Cavanagh: Mayor for the people

Keegan Godwin (TheLorian)

For the first time since 2005, Dubuque will have a new mayor. Winning 62 percent of the popular vote, Brad Cavanagh defeated David Resnick to become the next mayor of Dubuque. To many, the name Cavanagh may sound familiar. Brad Cavanagh was a social work professor here at Loras from 2010 until 2020. Cavanagh was elected to the Dubuque City Council in November of 2019 to represent Dubuque’s fourth Ward.

I sat down with Mayor-Elect Cavanagh on Nov. 15 to congratulate him on his victory and to have an open conversation. Upon meeting him, I was greeted with a friendly smile and a warm welcome. We began the conversation with the topic of campaign strategies. Cavanagh highlighted his friendly and personable approach. Door-knocking and having face to face conversations were the backbone of his campaign.

He remarked, “The strategy is very simple: I am me. I tell everybody, what you see is what you get. I’m just going to be me.”

We then began discussing his 2018 run for the Iowa House of Representatives. In that election, Cavanagh lost to Lindsay James in the primaries. After his loss, he found himself more drawn to the local stage in politics. Being from Dubuque, he realized that this was his home.

Cavanagh stated, “It’s been about public service for me. I really want to do something locally.”

He grew up in Jackson County, went to the University of Iowa and then earned his master’s degree from St. Louis University.

After coming back from St. Louis, he became really involved in the community. Some of the issues that have always been a primary concern for Cavanagh include housing and poverty and other related topics.

When asked what truly drew him into politics, Cavanagh said “part of being a social worker is recognizing that a lot of the things you want to change, the things that need to change for the better, happen on a level where the laws are actually made”.

After his 2018, loss, he saw the opening for City Council. He actually had no intentions of running for mayor but never fully closed the door on that opportunity. In the final two weeks of the campaign, he pushed as hard as he could.

Cavanagh said, “I wanted to make sure of two things: One, do your best. But then I wanted to make as many connections with as many people as possible… I had an amazing team of volunteers that worked with me this entire time. I had the best team in the whole city.”

As a member of City Council, they worked together to form an agenda and budget, with the help of the current mayor, for the 2022 year. Cavanagh remarked that the agenda that he helped create would be the agenda he would be focusing on as mayor. He has many goals he would like to accomplish as mayor, but the first thing is a much larger goal: restoring the relationship between government and the people.

“There is this overarching anger and distrust in government that if we don’t fix that, none of that other stuff matters…that’s on the elected officials. We have to start building relationships with our people”, Cavanagh says.

Before he can tackle any of his agendas, creating a healthy relationship with the citizens of Dubuque is most important.

After meeting and having a great conversation with Mr. Cavanagh, I truly believe that the future of Dubuque is in excellent hands. With his ‘community first’ attitude towards the city, Dubuque is heading in the right direction. Cavanagh will take office on Jan. 3, and begin working on his plans immediately.

Photo by Margo Eis
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