Danforth on leading CH's transition
Since it became a city in 1921, Cleveland Heights has been run by a city manager. On Jan.1, 2022, a mayor will become the city’s first elected executive.
This change will be dramatic and difficult. An effective transition will require broad and deep executive leadership skills and experience. With a population of 44,000, a budget of $52.2 million, and more than 400 employees, Cleveland Heights is a sizable municipal operation.
This is how I will accomplish this monumental transition, if elected mayor:
- Staff interaction: I will approach staff with full respect for them and the work they do. I will meet with every employee to learn about their expertise and challenges. Those with significant competencies, I will give them room to work; others may need support or resources to maximize their effectiveness. My years in executive search position me well to recruit, vet, and on-board the most talented professionals available. I will search for a city administrator who will work by my side to accomplish the city’s goals.
- Culture change: City hall culture supports a city-manager structure. Staff report up to the manager who serves the seven council members. The new structure creates three equal branches of government: Legislative (city council), Executive (mayor) and Judicial (municipal court judge). I will transition the culture to a resident-focus to ensure that residents’ voices are heard and they receive a response. It will be council-collaborative to understand each member’s goals and facilitate timely completion of their initiatives; and undergirded by the staff support. The culture will be built on respect, integrity, and excellence.
- Establish priorities: While going house to house to personally collect 542 campaign petition signatures, I learned from residents the issues that concern them. As a visionary leader, I will draw upon my decades of experience of developing processes to solve problems and get things done with timely, budget-conscious execution.
This approach will be difficult. I have been a Cleveland Heights resident for 22 years and I have 30 years of executive leadership experience. I am a lawyer who has worked in city, county and state governments. I ran the YWCA of Cleveland and was the CEO of the largest charter school system in Ohio, serving children with learning disabilities.
My campaign theme is “Experience Matters” and I will be ready on Day 1 to meet the challenges and opportunities of transitioning our government and leading our city.
Barbara Danforth is a 22-year resident of CH, living in the Forest Hill Historical District. She is the former chief prosecutor, city of Cleveland; and former CEO of YWCA Greater Cleveland.