Mary Dunbar: Is the second time the charm?

You may see her training for a half or full marathon, riding her bike in promotion of the Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition, writing articles for The Heights Observer, or advocating for parts of Cleveland Heights to be recognized as historic districts.

Mary Dunbar, if anything, is not an idle woman.

In June 2011, she announced her entrance into this fall’s City Council race as a non-partisan candidate. Dunbar’s political history may not be vast, but she shows expertise in business, education, community living, and public service, as well as sheer determination—she previously ran for Cleveland Heights City Council in 2009 but lost the race by a scant 200 votes. This time around, she says she prepared better for the time-consuming task of door-to-door campaigning, a feat to which she partially attributes her 2009 shortcomings.

In fact, immediately following this interview Dunbar was off to continue her neighborhood travels with the goal of meeting as many voters as possible.

Dunbar has been a loyal Cleveland Heights resident since 1970, during which time she married husband Rob Dunbar, a chemistry professor at Case Western Reserve University, and raised two sons. She holds education in high esteem, achieving a B.A. in English literature from Smith College, an M.A. in mass communication from Stanford University and an M.B.A. in finance and general management from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve.

Other notable background includes two years teaching chemistry at a Roman Catholic boys’ school as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Cameroon, West Africa. This momentous experience taught Dunbar to “pick your battles, focus and target problems at hand,” she said.

From 1987-2007, Dunbar was senior vice president at Dix & Eaton, where she worked for 20 years. She said the two-decade career will enable her to “help the city be more efficient” due to an inside perspective on how local companies operate productively and financially.

She later served as a member for the Cuyahoga County transition team’s “Code of Ethics Workgroup” in 2010. Fellow workgroup member Carrie Buchanan, a professor at John Carroll University, commented that Dunbar consistently monitored the workgroup’s proposals for their ultimate costs to taxpayers.

“She always tried to help us find the least expensive way of doing things,” Buchanan explained. “Mary is very practical, both fiscally and politically.”

Cleveland Heights Bicycle Coalition co-founder and vice president Joy Henderson said, “Mary was instrumental in forming the group, she is very organized, is a good writer and editor, and is retired! She has time to devote to the many aspects of the coalition’s work.”

“Mary Dunbar is well-informed, listens, thinks creatively to solve problems and helps put ideas into action,” says Joan Spoerl, founder of Go Public! Great Schools Are Everybody’s Business. 

If elected, Dunbar says she’ll advocate conservation of local neighborhoods and commercial districts, making them healthier and more enjoyable.

“I am passionate about keeping Cleveland Heights the place to be for diverse families of all ages who love living here as much as I do. We can do much more to capitalize on our opportunities. I am committed to realizing our full potential by attracting new homeowners and businesses, improving city services, collaborating with our schools, increasing sustainability and livability, and engaging citizens.”  


Alyssa Fligge

Alyssa Fligge is a student at John Carroll University who is covering this candidate for her journalism class. 

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Volume 4, Issue 11, Posted 1:56 PM, 10.25.2011