Cleveland Heights first elected mayor

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CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – On Tuesday, November 2, Cleveland Heights makes a historic gesture by selecting the first elected mayor in the city’s 100-year history.

The newly elected mayor will replace a city manager form of government in which the manager is appointed by seven unnamed council members who are elected to four-year terms. The title of “mayor” was previously given to the president of the municipal council.


What would you like to know

  • Cleveland Heights to make historic gesture on November 2 and select the city’s first elected mayor
  • Voters will choose between Barbara Danforth, executive coach, and Kahlil Seren, vice president of city council
  • Danforth took over as head of the failing Cleveland YWCA and toppled the organization
  • Seren helped transform the county council from commissioners to elected officials and a county executive

Voters will choose between Barbara Danforth, executive coach, and Kahlil Seren, vice president of city council, to lead the city’s recovery from the pandemic and address an array of challenges common to the towns of Rust Belt – a shrinking tax base, aging infrastructure and increasing crime.

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Danforth finished first in the September 14 primary election with 46.5% of the vote, and Seren received 38.3% of the vote.

Barbara danforth

Danforth was chief prosecutor for Cleveland early in his career and served as assistant attorney general in Iowa. A highlight of her career was when she took over as head of the failing Cleveland YWCA and turned the organization into a model for the nation, she said.

Danforth said his leadership experience likely resonated with primary voters as it will be necessary for a new mayor.

“It’s really going to be important to understand how you restructure the very existence of government, how you transition the culture,” she said, which she did at the YWCA. “I had to change the culture of the staff, who really saw themselves as second-class citizens in the professional world.”

Barbara Danforth (courtesy Barbara Danforth)

One way of change Danforth would bring is to make sure the municipal government serves residents, she said.

“One of the things I’m going to do is help my staff hear legitimate concerns, legitimate complaints, legitimate criticisms, and start making corrections to start answering questions to start helping residents. understand why we made decisions and how decisions are made.

To protect the city’s tree canopy and increase sustainable practices, Danforth said it would quickly set up an environmental commission, made up of residents who are experts in clean energy, green space preservation and recycling.

“Then it’s about having this commission at the decision-making table when we’re doing residential and commercial development, to be at the forefront with developers on how we do things that are eco-friendly. environment, ”she said.

Danforth said she would also address housing issues, find ways to help seniors maintain their homes and assess properties in distress, to determine if they can be renovated or need to be demolished.

Kahlil Seren

Seren is a political advisor for Cuyahoga County Council and vice-chairman of the city council.

A notable achievement in his career was when he helped transition the county council from a three-member council of commissioners to 11 elected representatives and a county executive in 2011, he said.

The positive response from voters in Cleveland Heights to Seren’s candidacy has been twofold, he said. Voters understand that its values ​​of inclusion, advocacy and resident-centered government align with theirs, he said. They also appreciate his experience.

Kahlil Seren (Courtesy Kahlil Seren)

“I have the experience to turn these values ​​into action on behalf of people and I have demonstrated this ability in my professional life and my public service in Cleveland.”

As mayor, Seren said he would continue to flaunt his frank and outspoken approach from the start.

“Being ready to listen, to adjust and to evolve my position as new information becomes available, but you cannot have this conversation in an honest way unless you are prepared to take risks and tell people this. than you believe, ”he said. noted. “I’m absolutely ready to ask someone a question who I think might not like my answer and give them my real answer.” That’s what’s kind of missing in this conversation, it’s that frank and courageous explanation.

With the environment at the top of the list for many residents of Cleveland Heights, Seren said he would continue the city’s partnership with Power a Clean Future Ohio, a nonprofit that works with local leaders on the reduction. carbon emissions and sustainable practices.

“It’s not just about sustainability, it’s about people’s experience and their ability to lead healthy and safe lives,” he said.

It would also treat the zoning code as a living document, he said, capable of encouraging sustainable practices such as permeable walkways, renewable energy sources and, for larger developments, parking minimums. .

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