By Julia Freeman
March 2020

Ashley Vanorny was encouraged to do good and work hard as she could growing up. Born a farmer’s daughter, she is no stranger to those concepts, holding up to four jobs at a time to continue that mentality that anything is possible if you work hard enough. She considers it the best part of her role as a Cedar Rapids City Council member to represent the city that she was raised in and serve the people who bag her groceries, her former teachers, and neighbors. “I am continually humbled to be accountable and work hard for them,” she added.

            People who did something for the first time as trendsetters inspire her as she seeks to be as helpful as possible in her own life. She is a lifelong learner that seeks to always grow and better herself without jealousy and envy for others. Vanorny wants to see a Cedar Rapids that teams up and works to encourage everyone to achieve their full potential.

            Nowhere is this more apparent than in her work with Families Helping Families of Iowa, an organization that serves children in foster care. “I am passionate about healthcare and how it encompasses many aspects, including the environment. I also believe that children in foster care can often be collateral damage when adults are held accountable, so it’s important that we as a community take personal responsibility to band together and brace for impact as much as possible. It takes a village to raise a child and I appreciate anyone who can help in any way to be part of ours,” Vanorny said. She also wants to continue to push the bar in restorative justice within the housing and urban development arena. “If you have served your time, then we shouldn’t be creating barriers to you being a productive and contributing member to the commu-nity,” Vanorny explains. She serves the area of the city with the lowest median income.

She is a visionary because she ‘cares enough to try’ to change things for the best quality of life possible. Vanorny wants to make government user-friendly and accessible, thus her help-ing to broadcast city council meetings. Additionally, her approach is to dive in and go to margin-alized populations. As a social scientist, she seeks to identify the key stakeholders and truly lis-ten so that she can try to implement evidence-based policy. She also notes that going out in the community and seeing aspects for herself has been helpful beyond what a description on paper or email can describe.

Government needs to be a collective source to help empower its people. Vanorny doesn’t believe that people need to wait until the third or fourth quarter of their lives to have val-ue and exercise their voice and be heard. “Everybody has a vision and I want to use my plat-form to continually do, ask questions, explore, and be kind to ultimately build rapport to make the environment in which we exist and policy we abide by better,” she concluded. GG

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