Bonnie Caplan will retire from CH City Council in January
“Twenty years was enough. It’s time to do something else,” said Bonnie Caplan, member of the Cleveland Heights City Council.
At the June 3 Cleveland Heights City Council meeting, Caplan announced that she plans to retire when her term expires in January.
Her retirement marks the end of two decades of service to the city. Her tenure oversaw extensive changes to city infrastructure, battles with funding shortfalls, and an emphasis on Cleveland Heights’s diverse culture.
With seven months to go in her final term, Caplan looked back with pride. “I believe I have been a good representative for the people of Cleveland Heights,” said Caplan. “What I am most proud of is my responsiveness.”
She noted that being on city council carries responsibilities far beyond the job description, as those who are unsure where to turn often contact council members first. As the city has transitioned into the digital era, city council representatives need to have “almost an immediate reaction” to queries, said Caplan.
Despite the workload the Heights’s concerned citizenry places on its elected officials, Caplan thanks community participation for many of her most successful initiatives. Though she originally knew little about digital administration herself, Caplan formed the Technology Advisory Group to integrate computing into city government. “We reorganized what the city was doing with technology,” Caplan noted, adding that the changes—ranging from phones to e-mail and computers—were all due to a citizen-led program.
Interfacing with the electorate also brought Caplan into contact with an energetic environmental activist whose efforts to rid public lands of herbicides and pesticides instigated groundbreaking legislation to remove chemical agents from city property.
“We were the first city in the country to do that,” Caplan remarked, laughing, “and I went and got an award.” Now, she said, “I am kind of a recycling guru,” and it’s a policy area with benefits she touted. “We get paid for recycling—it’s a win win, and good for the environment.”
Caplan said the biggest hurdle facing Cleveland Heights has been “continuing to provide excellent services on a budget” that has increased at a decreasing rate, while less state funding and the elimination of the inheritance tax have hit the city treasury hard.
“How do we make the city more prosperous?” Caplan asked. “How do we bring people with reasonable incomes here so we can tax them?” The end goal, she emphasized, is always to promote a thriving community. “If you keep good services,” she explained, “people will want to live here.”
Caplan is not yet sure what she’ll do after her time in office ends, but says she knows a few things will stay constant—time with family, travel and her active volunteer work. Before her term ends, she said she aimed to interview and hire a new city manager, set the city budget, and stay tuned in to her constituents. Her message to the residents of Cleveland Heights: “Well, I ain’t gone yet. I will do my best till it’s over. I have absolutely loved it.”
Alastair Pearson is a Cleveland Heights resident and a Saint Ignatius student. He is an editor at the school newspaper and literary magazine, and is interning at the Observer this summer.