Citing an urgent need for a new generation of leaders at City Hall, 33-year-old nonprofit executive Justin Bibb formally launched his 2021 Cleveland Mayoral campaign Tuesday afternoon.
“From the streets to the boardroom, I’ll never stop fighting for Cleveland," Bibb said in his announcement materials. "I love this city and I believe we have the potential to become a model of revival and possibility. We have all the right assets to revitalize our city and we are uniquely positioned to lead America’s economic recovery.”
Bibb was born and raised in Cleveland's Mt. Pleasant neighborhood and holds graduate degrees in law and business from Case Western Reserve University. He has been a corporate and nonprofit professional for at least the past decade, working for both Gallup and KeyBank. He now manages a portfolio of "cutting-edge" projects for the Tacoma, Washington-based nonprofit Urbanova, which attempts to find smart city solutions in midsize cities nationwide. He recently founded the nonprofit Cleveland Can't Wait, which focuses on building opportunities in underserved neighborhoods.
With a professional background "at the intersection of government, business and the nonprofit sector," Bibb is billing himself as a "bold, dynamic and visionary leader" who can bring both his professional and lived experiences to bear on city government. He says he will deploy new strategies and technologies "to make neighborhoods safer, communities healthier and [the] economy stronger."
In a virtual launch Tuesday, he outlined a number of key campaign issues including public safety, (more officers on the streets, better enforcement of Consent Decree, new policing models); education (accelerating the pace of change at CMSD by investing in teachers and modernizing curricula); and economic development, (equitable economic policies centered on new jobs and higher wages).
He highlighted what he called a "back to basics" agenda for City Hall, saying that he wanted to deliver services more efficiently and make conducting business with the city easier. He said he wants to elevate residents' voices, making "democracy building" more than an election-year exercise.
Throughout his career, Bibb said he'd had one primary focus: bringing people together. And he said as Mayor he would work to convene Clevelanders "from the grassroots to the grass tops."
"The next mayor must be unifier in chief, with the energy and insight to do things differently," he said.
Bibb will be among several high-profile mayoral candidates in 2021. And despite his lack of experience in elected office, he has already raised significant funds which makes him one of the race's early heavy hitters. Scene reported last month that only three months after forming an exploratory committee, Bibb had raised more than $180,000 from local and non-local contributors.
Bibb clearly has the resources to produce professional campaign materials. And he also has a well-regarded political operative at his side. Ryan Puente, who recently stepped down as the Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, where he was widely respected for his quiet, organized leadership, will manage Bibb's campaign.
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Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...