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Who's joining Akron Mayor-elect Shammas Malik's administration?

Shammas Malik surrounded by supporters
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron mayoral candidate Shammas Malik surrounded by supporters at his election night watch party at the John S. Knight Center.

Akron Mayor-elect Shammas Malik has filled several cabinet positions and other roles in his administration in the weeks leading up to his inauguration.

A relative newcomer to Akron politics, Malik's cabinet combines old and new faces to city government. He'll be succeeding Mayor Dan Horrigan who took office in 2016 on Jan. 1.

Brittany Grimes Zaehringer has been tapped to serve as chief of staff, and Nanette Pitt has been appointed chief of strategy, forming the administration's executive leadership team, according to a press release from Malik's transition team. Zaehringer will be responsible for planning and organizing the day-to-day operations of the mayor's office, while Pitt will lead the implementation of strategic initiatives.

Zaehringer brings experience in higher education, nonprofits and the public sector. A native of Akron, she is currently the senior vice president for operations and strategic initiatives at Syracuse University.

Pitt has served as a senior ninister for First Congregational Church of Akron, and she serves on the Akron Civil Rights Commission, Summa Health Pride Clinic Leadership Council and Grace House Spiritual Advisory Board.

Current Director of Public Service Chris Ludle, Director of Finance Steve Fricker, Director of Labor Relations Frank Williams, Deputy Service Directors Eufrancia Lash and James Aitken and Deputy Director of Finance Mike Wheeler will stay on during Malik's administration, according to a press release.

“I have worked with Chris Ludle, Steve Fricker and Frank Williams for many years as a city lawyer and as a city councilperson," Malik said in a statement. “The experience, dedication to service, and deep care that these men have for the city of Akron and our employees will be invaluable to my administration. Eufrancia Lash, Jim Aitken and Mike Wheeler also bring a depth of experience to these roles and to my administration that will provide dependability and reliability for our city."

Under Ludle's leadership, the city has tackled dozens of sewer consent decree projects, paved hundreds of roads, revamped the city's snow and ice response plan and managed the city's watershed and water infrastructure network.

Fricker has helped grow the city's general fund cash balance from $5 million in 2015 to more than $25 million in 2023.

Williams has worked in public service for more than 30 years and has experience in leadership, community relations, collective bargaining and negotiation. Three of Akron's four bargaining unions will be up for new contracts in 2024.

Lash joined the mayor's cabinet in 2019 as deputy director of public service and neighborhood assistance.

Aitken has worked for the city since 1986, beginning as a sewer maintenance worker and climbing the ranks to become sewer superintendent. He managed day to day operations of the Ohio Canal Interceptor Tunnel, which was completed in 2020.

Wheeler has more than a decade of experience in the city's audit and budget division.

Also staying on is Youth Opportunity Strategist Denico Buckley-Knight, according to a press release. Richelle Wardell is joining the administration as the education and health strategist, and Emma Lieberth Osborn has been tapped to fill the role of policy and grants strategist.

Buckley-Knight has focused his time with the city on coordinating violence reduction programs, including implementing the city's Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Plan.

Wardell previously was the program officer for the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Canton, where she led early childhood and education strategies. She has also served as the director of education at the United Way of Summit County and as the early childhood initiative manager at the Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority.

Lieberth Osborn has worked for 15 years in government relations at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the National League of Cities and most recently the United Way of Summit and Medina.

The final round of cabinet members includes newly hired Esther Thomas as director of diversity, equity and inclusion and Casey Shevlin as director of sustainability and resiliency, as well as Chief Communications Officer Stephanie Marsh, who will be staying on from Horrigan's administration, according to a press release from the city.

Thomas has served as director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the Summit County Sheriff's Office and the Summit County Juvenile Court. She has also chaired the Akron Civil Rights Commission for three years.

Shevlin will be the first director of sustainability and resiliency, responsible for environmental issues in the city. She most recently served as the senior sustainability analyst for FirstEnergy. She also serves on the board of the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Marsh has served on the mayor's communications team since 2019, becoming chief communications officer in 2022.

Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.