Akron's presumptive next mayor Shammas Malik taps local leaders, former city officials for transition team
Akron’s presumed next mayor Shammas Malik has tapped several community leaders - as well as familiar faces in city government - to serve on his transition team in the months ahead of taking office Jan. 1.
Malik introduced the team at a press conference Thursday.
“With no challengers in the fall on the ballot right now … we’re the presumptive next administration for the city,” Malik said. “We have a tremendous opportunity, and really, the luxury of time. It’s a really unusual circumstance to have seven months to build out a transition.”
Malik is trying to be intentional with his preparations over the next seven months, he added.
“Strategy, communication, staffing, and culture – these are going to four things we focus on throughout the transition process, so that on January first we are ready to hit the ground running and make real change,” Malik said.
Malik named four transition co-chairs whom will provide him with formal advice in the coming months. They are serving on a volunteer basis and acting outside of their respective positions in various fields.
The co-chairs are Tracy Carter, director of government relations at Summa Health System; Jeremy Lile, executive director of Heart to Heart Leadership; Robert DeJournett, pastor of St. Ashworth Temple Church of God in Christ and founder of DeJournett Consulting, and Tony O’Leary, former executive director of Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority, former city planning director and a former deputy mayor for administration.
“These four leaders are folks that I have tremendous immense respect and appreciation for, people who have given me advice and counsel throughout the campaign and even before then,” Malik said.
St. Ashworth Temple Church of God in Christ is the home church of Pamela Walker, mother of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man fatally shot by Akron police last year. Pastor DeJournett has been at the forefront of calls for justice in the city.
DeJournett says he's excited to help uplift Akron’s underserved communities during this transition, he said.
“From our small minority businesses, to our faith community, to even those who just have no titles at all, get a chance to hear their voices and be included with what’s gonna happen with this transition,” DeJournett said.
Over the next seven months, Malik said one of his top priorities is to continue gathering feedback from citizens about their priorities for Akron’s future.
Carter says she's excited to help Malik because he shares her values and is committed to engaging residents, she said.
“Our presumptive mayor has been consistent in saying change will come when individuals and businesses from every part of Akron – the east, the west, the south, the central and north communities – feel that they have a voice in shaping Akron’s future,” Carter said.
Malik’s team also unveiled a new website, where citizens can subscribe to an email list to get updates on the transition and write in their ideas about the direction they’d like for the city.
“There’s a place that people can share ideas and thoughts. We also have contact information for our team … and folks can reach out to me. I’m very accessible as well,” Malik said.
Malik also plans to continue hosting “Akron Speaks” community discussions where residents can share thoughts in-person, he said.
In addition to the co-chairs, three people who worked on Malik’s mayoral campaign will now work for the transition team.
Maria Duvuvuei, Malik’s campaign manager, will serve as transition strategic director; Julie Caruso, deputy campaign manager, was named transition operations director, and Arell Tee, the campaign’s organizing director, will now serve as transition deputy director.
Ellen Lander-Nischt, who formerly served as press secretary under Mayor Dan Horrigan, is joining the team as strategic advisor.
Malik won the Democratic primary with 43% of the vote, according to unofficial election results from the Summit County Board of Elections. Malik is expected to win the general election in November since there is no Republican or independent challenger on the ballot.
Malik also said that he has met with current mayor Dan Horrigan and they will both work to ensure the transition between administrations is a smooth process.
"I worked for Mayor Horrigan. I'm tremendously appreciative of the service that he has given our city," Malik said. "We have one mayor at a time in this city, and so we are beginning this process, but we're going to do it intentionally and thoughtfully."