My wife and I reside in Newburgh Heights with our 3 young daughters. I had a modest childhood and am fortunate to be able to continue to lead the life of a diligent, middle class Ohioan. Although I serve my community in an elected capacity, my political connections have been forged from a grassroots level, learning from and representing people like you and me. If I had to describe myself, I would say I am a pragmatic spitfire; always willing to battle (even against long odds) for my neighbors, community, and those in need of a voice - while also understanding when a compromise can result in positive outcomes.
I understand on an intimate level the needs of our region, the need for real, dynamic, energetic leadership, because I am a member of a proud, and caring community in one of Northeast Ohio’s oldest neighborhoods. I’ve experienced what so many people in Northeast Ohio have over the years. From Newburgh Heights, where I call home, to Solon, to North Olmsted, to Richmond Heights: we’ve all had to adjust to an economy that challenges our ability to keep moving forward. Our economic system has left a region struggling to provide opportunity while also leaving entire neighborhoods depleted as a result of predatory foreclosures and population decline. I see the struggle each and every day.
Soon after my birth in Jamestown, NY my parents moved to Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood. They eventually divorced and I settled in the Finger Lakes region with six of my eight siblings (that’s a story all by itself). Through living in a large family, I learned a great deal about community, compromise, and what it means to support one another. My mother always worked two jobs in an effort to support our family, and my stepdad put in plenty of overtime to support us. We were happy, despite all of the trials and tribulations of a very large family.
By age 16, with my older brother’s departure to the Air Force and my stepdad moving on with his life, it was difficult to maintain focus. I did my best to keep my nose to the books and create a sense of normalcy, often unsuccessfully. During this time, my biological father was sent to prison after an altercation. This was a very bitter pill to swallow, though it taught me a great many lessons.
About a year later, my mother returned to Cleveland. I made the decision to stay in New York. Through the help of a support system that included an uncle, school administrators, guidance counselors, teachers, and the parents of friends, I persevered through high school while working 3rd shift to support myself. Although an unconventional end to my high school career, I ended up graduating toward the top of my class. Even at this age apparently, I had come develop a bit of a reputation as my classmates voted me “Most Radical” student in my graduating class.
In 1992, my friend John Baynes made a spirited bid for New York State Assemblyman. John’s inspiration led me to realize public service was my calling as well, particularly as a Democrat. Although John came up short in that race, I was able to take away lessons about public representation that I hold true today. A devotion to providing voice to those that need it most as chief among the lessons.
The next spring, I made a successful run for the Palmyra-Macedon Board of Education because I believed it was important to give back to the people of the district that had given so much opportunity to me and my family. As one of the youngest people to ever successfully run for a school board in New York, I understood the connection of having quality leadership in positions that have decision-making responsibility and ensuring those that have needs beyond the traditional student were represented. I had lived it. In 1995, with all of my family having migrated back to the Cleveland area or scattered about the nation, I decided to move back to the area I have now called home for the past 20+ years.
During this time, I began my first true career in the staffing & personnel industry, after having a run in a niche genre of the music industry for my first couple of years in Cleveland. Eventually, toward the end of my career in the personnel industry, I rose to being the number one producer for my firm and leading the manufacturing team. This was time well spent as it taught me the intricate details of how various industries work, as well as how people fit into our economy from the top down.
My 20’s also marked two setbacks that one can only attribute to inexperience and immaturity - various financial struggles and a DUI. In 2005, as a result of a failed relationship, with the advice of several financial experts, and legal counsel, I filed bankruptcy. Having successfully moved forward from it, including paying off substantial amounts of that debt filing after the fact, I did learn valuable lessons as well as the ability to view the hardships of others through a far more compassionate lens.
By 2005, I had lived in Newburgh Heights for nearly 8 years. I quickly set down roots and ran unsuccessfully for State Representative in the 2004 primary. However, the late Mayor of Newburgh Heights, Paul Ruggles, took notice of my dedication and asked me to run for Council. In 2005, I defeated 4 incumbents by receiving the most votes for an at-large seat. While on Council, I began insisting on planning and accountability by the elected officials of the community to our constituents in order to lay a foundation for long-term success. Today, we are experiencing the positive results of that commitment.
Just two years later, the voters of Newburgh Heights rewarded my hard work and effort as a Councilman by electing me to the Clerk-Treasurer position, outmaneuvering a 12-year incumbent. The Clerk-Treasurer is the elected equivalent of a Fiscal Officer or Finance Director, responsible for properly forecasting and accounting for the annual budget. Despite a daunting economy and overwhelming economic challenges, I led Council to a balanced budget and avoided what looked like a certain State Auditor takeover of our municipality after the economy crashed during the Great Recession.
In 2010, Cuyahoga Heights elected a new Clerk and he turned to me for the expertise I demonstrated managing challenging budgets in Newburgh Heights. After a few months as a consultant, the Village of Cuyahoga Heights hired me to run the day to day operations of the finance department, a capacity I served in for 6 years.
Since 2012, I’ve served as Mayor of Newburgh Heights. We have made tremendous strides as a community and positioned ourselves well for the future. Newburgh Heights has embarked on a robust housing revitalization campaign, passed the most generous parental leave benefit policy in America, a Student Loan Assistance Program, begun diversifying our police force, equipped each officer with a body camera, each cruiser with a dash camera, and constructed brand new, modern municipal facilities. The best is yet to come as we continue to work on educational opportunity, economic development corridors, and long-term sustainability for growth and prosperity.
Throughout my time as a public servant I’ve been an active member of the community. I am a member of the Sons of the American Legion Post 627, the Kiwanis Club of South East Cleveland, as well as having been a volunteer fast pitch softball coach. I’ve fought for animal rights as a member of the Humane Society and the ASPCA, and have adopted dogs and cats as rescues. Politically, I’m a member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party and an elected member of the County Party Executive Committee. Additionally, I’m a sustaining member of Cleveland Stonewall Democrats, the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus, former member of the Cuyahoga County Young Democrats, and have actively worked to elect Democrats to office for 25 years.
I continue plugging away, when time allows, toward completing my B.A. in Humanities from Ursuline College. If all goes well, I’ll be able to complete my final few classes soon.