New Cleveland Heights city manager delighted to be back home
At just 34, Tanisha Briley has what could be called her dream job. In June, she was hired as the new city manager of Cleveland Heights. She started work on Aug. 1.
Briley grew up in Cleveland, mostly on the East Side. She’s the oldest of four children. “We moved around a lot,” she said, “but I was always touched by public administration—my teachers, the people at the rec center and the public housing authorities. I was always impressed by them, and I wanted to give back to my community.”
She attended Collinwood High School, where she was on the girls’ track and basketball teams. She was also a member of the student council, and the senior class treasurer. “I was always very busy during my high school years. I’d leave for school at 6 a.m., and I wouldn’t get back home until about 10 p.m,” she said.
When she was 16, after her sophomore year, she got her first job as an intern with the Cleveland Department of Water, which furthered her interest in public administration. After high school, Briley attended The Ohio State University, where she got a degree in business administration. She worked as a legislative aide in the Ohio Senate, assisting Mark Mallory, now the mayor of Cincinnati. She also worked in student recruitment and minority student affairs for OSU. “I worked in the Cleveland territory, helping recruit students and get them financial aid,” she said.
In 2003, Briley began working on her master’s in public administration at Cleveland State University. “Cleveland State has a great public administration program,” she said. “It’s ranked second in the U.S. They brought in a lot of people in the field to teach the courses, and that’s where I was really introduced to the city manager profession.”
She graduated in 2005, and the following year she relocated to Davenport, Iowa, to take a job as the city’s budget manager. “I had a lot of responsibility early on,” she said. “Davenport had some severe budget challenges.” She was later promoted to assistant city administrator.
Now Briley is delighted to be back in Greater Cleveland. “I was very happy in Davenport, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come back here,” she said.
She’s now living in Cleveland Heights for the first time. “I knew the main streets of Cleveland Heights and now I am learning the side streets and the neighborhoods.”
Briley has been married for 12 years. Her husband is still in Davenport, where he is a higher education administrator. They have a dog, Madison, an eight-year-old miniature schnauzer, who’s here with Briley.
“I think the diversity of Cleveland Heights is its greatest asset, from the people to the neighborhoods, the restaurants and the arts and culture,” she said. “There is so much here for the residents and the visitors. I want to build on the strength of the city and define where we want to go.”
She said her goal as city manager is to “maintain the service levels at the standard residents are used to, despite the budget cuts that have taken place.
“I’ve spent most of my days in meetings,” she said. “I want to know Cleveland Heights inside and out and the only way I can do that is to get out and meet people and talk to them. I am an open-door manager.”
Overall, she’s optimistic about the city’s future. “I’m excited to be here, and it’s great to be back home. I think we are well positioned for success in the future, and we are headed in the right direction.”
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.