University Heights City Council Candidate Sheri Sax
Education: Case Western Reserve University, B.S., Nutrition
Current occupation: Grants Officer at Jewish Family Service Association
Qualifications: I have a blended family of six grown children and have resided in University Heights for 29 years. I am a licensed dietitian and nursing home administrator employed as JFSA’s Grants Officer, raising millions annually. Over my career, I has generated $35 million in revenues via operations and grant writing, managed $10 million in budgets, and supervised 300+ employees. I have held leadership roles in top organizations, responsible for program development and implementation to provide responsive services to meet community needs. My success in strategic planning, team building, advocacy and community relations has resulted in distinguished recognition.
What do you consider to be an effective working relationship between the Mayor and the members of Council, and what do you consider to be an effective working relationship among members of Council?
Effective working relationships are key to a functional government, let alone any business or organization. Proactive, honest, timely communication in a spirit of mutual respect and responsiveness are critical to avoid misunderstandings and to accomplish objectives and goals. Collaboration with and accessibility to the Mayor and members of Council are essential to benefit University Heights’ citizens. As such, I reached out to the Mayor and members of Council before opting to run, making my decision after receiving a majority of endorsements. I am also making the effort to introduce myself to the other candidates to lay the groundwork for collaboration.
What should be the priorities for the city’s budget?
A priority is to keep a balanced budget as Council has achieved in recent years. Since the City has a defined area with few immediate prospects for commercial growth, it is critical to maintain the occupancy of businesses and homes at 100% to the greatest extent. I would encourage and support City departments to think of creative ways to attract commerce and residents resulting in increased revenue. Also, in this era of acceptability and desirability to work-from-home, University Heights should recruit a large organization employing a mass of virtual employees to expand our city’s tax base. Finally, University Square is in the process of engaging a condo developer to generate revenue. These ideas alone or combined can enhance city revenue.
What opportunities do you see for regional collaboration between University Heights and other local governments to provide services or facilities?
Organizations and businesses join forces to reduce overhead and duplication of efforts by combining “back room” services. In this spirit, regionalism may be applied to centralize training of city staff, safety services, and administrative personnel. Due to the challenges common to neighboring cities regarding hiring building department staff, coordinating efforts would improve responsiveness and reduced costs. Additionally, many UH Seniors have been reliable taxpayers for decades. Retirees living on fixed incomes have limited options to engage in meaningful social activities. Collaboration with nearby senior services in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights, Community Partnership on Aging, etc. could provide them support to age in place.
What, if any, specific actions would you recommend the city take to maintain the quality of its housing?
Throughout UH, residents point to unkempt homes – many are rentals. Maintaining property values benefits everyone. I propose legislating ordinance(s) and creating a handbook outlining the division of owners’ and renters’ responsibilities, e.g., trash disposal, yard care, exterior work, snow removal, etc., maintenance frequency, and consequences when failing to comply. Input from stakeholders, e.g., city officials, renter’s association, JCU, homeowners, etc., is important to this process. Once in place for rentals, it may be applied to private homes. A corps of high school/college students hired and trained to maintain properties would improve job skills while helping residents. Fee-for-service or subsidies via grants would fund this program.
What role should environmental considerations play in the city’s policies and actions?
Environmental considerations are important to our daily lives. As I introduce myself to residents, trash collection and recycling are frequently mentioned. The current system of backyard trash collection is a city service benefitting UH homeowners who pay one of the highest property taxes in Ohio. Whatever decision is made about how to collect solid waste, consideration of recycling models and incentives must be a priority. Another idea is to award homes with pollinating gardens and rain barrels as “Beautiful Home(s) of the Year,” promoting an effort to bring back pollinators and recycle rainwater – both of which are important to the environment. Finally, protected bike lanes would promote safety while benefitting the environment.