By Bruce Checefsky
For Cleveland mayoral candidate Justin Bibb, leadership is all about relationships. The 34-year old son of a social worker and first responder advanced from the primary to the general election November 2 along with City Council president Kevin Kelley in the first mayoral election without an incumbent on the ballot in Cleveland since 2001.
The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections reported only 16.2% of eligible voters cast their ballots in the primary. Bibb received 27% of the total votes cast with his strongest support coming from Downtown and on the Near West Side (Ward 3, Ward 14, and Ward 15), while also getting votes from Shaker Square and West Park. Kelley received 19% of the votes winning his home base of Ward 13 and Ward 17 along with a moderate showing in Collinwood, St Clair-Superior, Glenville, Euclid Park and Nottingham Village (Ward 8 and Ward 10).
Bibb, originally from the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, placed second behind Zak Reed in much of southeast Cleveland including the neighborhoods of Mt. Pleasant, Lee-Harvard, Lee-Seville, Union-Miles and Mill Creek Falls.
Dennis Kucinich, who was elected as the country’s youngest mayor in 1977, placed third behind Bibb and Kelley with 17% of the total votes. The remaining votes were split between Zack Reed, Basheer Jones and Sandra Williams. Political outsider and attorney from West Park Ross DiBello eked out 1.6% of the votes.
In a recent phone interview, Bibb said if elected mayor he intends to build an administrative cabinet that shares his values and vision for the city. “Changing management is not easy. The biggest thing I need to do as mayor is to create systems internally where front line city employees and middle level managers, and commissioners along with cabinet level directors, have a continuous feedback loop between my office and what’s happening in our departments.”
Recognizing a need for accountability, Bibb plans to reconstitute the Mayor’s office of Data and Performance Management (Quality Control and Performance Management) and implement a data-tracking and management tool called CitiStat to manage all city programs and services. This program enables the mayor’s office to monitor overtime and sick leave in real-time, providing ammunition to crack down on chronic absenteeism. He has to trust city employees to do their best, Bibb said. But when it comes to earning his trust, he takes his mother’s advice.
“As my mother would say, well done is better than well said. I have to look at someone’s past body of work as the best indicator of who I can trust.”
Negotiating on behalf of the city is a collective process, Bibb said. Recognizing that there are many different paths to a goal, using up-to-date information and data, and showing up in good faith to solve the problem is paramount to a successful outcome.
“The best leaders have the emotional intelligence to delegate and give people the autonomy to do their jobs. When you create an environment where people can think big and bold, to take smart risks, that’s the best culture for innovation to foster and thrive.”
For Bibb, a modern and responsive city hall is an important policy reform. He wants the police to show up on time and to respect the constitutional rights of residents. High quality public education and good positioning for job creation are fundamental rights for every resident. A positive public presence of the mayor beyond the election cycle will raise Cleveland’s confidence, according to him, and encourage residents to participate in the governing process.