Danny William's County Council Observer Interview

Danny Williams, 56, Democrat. I have lived at 2219 Elandon Drive, Cleveland Hts., OH 44106 for the last 17 years. I earn my living as Executive Director of The Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland, one of the oldest free clinics in the country and by far the largest in Ohio. The Free Clinic provides high quality medical, dental, mental health, substance abuse and HIV/AIDS services free of charge to over 10,000 people every year, with a paid staff of 53 and more than 300 medical and lay volunteers.

1. Describe for us the duties of a member of the County Council.

The powers and duties of the County Council are specifically prescribed in Sec. 3.09 of the Cuyahoga County Charter.  In summary, they include the legislative authority for the County in the following areas: 1) appointment of any staff needed for the efficient operation of the Council; 2) establishment of procedures for contracting; 3) adoption of budgets; 4) setting of personal bonding requirements; 5) acquisition, construction, maintenance, etc. of property and public improvements; 6) creation of intergovernmental cooperation agreements; 7) levying of assessments for public improvements; 8) obtaining of information from County employees; 9) establishment of programs to provide financial aid for post-secondary education; and 10) the establishment of a code of ethics. To that, I would add, listening to and following the will of the people.

2. Why do you want to serve on the County Council?

Serving on County Council is a logical extension for me of two decades of public service. During my working career, I have been a local small business owner, high level public administrator, and award-winning nonprofit executive. I left law practice 20 years ago because I felt a strong urge toward public service. I believe the perspectives I have gained from these varied experiences are precisely what is needed in this new government structure.

I have served as Executive Director of the Free Medical Clinic of Greater Cleveland since 12/06. In this capacity, I see first-hand the impact of a County system that is broken. Our fragmented governmental structure has not spurred the economic growth needed to stem our loss of population and to build our tax base. Consequently, our citizens have lost the capacity to support their basic health, housing and other family needs. At the same time, those safety net institutions that have historically addressed these gaps have been chronically underfunded and their critical value underestimated. I believe I can bring a mature, creative and balanced approach to solving our County’s problems.

3. What qualifications do you bring that make you the most qualified?

As a life-long resident who, with my wife of 30 years, raised two children in the District, I understand the challenges facing families that are struggling to lead productive lives. My educational background includes an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Princeton, law degree from the U. of Michigan, and Masters degree from the Weatherhead School of Management at CWRU. I served as Law Director in Mayor Michael White’s administration and as Cuyahoga County Administrator. Over the last 15 years I have served in executive capacities at nonprofits focused on key health and human service issues.

4. What will you do in your first weeks? Please describe in detail, to give our readers an idea of what this position will actually be like.

The first order of business will be to establish the leadership ranks within the Council. The Charter requires that a President and V.P. be elected on the first business day of each year. In addition, we will need to determine our committee structure and the need for any administrative staffing. Also, if not resolved prior to our seating, issues like where we will meet and what office space we will require will all need to be determined. After these basic matters are addressed, I will turn my attention to the recommendations developed by the various transition teams that have been studying County functioning over the last 6 months to determine how we should prioritize our work. Finally, I will seek out an efficient process for meeting with as many of the mayors and council leaders in the county as possible to start to understand their respective needs and concerns.

5. How, specifically, will we know that you are doing a good job?

One measure will be the professionalism with which we conduct of the County’s business. Are we efficient? Are we transparent? Are we creative? Are we civil toward one another? A second measure will be how successful we are in freeing up resources to use for economic development and other community priorities through the development of appropriate cooperation agreements. Longer term, we will have done a good job if can you see gradual improvement across a range of community indicators, including unemployment, educational attainment, population growth, new business start-ups, and the “greening” of our environment, among other criteria.

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Volume 3, Issue 10, Posted 9:23 AM, 09.04.2010