From IWU Magazine, Winter 2013-14 edition
Renner's campaign team was bonded by close Wesleyan ties
By TIM OBERMILLER
Several Illinois Wesleyan alumni played key roles in Tari Renner’s 2013 mayoral campaign. Here are their insiders’ accounts of what they did and why they did it.
Krista Cardona ’03 served as campaign manager for both of Renner’s mayoral bids.
Comparing the two campaigns, Cardona says, “There were so many things we wanted to do in 2009 but couldn’t because we didn’t have the manpower to do it. This time around, we had a dedicated group who were able to divide and conquer different parts of the campaign to make it a successful run. We all checked our egos at the door because we were all involved to help make a better Bloomington.
“And in my experience in politics, the amount of money spent, endorsements, news coverage, letters to the editor, all doesn’t matter unless you get people out to vote, and our Get out the Vote operation was outstanding.”
During the 2013 campaign, Cardona was pregnant with her second child and also busy with her local and online children’s boutique. Though she treasures the experience, “I kind of feel like I can hang up my campaign hat now because this was such a great — and fun — run.”
Gretchen Grabowski ’03 drove from Chicago in the campaign’s final days to coordinate the Election Day Get Out the Vote initiatives. “There was no other place I’d rather be on such an important day,” she says. “I developed respect for Tari as an academic early on in my tenure as an IWU political science major, as he was a standout professor, my adviser and the mentor I credit for giving me direction for life as an IWU student as well as that which followed. ”
Beyond her personal connection to the candidate, Grabowski cites Renner’s “unique ability to approach political problem solving with the balance of head and heart that many officeholders can’t grasp. [He] exemplifies the kind of good that is achievable when politicians stand on the side of their constituents.”
In Miami, Grabowski is tackling a new challenge as research manager for Fusion, a new television channel formed in partnership between ABC and Univision.
Scott Black ’10 had a unique role in the 2013 Bloomington elections. He was not only part of Renner’s campaign team but ran for office himself, seeking election to a vacated City Council seat.
“I was at Tari’s house talking about possible election scenarios and my name came up as someone who could run for the Ward 7 seat,” Black recalls. “After some coaxing from a number of community leaders, I was in. Tari’s support only helped to seal the deal. Tari’s vision of Bloomington couldn’t happen without a City Council who support seeing a strong, prosperous Bloomington. I was humbled by the trust and faith he put in me.”
Black says being involved in both races “was invigorating. … We applied precision to both my and Tari’s campaign.”
As a student, Black worked on Renner’s 2009 campaign. “I liked what Tari was talking about: Open government, better fiscal decisions and bringing an energy to local government I’d never seen before. See, a lot of people don’t pay attention to local government because some see it as lacking the drama of national issues. However, the issues we deal with certainly impact people daily.”
It’s a spirit that Black hopes to bring the City Council after winning his Ward 7 election. His “day job” is in human resources.
The campaign team agrees that hiring Ted Delicath ’13 to work full-time in 2013 was crucial to the outcome. “I can’t say enough good things about Ted,” says Black. “He’s smart, eloquent, organized, focused, but knows how to take it all in stride. … Without Ted, any great ideas we had couldn’t have been implemented.”
Delicath explains how he became involved in the campaign. “While abroad my junior year, I contacted Professor Renner regarding possibly creating an independent study that balanced my work with the campaign and political theory.”
Part of his job was supervising “an incredible batch” of IWU student interns. “Among many other endeavors, they managed the Facebook page, drafted campaign memos, conducted policy research, implemented a door-to-door, citywide strategy and structured a precinct-by-precinct calling initiative. They were the backbone of the operation.”
Now enrolled in the Fellows Program in Public Affairs at the Coro Leadership Center in St. Louis, Delicath believes the IWU connection to Renner’s campaign is a natural outgrowth of the University’s personal, close-knit community. The team became “like a family, and that is how we approached the daily grind.”
“It’s indescribable to see months of effort coalesce in triumph,” he says, “and watch as your family stands together beaming with victorious pride.”