a great transition team. We will be prepared
to hit the ground running in January. One of the first things I will do
when I take office is to get an understanding of our city's financial
situation. I will bring good leadership to the finance department, and
institute controls so we know how much money we have, how much money we
owe and what is coming in. My promise is to tap the best talent for our
I shook a lot of hands to get here, and now more than ever we must reach
our hands across the city and unite. Being mayor is not a singular job.
I promise to put together the strongest team of managers I can find to
run our city. It will be a team that mirrors our wonderful racial and
ethnic diversity. These strong people will create a new openness at City
I promise to end the mentality of "Us vs. Those Guys in City Hall."
I promise to listen, engage and inspire people to work together. I promise
to make Cleveland the best city it can be!
Thank you for your trust.
Jane Campbell's early years were standard-issue suburbia. She grew up in a
Tudor home on Eaton Road in
Shaker Heights. Her father was a corporate attorney for Squire, Sanders & Dempsey in downtown Cleveland and her mother was a housewife. She had two younger brothers, Paul and James, and a dog named Bunny.
Then the '60s hit.
"My mother got radicalized by the anti-war movement, but much more so by the civil-rights movement," says her brother Paul. "Racial justice was, and is now, the most important issue of her life."
Jane was 12 years old in 1965 when her mother took her to the West Side of Cleveland to campaign for Carl Stokes. "We went door to door," says Brown Campbell. "Jane wanted to know why they were angry with Carl wanting to be mayor." Some residents swore at them; others threw stones. Stokes lost that election, but he won the next two years later. After that victory, Brown Campbell remembers telling her daughter: "Well, Jane, you see this proves that anybody can be mayor of Cleveland."
When Jane was 15, the whole family protested together outside a downtown Cleveland event where then-presidential candidate George Wallace was speaking. Jane's father was either punched in the face or hit just above his glasses with a rock. (There were so many incidents in those days that no one in the family can remember exactly what happened.)
Jane's parents were both Democrats committed to civil rights and worked together to bring Martin Luther King Jr. to town for a speech at Heights Christian Church and a fund-raising event later that day (contrary to what has become local lore, King never spent the night at the Campbell house). But her mother's activism outpaced her father's. Once her kids were grown, Jane's mother, at the age of 50, became an ordained minister of the Disciples of Christ Christian Church and went on to achieve national prominence as the secretary-general of the National Council of Churches. Her father spent his entire career at Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, retiring in 1997 as an esteemed senior partner.
As Brown Campbell's activist roots spread, the Campbell house became a beacon for radicals. Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was being prosecuted for counseling young men against the draft, was a guest. Several members of the infamous Chicago Seven — including Rennie Davis, David Dellinger and their attorney, William Kunstler — gathered there as they mounted their legal defense against accusations of inciting riots. Tom Hayden (now a former California state senator and ex-husband of Jane Fonda) was another Chicago Seven member whose cause was taken up by Brown Campbell.
To this day, family members believe the house was wiretapped.
But while the anti-war movement may have been more "glamorous" at times, civil rights always came first for Brown Campbell. Carl Stokes was a frequent guest at the Campbell household and became a friend of the children. "They came to know Carl," Brown Campbell recalls. "When you break a barrier, it's not easy. I think they saw that."
At the time, Jane Campbell didn't regard her upbringing as anything special. As her husband now jokes, "She was fairly well into adolescence before she realized not everyone stored voter-registration cards on the dining-room table."
There were moments, however, when Campbell just wanted a normal mom. She remembers walking home from swimming practice in the winter, her wet hair a frozen mass. "See?" she'd tell her mom, pointing at her icy head when she got home. "Why can't you just pick me up from school like everybody else's mom?"
When her mother was away at meetings, Jane watched her two brothers, often ruling by sheer force. "Jane was much stronger than me for much longer than girls are usually stronger than boys," remembers Paul. She taught both Paul and Jim, who are three and five years younger than her, respectively, how to read. (Paul is now deputy director of an education nonprofit group in New York City, while James is a geriatrics physician at MetroHealth Medical Center.)
As Jane entered her late teens, the spirit of the times captivated her, too. "The '60s swept people away sometimes," notes Paul. "The period came and went so fast that if you weren't just the right age you missed it. Jane was a high-school student and that made all the difference. She was much more immersed and involved in the radicalism of the late '60s."
While Jane believed in the causes of the day, she was never the free-love, flower-child type. "She was always a little straight," her brother continues. She was too involved in field hockey and competitive swimming to turn hippy. Campbell herself admits that about the worst thing she ever did in high school was wear culottes to class, a violation of the dress code.
Though he was an easy target in some ways, Jane never rebelled against her father, either. "That was the era when no kid in their right mind would ever say that they wanted to join corporate America," the elder Paul Campbell notes. But Jane wasn't the kind of kid to come home from school and call her dad a capitalist pig. "[My job] was culturally outside of social acceptance for her peers," Paul Campbell says, "but she didn't really dwell on it."
But that divide became more difficult for Campbell's parents to bridge themselves. "Watching the gap between [our mother and father] grow was a painful experience for all of us," Paul Jr. says.
The summer before Jane started college, her grandmother, for whom she is named, died, leaving Jane her navy-blue Dodge Monaco. "It looked like somebody's grandmother's car," Jane laughs. "It was." Despite the fact that the car only got seven miles per gallon and despite the energy crisis, Jane and her two brothers decided to hit the open road. "We were just glad to be out of that tension," says Jane.
On their five-week cross-country journey, the kids hit Sioux City, Iowa; the Badlands of South Dakota; Mount Rushmore; and Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks. "It was a big blast," remembers Jane.
On a deeper level, the trip united the siblings for what was to come. "It was a time when we needed each other because of what was happening in our family," Paul explains. "We had each kind of gone our own ways and built our own defenses. This was a chance to reassure ourselves that the bond between us wasn't broken by what was happening to the marriage."
One year later, their parents divorced.
Bored with school, Campbell graduated from the University of Michigan at Ann
Arbor in three years with a degree in history. Her first two jobs — executive
director of WomanSpace, a women's advocacy group, and then of the Friends of
Shaker Square development group — placed her on the fringe of the political
world. "I was working in political stuff, but I wasn't the elected person,"
That changed at the prompting of Mary Boyle, who invited Campbell to coffee and then told her it was time to join the front lines. "We just were real impressed with her," says Boyle. "She's a take-charge person with very good people skills."
Campbell protested, saying that she was too effective as a behind-the-scenes player to give it up. "You're not going to say no," Boyle told her.
"And then she laughed," remembers Campbell. "She laughed at me."
Campbell, who has never lost an election, entered the race for state representative. She spent months walking her district before winning 51 percent of the vote in the primary and 75 percent in the general election. When she got to her new office in Columbus, she found evidence of the perks freshman state reps are afforded: The window was broken and there were two inches of snow on her desk.
Campbell quietly earned her colleagues' respect over the next two years and found herself up for a spot on the influential Finance Committee. At roughly the same time, she discovered that she was pregnant, though, and realized that then-Speaker of the House Verne Riffe, a notoriously old-fashioned Democrat from southern Ohio, would never give a mother-to-be such a demanding job.
Instead of attacking Riffe as sexist, Campbell hid her pregnancy. When asked why she didn't take a stand, Campbell says flatly, "I knew he'd win." It wasn't a battle worth losing political clout over.
She was more than five months pregnant and hiding her belly with big jackets when a concerned colleague told her that people were starting to talk about her weight gain. "She thought I was kind of letting myself go," Campbell says, smiling at the memory.
The plan worked, though. Campbell got the committee assignment, then announced her pregnancy. A few months later, she toughed out three days of labor to give birth to daughter Jessica, becoming the first woman to have a child while serving in the Ohio House.
That's when the juggling act began. Campbell decided to nurse her new baby — a task made more difficult by the fact that Jessica (and later Katie, too) was a "budget baby," born just in time for the grueling sessions spent hammering out state finances. Morrison took two weeks' vacation from his job as planning director for the city of Cleveland (he took a longer leave of absence from the same position when his wife announced she was running for mayor) and went to Columbus, where he set up a crib in Campbell's office and watched the infant while his wife was on the House floor.
When Morrison returned to Cleveland, Campbell turned to friends who were eager to help her. Over the course of the next year, baby Jessica became a fixture, always three rows behind her mother in the arms of a sitter. "It was a real fun time," remembers former state Rep. Vermel Whalen. "We all were always peeping at the baby and we really watched her grow up."
Two years later, Campbell followed the same routine with her second daughter, Katie. "She wanted to be near her babies as much as possible," Whalen says. "Jane made it work."
Campbell was equally adept at managing political conflicts, according to her colleagues. It makes sense that Campbell got along with fellow liberals, but it's more surprising that she won the respect of steadfast conservatives such as then-state Rep. William G. Batchelder, now a judge on the 9th District Ohio Court of Appeals. "When you're a legislator, you never get what you want," Batchelder says. "You either learn to work with people or you're totally ineffective. Jane didn't want to be ineffective."
Campbell was one of a handful of people who spent years laboring over welfare reform. At the last minute, Batchelder and other conservatives added a provision that eliminated all exceptions to extending welfare benefits beyond three years. Campbell was opposed to the change, she says, and voted against the final version of the bill.
"If she was mad, she never gave any indication to me," notes Batchelder, who says he and Campbell continued to have a genuinely friendly relationship.
Whalen has a similar recollection of Campbell's temperament. "Having worked with Jane in the Ohio Legislature for 10 years, I have never heard her yell at anyone and I have never seen her angry. If she was, I didn't know it."
Still, Campbell gets her point across.
"She can express outrage without being outrageous," Batchelder says. "She can be very strong in her statements."
And she was successful. "She always got her bills passed, even after the House turned Republican," Whalen says. "People were just receptive to Jane. She was effective when she spoke."
Campbell, however, felt she could be more effective in Cleveland after the House turned Republican in the early '90s. In 1996, she ran against incumbent Lee Weingart for Cuyahoga County commissioner, nabbing 54 percent of the vote. Once in office, Campbell and the other commissioners faced the major task of enacting the very welfare-reform laws Campbell had helped to negotiate in the Ohio Legislature.
It was as a commissioner that Campbell began to move from the far left toward the center, says Cuyahoga County Republican chair and state Rep. Jim Trakas. Instead of waiting till the state forced it, Cuyahoga County seized the lead in welfare reform. "Campbell took more heat from her friends on the left than from the Republicans," Trakas notes. Today, Campbell says her "best accomplishment" was helping 20,000 families get off welfare and into the workplace.
Among the commissioners' other contributions, she cites the revitalization of blighted neighborhoods, new downtown housing, the Gateway sports complex and the Cleveland Browns Stadium — all tasks that required cooperation with the city and the business community.
As to which way she'll lean as mayor, Trakas says he's not too worried. Campbell has shown a propensity for cooperation, he explains, adding that a mayor's ideological whims are limited by the nature of the job. "There's no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole," he notes.
Both Campbell's father and her husband say one of her greatest strengths is her ability to work well with others. She surrounds herself with competent people, and then gives them the freedom to do their jobs.
Family life is reported to work much the same way. "She's never gone through life trying to do it all herself," says Morrison. Campbell once jokingly referred to Morrison as her "nanny," and friends and family members say that it was his willingness to work around his wife's schedule these last few months that's helped the family survive the campaign trail.
Jane Campbell let her mother know she'd be running for mayor by echoing the
words her mom had said 34 years earlier when Carl Stokes became Cleveland's
first black mayor. "Well, Mom, guess what?" Campbell said. "We're going to prove
that anybody can be mayor of Cleveland."
But the fact that she's breaking new ground hasn't been a focus for Campbell, according to her family and friends. "She wasn't fixated on that at all," her mother says, adding that she doesn't think the fact that she's female has been an obstacle for Jane.
That hypothesis is anything but certain, though.
"It's going to be an issue," contends Boyle. "We can't get past that until there is actually someone in the job. She is the first."
To prove her point, Boyle recounts her experience at a party just a few weeks before the election where she heard two "intelligent" middle-aged people — a man and a woman — talk about the mayoral race. The two said they didn't know anything about candidate Raymond Pierce, but were equally uncomfortable voting for Campbell. "We don't know whether or not a woman could be mayor," they told Boyle. The party was in Cleveland Heights, considered to be one of the more progressive communities in Cleveland.
Campbell received a nod of approval from 58,183 Cleveland voters. But — a big win and 17 years of political experience be damned — some people won't believe a woman's got the guts to be mayor until they see it. And until they do, that pesky question will keep coming back.
Jane Campbell, are you tough enough to be mayor?
Campbell smiles, pausing for just a moment. She has the giddy look of a volleyball player who's been set up perfectly for the spike. "Oh yeah," she says, a swagger in her voice. "Hey, I've had two brothers most of my life. I've held my own with them. I've held my own with the state legislature. I've held my own with my two guys on the county commission.
"I just get what I need in a different way."