By Angela Holmes
CEDAR RAPIDS—Iowa Women Lead Change (IWLC) has experienced so much change in the past few years that the women’s leadership organization has created a new executive position to handle its operations, and hired one of the Corridor’s most well-known personalities to fill the role.
Tiffany O’Donnell, who has been a news anchor for CBS2/Fox 28 for much of the past 14 years, plans to start as chief operating officer with IWLC in mid-July.
“I think few people realize what kind of growth IWLC has had over the past couple of years,” said IWLC Executive Director Diane Ramsey. “The board was looking at what we needed to be sustainable to achieve our short- and long-term goals.”
And the board knew just the right person to go after those goals.
“Iowans know Tiffany for her award-winning career in broadcast journalism, but may not know that she has served on the forefront of women’s leadership and nonprofit causes – including IWLC – for many years,” Ms. Ramsey said. “She brings a wealth of marketing, journalism and operational experiences to our staff, and I look forward to reintroducing her to Iowans in this new role.”
Ms. O’Donnell was first introduced to IWLC a couple years ago when she was asked to fill in for Liz Mathis as on-stage moderator for Martha Stewart’s keynote presentation at the organization’s 2013 conference.
Since then, she has volunteered with IWLC and served on its Invest In She steering committee.
“I love what they stand for,” Ms. O’Donnell said. “For all that is grown in Iowa, we lag behind in women’s growth. I get the challenge women face.”
Ms. O’Donnell was first approached late last year about joining the IWLC staff. At 46, she felt it was the perfect time to restart her career.
“I wasn’t running away from something terrible. I was running to something wonderful,” she said of the decision to leave KGAN.
As COO of IWLC, Ms. O’Donnell will run its day-to-day operations, manage its staff and help oversee its $1.7 million budget.
The organization receives much of its funding from corporate donors, which is beneficial all the way around, she noted.
“Workforce development continues to be a challenge for so many companies and organizations,” she said. “Making a commitment to empowering women in leadership is a game-changer for recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.”
Ms. O’Donnell credits her work with nonprofits such as the Iowa Children’s Museum, NewBo City Market and Kids First Law Center with helping her learn about running an organization.
Although her new position will have set duties, it will also be idea-driven and entrepreneurial with a “very small template.”
“I look forward to having another partner as we continue to expand,” Ms. Ramsey said. “She has the energy, smarts and commitment to what we’re all about. She’s a vital piece in the IWLC puzzle.”
Ms. O’Donnell, a native of Bettendorf, began her broadcasting career in 1993 at WHO-TV in Des Moines as a morning weather and news anchor.
After living in Dallas for a few years, she returned to Iowa in January 2001 to anchor CBS2/Fox 28’s nightly newscast.
She left the station in 2006 to stay home with her youngest daughter, who was two at the time. Around that time, she and her husband, Michael O’Donnell, bought The Rose Company in Fairfield, which they continue to run together. The company offers promotional products for businesses and organizations, and gifts with purchase products for retailers.
After several attempts to get her back into the anchor chair, Ms. O’Donnell returned to CBS2/Fox28 on June 30, 2008 – just weeks after the flood devastated Cedar Rapids.
“I became an avid viewer of channel 2,” she said. “I watched during the flood and enjoyed their coverage.”
Since then, she hasn’t thought about leaving the station – until now.
“It has been fantastic,” she said. “The bar was extremely high for me to leave.”
Ms. O’Donnell said she is going to enjoy “life on the other side” which will include being “dressed and thinking at 8 a.m.” and having dinner with her husband and daughters, who are now 16 and 11.
“That is all my kids have ever known,” she said of her nighttime TV schedule. “My oldest was two when I started.”
She will miss the relationship she has developed with viewers, but adds that she has no plans to leave the Cedar Rapids area. Her husband of nearly 23 years is a fifth-generation Cedar Rapids native and the family has roots here.
While she is looking forward to stepping away from the public eye, she admits it is difficult to leave the only career she has known.
“When you do something for 25 years, it’s hard to step away,” she said. CBJ