Danforth's leadership is key skill for new mayor

There are four candidates vying to be Cleveland Heights’ first elected mayor. Each cites their particular expertise in civic engagement, government experience and managerial skills, all under the banner of “proven leadership.” While expertise and strong, relevant experience are absolutely required, expertise and experience are simply not enough. Much more is needed, particularly at this time of transition.

To be an effective mayor of a city with a $62-million budget and 440 employees, our first elected mayor must be able to truly lead and inspire our city staff and our community. In my experience, the most effective leadership approach for a local government leader is a focused combination of transformational and strategic leadership. Transformational leaders inspire their teams with effective communication and collaboration, initiating the path to success with collaborative goal-setting and encouragement aimed at raising professionalism, top to bottom. Strategic leadership includes the ability to express a strategic vision for the organization by motivating and persuading the team to acquire that same vision. Working with a new city administrator, our mayor must quickly create a new organizational structure and allocate limited resources.

As a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights and former member of city council, I took it upon myself to formally interview two of the four candidates for mayor, Barbara Danforth and Melody Joy Hart. (Candidly, I did not interview the other two candidates on the basis of the stunning thinness of their resumes.)

What impressed and captivated me most about Danforth is her commitment and ability to be both a visionary leader and a hands-on mentor-coach to our employees—exactly the combination of leadership styles that work best. I know that she is also compassionate and forthcoming, a style that will resonate with employees and citizens alike, raising the morale of our staff and creating a forward-looking, optimistic attitude amongst our residents and business owners.

I have known Danforth for more than 25 years. I have observed her leadership style from near and afar as she held positions of responsibility and authority with city and county, as CEO of a statewide school with 1,000 employees and as CEO of the YWCA of Greater Cleveland. I urge Cleveland Heights voters to make certain they cast their ballot in this first-ever Special Primary Election [on Sept. 14], and that they cast that vote for Barbara Danforth.

Lee Chilcote and Mike Gaynier

Lee Chilcote is a 50-year resident of Cleveland Heights. He served on city council, as a member and vice mayor, 1975–79. A longtime practicing lawyer, he currently serves as managing partner of Chilcote & Wright and is active in volunteer work in the community.

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Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 3:17 PM, 07.30.2021