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Cleveland Mayor-elect Justin Bibb begins laying the groundwork for a transition

Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
Mayor-elect Justin Bibb will soon announce his transition leadership team as he prepares to take office next year. Above, Bibb walks into the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to vote with his grandmother.

Mayor-elect Justin Bibb will shed more light next week on how he’s building a transition team to take the reins at Cleveland City Hall, he told Ideastream Public Media in an interview Thursday.

The announcements will include a transition manager and community co-chairs, he said.

Next, his team will get to work filling top positions, including law director, police chief and chief operating officer. Bibb said he plans to hire a diverse cabinet that includes people who have worked in city government and those with private sector and nonprofit experience.

“It's going to be critical that our cabinet is diverse, that has a diverse set of professional and life experiences,” Bibb said. “And I want to have a cabinet that is smart as heck to tackle some of these issues we have ahead of us.”

The mayor-elect will also need to raise money to staff a transition team and commission studies on the state of Cleveland’s municipal government, he said.

“I talked all throughout the campaign about doing a top-down review of every department, and then really doing a deep dive on public safety is going to be critical,” Bibb said. “And so we want to make sure we have all the resources we need to really build a thoughtful, prudent, effective transition to give us a good foundation going into the new administration in January.”

That public safety review will involve understanding police officers’ needs and hearing what the community wants, Bibb said. In his first 100 days, he said, he plans to develop a public safety plan he describes as “community-oriented and bottom-up.”   

Once Bibb takes office, he will have to carry out the changes in police discipline outlined in Issue 24, which passed by a large margin on Tuesday. He said he wants the conversation about implementing the charter amendment to include his police chief and safety director, the police union and community and religious leaders.

The mayor-elect said he plans to listen to police command staff and the rank and file, saying he would advocate for officers’ pay and equipment needs.

“My whole goal is to create a police department that my father would be proud of,” said Bibb, whose late father was a police officer and firefighter in Cleveland Heights. “And that, end of the day, that's a department that respects our residents, that fights crime, that's accountable and getting back to the old motto of we are there to protect and serve.”

Bibb’s administration will be in charge of directing half of Cleveland’s $511 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars. Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration and the current city council hold the purse strings on the first half, although council members have yet to approve Jackson’s priorities.

The clock is running out for the current regime, with Bibb and newly elected council members set to be sworn in two months from now.

“We only have one mayor at a time,” he said. “We only have one council at a time. So it's important that we allow the existing government to make decisions they want [about ARPA]. And I'll leave it up to them to make that call. But if the money is not spent, then I intend to execute my vision as a new mayor.”

Bibb spoke with Ideastream Public Media on Thursday morning for the final episode of the podcast “After Jackson: Cleveland’s Next Mayor.”

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.