Haila reflects on campaign, looks forward to becoming mayor


Hannah Olson/Iowa State Daily

Mayor-elect John Haila in front of Ames City Hall on Nov. 14. Haila is the first mayor-elect in Ames since 2006.

Danielle Gehr

Days after the results, John Haila said it still hasn’t hit him yet.

Haila, who became Ames’ mayor elect after earning 58.41 percent of the vote, has a long history with Ames, starting with attending Iowa State in the ‘70s to moving his architecture business there in 2009.

He eventually got involved with city organizations such as the Campustown Action Association and the Ames Transit Agency Board of Trustees.

“My appreciation for this community has grown immensely the more I’ve gotten involved,” Haila said. “I would say that 98 percent of the people I talked to [said] they love this community, they love Ames…I’ll bet there was several dozen people I talk to that said, ‘We were just going to come here for a year or two and then we were going to move on and, you know what, that was 30 years ago.’”

Seven to eight months before the election, Haila was planning to run for City Council when he was asked if he’d consider running for mayor by “two influential people.” From there he did what he plans to do as mayor: facilitate conversation and listen to what the community has to say.

“I met with between 50 or 60 different people and I asked them for their feedback,” Haila said. “Don’t talk me into it, ask me questions, help me think, is this really a good fit and it was unanimous. Everyone from a broad cross-section of people—from different political backgrounds and age groups and family—and all of them just came back [with] the same two things.”

He said the two things that they believed made him fit to be Ames’ next mayor were his leadership skills and character qualities.

Now, as he transitions into his role as mayor, he will go out into the community again.

“Great results through great relationships,” Haila said.

One of Haila’s supporters was Mayor Ann Campbell, who endorsed Haila in a letter to the Ames Tribune. Haila said one of the best things Campbell brought during her time as mayor was her ability to listen.

“So as I sat in the council meetings for the last seven, eight months, I’ve been very impressed and learned a lot by just watching and observing how she’ll let conversation go and at the point where you say, ‘I think there’s been enough conversation, OK council, I would entertain a motion.’”

He also complimented her networking throughout the community. He said he will be asking her to introduce him to people he hasn’t met in the community.

“This city is intertwined and we need to work together, so knowing people will be helpful,” Haila said.

Haila also said Campbell is very knowledgeable of what happens at the county level as well as the state level while being involved with local issues.

Haila said he is most excited to follow Campbell in her ability to represent and lead the community.

“I talked about this in my campaign a lot. The mayor’s role is not just being the parliamentarian…the mayor also appoints over 100, about 120 different people to boards and commissions, and [Campbell]’s been committed to a balance of representation of people from across the board,” Haila said. “So I’m going to definitely follow what her lead is in terms of communication.”

Once Haila takes over as mayor, he will need to start a relationship with the newly appointed Iowa State President-select Wendy Wintersteen. Haila added that he wants to improve student engagement with the city.

“I want to get students more actively engaged in the community because I believe that students bring a tremendous strength, vitality, insights that will benefit the Ames community and I believe that if we know one another, we’ll understand one another,” Haila said. “And I’m not saying that, ‘Oh it’s just terrible.’ I just think there’s room for improvement.”

After the results, Haila’s opponent, Victoria Szopinski, said she felt Haila ran a dishonest campaign.

“We did no negative campaigning, even though we had information,” Szopinski said. “We chose not to use it, the other side didn’t have the same regard; they made stuff up. There wasn’t anything negative so they made stuff up, and it’s unfortunate.”

Szopinski did not comment further on her accusations of Haila’s alleged dishonesty. Szopinski also chose not to elaborate on what negative information the Szopinski campaign allegedly withheld about the Haila campaign.

“I’m very disappointed that they [Haila campaign] felt they had to make things up to win, that they had to resort to lying about me,” Szopinski said. “That is really the truth of what went on here. I hope [Haila] does a good job.”

Haila said he does not wish to address these comments.

“The election is over and I’ve, throughout the entire campaign, I have chosen to talk about positive things, talk about the community and I will continue to do that,” Haila said. “I have nothing to hide. I have no skeletons in the closet and I’m moving forward.”

Through the campaign season, Haila said those running—which includes himself, newly elected Councilman David Martin for the Third Ward, re-elected Councilwoman Gloria Betcher for the First Ward and re-elected at-large Councilwoman Amber Corrieri—have actively engaged with the community.

Now, Haila said, he looks forward to a January goal setting meeting where this engagement can turn into concrete plans and ideas.