Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins was one of those Peace Corps late bloomers. He didn't travel abroad with the international organization until he was 30 years old, and he went with his wife.
"Part of it was the travel bug," says Cummins, 53, "but I've always been passionate about social justice and we were very interested in helping people."
Cummins returned home to Cleveland and worked as a volunteer trainer and later with the Old Brooklyn Development Corporation. He saw firsthand how essential development was to Cleveland's neighborhoods, and he recognized that he'd have the most power and influence to steer development as an elected official.
"It seemed like a natural thing to run for office," says Cummins. "The Peace Corps taught me the value of working at a grassroots level, and I've been trying to work and empower residents ever since."
One of the most important aspects of Cummins' position has been his ability to draw attention to issues affecting the community: he has prevented the closure of Hook and Ladder No. 42, opposed an incineration plant, and gathered key players for fundraising in the wake of the Seymour Avenue rescue.
"I was so proud to be part of that effort," says Cummins. "No one wants to politicize it, but it was extremely humbling."
Formerly a banker, Cummins was drawn into the world of politics with Ralph Nader's presidential campaign in 2000. His tenure in Cleveland's current Ward 14 (Old Brooklyn) has been marked by synergy and transparency.
As he campaigns for another term on council, his tagline is, "Let's keep moving forward." He believes he's set up a strong foundation for neighborhood redevelopment and he's hoping to continue building and nurturing partnerships. In particular, he's energized by the rebuilding projects of the MetroHealth campus in his ward.
"It's absolutely huge," says Cummins.
He's one of the more transparent, candid elected officials in Cleveland's history, and a prince of a guy.
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