Seren stresses 'effective and efficient' leadership
In many ways, Kahlil Seren has the kind of background and career trajectory one might expect for someone running for Cleveland Heights mayor. He has lived most of his life in Cleveland’s eastside suburbs; he studied law and public policy at Cleveland State University’s (CSU) Levin College of Urban Affairs; he has accomplished years of public policy work, first at a progressive-leaning think tank, then for Cuyahoga County Council; he has served on Cleveland Heights City Council for the last six years; and he currently is the city’s vice mayor. A race for mayor seems the logical next step.
But in other respects, Seren, 42, departs from convention. He has been exposed to a variety of different worlds. For example, he was raised by an out lesbian couple who named him for Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese-American writer and poet. His biological mother is black; his stepmother is white. He is bi-racial and identifies as black. His education included everything from [attending] the hard-pressed primary schools of East Cleveland to the well-funded Beachwood middle school and high school, with a stop at private Gilmour Academy along the way. He was profoundly shaped by summer experience at Circle Pines, which he described as a “commune-style, pacifist” camp in Michigan.
Seren’s first job in government came in 2003, drafting correspondence in the office of then Cleveland mayor Jane Campbell. Later he moved to the Mayor’s Action Center, where he researched and responded to constituent complaints. “That was really valuable experience,” Seren recalled. “Residents need us to help resolve problems when things are falling through the cracks in government.” While finishing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CSU, Seren worked at Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland-based policy research institute, on issues such as the state budget, taxation, and wage theft. Since 2011, he has been a policy advisor at Cuyahoga County Council. His portfolio includes economic development, community development and workforce development.
Should he become mayor, Seren would focus on “creating a city government that is effective and efficient.” Additionally, he has three other priorities. The first would be equitable economic and workforce development “diversifying the tax base so we can spread out contributions to our civic infrastructure.” The second would be a “holistic” approach to public safety that goes beyond just “investigation and punishment.” And third, he would offer “comprehensive support for homeowners” that would include “aggressive housing enforcement.”
Benjamin Sperry is an educator, historian, and writer. A Cleveland Heights resident since 1996, he is a friend and neighbor of Kahlil Seren.