Wanted: an excellent mayor for Cleveland Heights

Thinking of running for mayor of Cleveland Heights? The 2021 general election is still a year off; but if that seems like a long time, consider this: petitioning starts in a little over four months. You will have from March 18 to June 16, 2021, to gather the 222 valid signatures required to get on the ballot. If there are three or more candidates, you will run in a non-partisan primary election on Sept. 14. If you survive the first round of voting, you will face a single opponent on Nov. 2.

Last month, three people who successfully ran for mayor of other cities participated in a forum sponsored by Citizens for an Elected Mayor (CEM) and CH City Council Member Melody Hart. The online audience of about 100 heard from mayors Annette Blackwell of Maple Heights, Michael Dylan Brennan of University Heights, and Georgine Welo of South Euclid about what it takes to lead an inner-ring suburb during difficult times. [The forum can be viewed on YouTube, via a link at www.citizensforanelectedmayor.com.]

Listening to them got us thinking. What knowledge, skills and qualities are essential in the person who will lead our city into its second century?

We need a mayor with a vision for the city, who will inspire council members, staff and especially residents—from Fairmount Boulevard to Noble Road—to work together to realize that vision.

We need a mayor who is honest, accountable and practical, whose idealism is tempered by an understanding of financial constraints and human limitations.

This is no job for an introvert. We need a mayor who truly enjoys ribbon-cuttings, block parties, forums, festivals, sports events and other occasions that bring together residential and business communities within and across neighborhoods.

We need a mayor who listens. While most staff members go home at 5 p.m., the mayor must be more accessible, willing to give up private time to be available to residents and community leaders.

We need a mayor with the self-confidence to make tough decisions, and the humility to ask for help. Welo, Blackwell and Brennan stressed the importance of talking to other mayors, of seeking their advice and collaboration. Welo also noted that her transition team interviewed every single South Euclid employee, eliciting their opinions and concerns.

We need a mayor who can put aside desire for power, attention, or approval to serve the needs of the city—to be, as Welo pointed out, a public servant in the truest sense of the term.

While our city administrator will oversee daily operations, we need a mayor with management experience. A background in government, nonprofit organization, business or education can provide transferable skills.

All three panelists cited financial acumen, with the assistance of, as Brennan put it, “a great finance department,” as indispensable to running a city. The best leaders surround themselves with people whose strengths compliment their own and compensate for their weaknesses. Nobody is good at everything.

Above all, we need a mayor who will not only tackle major problems, but do so with passion, vision and commitment. Blackwell recalled that, when Maple Heights seemed to be declining, she considered moving. What stopped her was the thought, “But what about the other 23,000 people who live here? They deserve better.” She decided to stay and run for mayor.

Take a long look inside. Do you have what this job requires? Or consider your circle of neighbors, friends, family members, and people you know through organizations or congregations. If you see these traits and abilities in someone, tell them so; encourage them to step up.

Time is short. Cleveland Heights is depending on you.

Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg

Deborah Van Kleef and Carla Rautenberg are longtime residents of Cleveland Heights. Contact them at heightsdemocracy@gmail.com.

Read More on Heights of Democracy
Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 6:16 PM, 11.01.2020