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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.

BRADY, James

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Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

BRADY, James Edward. (Dubuque, IA, Dec. 25, 1941- ). MAYOR. One of the city's most colorful and controversial public servants, Brady established the longest tenure, 10 years, to that time of any mayor in the history of Dubuque. Named for boxer "Diamond" Jim Brady, the mayor witnessed many of Dubuque's modern attractions take shape during his term of office including the FIVE FLAGS CIVIC CENTER, DUBUQUE GREYHOUND PARK AND CASINO, and the start of construction on the U.S. 61 freeway. (1)

Brady first campaigned for election to the Dubuque City Council in 1973. He finished third in vote total. In May 1975, he became the only council member within recent years to be censured by the council, a reprimand that could have led to his expulsion from the council. The council found Brady's conduct "injurious to the council" after an outburst over the issue of LORAS COLLEGE leasing its pool to the city for indoor swimming. Brady apologized for his conduct, and the council action was rescinded. Between 1977 and 1980 Brady was passed over for the one-year mayoral appointment several times before the change in local government to the ward system. (2)

Brady's political strength did not show until his first successful mayoral campaign in 1981 when he defeated councilman Robert J. FELDERMAN] with 61.7 percent of the vote to become the first popularly elected mayor in 63 years. The election also marked another historical mark in that Felderman had spent $13,321 in his unsuccessful campaign--the most ever spent in a municipal election. (3) Brady defeated councilman William HAMMEL in 1985 with 89 percent of the vote. (4)

Image courtesy: Mike Day. Mike Day Collection

Brady's first three campaigns were anti-establishment as he campaigned on the theme of wanting to oust an insider business club he claimed controlled the city council. As a "citizen's watchdog," a campaign theme he used in 1977, Brady often found himself at odds with others on the council. This position resulted in disagreement about his effectiveness as a councilman and later as mayor. (5)

Brady enjoyed widespread public recognition. His hobby, motorcycle riding, became his trademark. By 1990 residents had become familiar with seeing their mayor, who remained a teacher in Galena, Illinois, riding his 1974 police-issue Harley-Davidson, purchased at a Dubuque Police Department auction in 1984. (6)

His length of service and the pressures of racial strife in the city, the scandal of the IOWA TRUST FUND, and the forced resignation of city manager Kenneth GEARHART led him to announce he would not seek re-election in 1992. (7)

He chose, however, to campaign in 1993 and ended up a distant second to Terry DUGGAN in the mayoral primary. (8)



1. Arnold, Bill, "Mayor Brady's Had Enough," Telegraph Herald, October 25, 1992, p. 1

2. Ibid.

3. "Chronology," Telegraph Herald December 31, 1981, p. 11

4. Arnold

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Eiler, Donnelle. "Duggan Tops, Brady Survives," Telegraph Herald, October 6, 1993, p. 1