Coffee is an essential part of any busy day. Whether fueling up in the morning or enjoying a mid-afternoon recharge, the fragrant aroma of freshly brewed coffee lingers in almost every office in America. However, for Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin, the coffee machine remains unused as she jumps from meeting to meeting with a hot chai tea in hand instead.
Energetic and bursting with passion for her city, it comes as a surprise that the last eight years as mayor have been done without a single shot of espresso. Her determination and drive for improving the city and connecting with the community has never wavered. As her term comes to an end this spring, Tergin recalls the growth, challenges and accomplishments she’s experienced as mayor.
“Completing the Bicentennial bridge was a huge new asset for the community, not just for Jeff City, but for visitors to the Capitol that everybody can enjoy,” Tergin said.
The bridge provides a pedestrian and bike path that gives access to the river with a new riverfront park. Visitors can walk across the Union Pacific Railroad and enjoy views of the state Capitol and Missouri River Valley.
“We are a river city and to finally have that connection with our river is important,” Tergin said. “Having a park where we can get to the river is unique and special for our city.”
Other important projects for Tergin include receiving the deed for the historic Missouri State Penitentiary for redevelopment and Capitol Avenue revitalization. She is proud of her accomplishments in improving the city for residents and visitors.
“She has that intuition piece of being able to see the end result before its actually achieved and is able to articulate it and get people on board,” city administrator Steve Crowell said.
Aside from working on projects, Tergin has also been faced with hardships during her terms such as the tornado that hit in 2019 and the pandemic, which has been arduous on the community but has also made them stronger as well, she explained.
“Whenever anything adversarial came our way, we work best when we respect each other, and we’ve been able to get through some pretty hard times together with respect and kindness and that kindness goes a long way,” Tergin said.
Before becoming mayor in 2015, she was a city councilwoman for six years. She grew up in Jefferson City and has always been involved in the community through her family’s business. Tergin is proud of breaking the generic stereotype of a city mayor despite some of the reactions she has received from the public.
“I’ve welcomed groups over the years, and they are sometimes surprised when I say I’m the mayor,” Tergin said. “I’m the second woman to hold that position in our capitol city’s history and I’m very proud of that.”
Tergin explains that when she first got elected as mayor, she would receive comments about her age, her energetic personality and the fact that she is a woman. However, she embraced that challenge, and it never deterred her from accomplishing her goals.
“Welcome the challenge and never be scared of it, always embrace it and show who you are and what you can do,” Tergin said. “If people doubt you, that’s okay because you can show them that you can do it.”
She advises young women to find teams of support through family or friends and to never give up on dreams and ambitions in the face of adversity. Her administrative assistant, Jennifer Suchanek, explained that many young women visit the office and look up to Tergin as she encourages them that they could be the next mayor.
“She is what a lot of little girls strive to be,” Suchanek said. “In a world that is predominantly male, she has opened the eyes of the world and opportunities up for so many girls.”
When she isn’t in the office, Tergin is active within the city, from community bike rides to attending local concerts at the Capital Region MU Health Care amphitheater. She also enjoys yoga and painting. Interacting with locals on social media has been a fun way for her to highlight good things happening within Jefferson City. She regularly posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with hashtags such as #BikingMayor, #MayorArtist, #SelfiewiththeMayor, #SingingMayor and #MayorTergin.
“My social media has kind of become a thing which was not expected but it’s been fun along the way,” Tergin said. “Social media can be so many things and I’ve really enjoyed being able to use it to highlight the positives and use it for what’s happening in my personal life and Jeff City.”
Being the mayor of a capital city can be stressful and hectic, but Tergin enjoys having as much fun as possible with the position. Her vibrant positivity is felt in every room she walks in.
It’s been fun to come to work every day because she makes it fun,” Suchanek said. “She’s just a ray of sunshine whenever it’s a gloomy day here in the office.”
As her position as mayor ends, it is bittersweet. Tergin wishes she could stay in office longer but knows other opportunities are on the horizon. She plans on spending more time with her family’s third-generation business, Carrie’s Hallmark, which was named after Tergin when she was only four years old. She is open-minded to what lies ahead and looks forward to a new chapter in her life.
“I’ve been taking it all in, all these eight years, and I’ve enjoyed it to the fullest,” Tergin said. “Just like we all should do with our lives.”