'Charter-ing' the best course for Cleveland Heights
Over the past months, I have had a keen interest and emerging sense of civic responsibility to become involved with the discussion regarding Cleveland Heights’ charter review. I have found myself reading articles, letters, attending the public meeting, and sitting thru two sessions of the Charter Review Commission (CRC). I even felt compelled to express myself in various CRC meetings and forums.
My career has provided me the opportunity to work in the public sector in an appointed executive position, and as the owner and director of a professional business. I have met and dealt with many important people—even some considered powerful—these last 40 years, and have discovered a great deal about leadership.
The lesson I have learned, which I found of the greatest importance, is that leadership is not defined by a job title; it must be earned. Particularly in the public sector, where our leaders are generally elected or appointed, sometimes one’s identity is framed by a position rather than performance. My most respected and prolific mentors, such as then Cleveland Mayor George Voinovich, led by listening first, asking many questions, stimulating collaboration, soliciting many opinions, and finally making informed decisions.
It seems in our city of Cleveland Heights, we are at a crossroads in identifying our own form of leadership. Staying with a city manager or changing to an elected mayor form of government should be based on the composition that will provide us with leadership that embraces the characteristics [I and others] cherished so much in working with, and for, Voinovich.
It seems the CRC has now decided to recommend retaining the current city manager form of government in Cleveland Heights. Based on what I have read and heard, apparently a majority of our city council has determined this as well. Curiously, the commission process through the public meeting and survey, has indicated that the majority of involved citizens prefer changing to an elected mayor system.
Why do we seem to be fighting this when the proper course seems so logical? Let the voters in Cleveland Heights decide at the ballot box. In the end, we are all seeking leaders that are experienced, committed and accountable to the citizens. Most importantly, we need a leader who has an inspired vision for our city, with the requisite passion and communication skills to carry it out.
This seems like a powerful responsibility that should be encharged to more than the seven members of city council; it should extend beyond them, to those of us who will share the consequences of the leadership choice we make.
Paul Volpe is an architect and urban designer who, along with his wife and his son’s family, including two grandchildren, loves living in Cleveland Heights. He is a member of FutureHeights.