As Chris Ronayne was ceremoniously sworn in as Cuyahoga County executive last weekend, his former employer announced the next person to take his seat.
Kate Borders, director of the Downtown Tempe Authority in Arizona, will become the president of University Circle, Inc., and start in June. She'll take over for Gary Hanson, who has been interim director since Ronayne departed to run for county office in 2021.
“My love of community and place management was born through my career experiences, for which I'm incredibly grateful," Borders said in a press release. "This position melds the two, and it’s an honor to have been selected as UCI's next leader.” (Borders did not respond to an email or call for comment.)
With some two decades of experience in city-revitalization nonprofits, Borders seems like she's well-fit for managing University Circle.
Before helming Tempe's downtown advocacy organization, Borders spent years as an itinerant nonprofit guru, shifting from management groups in Milwaukee and Fresco, California, along with a post as chief executive of the Peoria Art Guild in Peoria, Illinois.
In Tempe, as in her seven years in Milwaukee, Borders championed a residential boom in the downtown core while attempting to ensure equity for the less fortunate.
In 2016, two years into her post at Downtown Tempe, Borders spearheaded a program to address complaints by businesses owners about outside panhandlers by redirecting parking meter cash—and small business donations—into the pockets of the homeless.
"As a leader, I'm empathetic and nurturing but hold people accountable," Borders wrote on her LinkedIn profile. "I appreciate art, culture and good design."
It's too early to tell how Borders will bolster University Circle's bifurcated culture. In recent years, millions of dollars have surged in nearby Wade Park institutions—like the Museum of Natural History's $150 million renovation, or the 7-acre park along Doan Brook— but surrounding neighborhoods continue to suffer.
Its private police force had drawn scrutiny both for the disparities in traffic stops and tickets for minority drivers — In 2020, ProPublica published an investigation into University Circle police, finding that nearly 90 percent of the 1,965 drivers its two-dozen officers had pulled over and cited were Black — and following reports that citizen complaints about alleged police misconduct are rarely addressed.
Borders is also chair of the International Downtown Association, a center city booster group that spans eight countries. Border also spent three years studying piano performance at Converse University in South Carolina.
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