Justin Bibb sworn in as Cleveland's new mayor

Municipal Judge Michael Nelson administers the oath of office to Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb as Bibb's mother, Charlene Nichols, holds the Bible.
Municipal Judge Michael Nelson administers the oath of office to Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb as Bibb's mother, Charlene Nichols, holds the Bible. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
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Justin Morris Bibb was sworn in as mayor of Cleveland four minutes after midnight Monday in a small public library branch near his grandmother’s Southeast Side home.

Bibb takes office as a new wave of the coronavirus washes over one of the nation’s poorest cities. At 34, he is Cleveland’s second-youngest mayor, having bested older and more seasoned opponents in last year’s election.

Municipal Judge Michael Nelson administered the oath of office to Bibb at the East 131st Street Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. Bibb’s mother, Charlene Nichols, held the Bible. Other relatives and close supporters joined him for the small ceremony.

The new mayor described this library branch as a “refuge” to him when he was 10 years old, living with his mother and grandmother on Dove Avenue.

“I take this oath to make sure that every young child, the next Justins and Jasmines of the world, will have a good library to go to and a good public school to go to, so that they can achieve their God-given potential,” Bibb said. “And I take this oath to make sure that we, we in Cleveland, can show America what governing can look like for the future.”

Democracy is at stake in America, the mayor said.

“D.C. is broken,” he said. “Change is not coming from Washington any time soon. It’s not. It’s going to come from cities like Cleveland, Boston, Tulsa and New York.”

Bibb’s first act as mayor was to swear in his selection to head the city’s law department, Mark Griffin. Other cabinet members will be sworn in later Monday morning.

Although Bibb recited his oath of office Monday, the new mantle of mayoral responsibility landed on his shoulders two days earlier. On New Year’s Eve, a carjacker fatally shot an off-duty police officer on the West Side, police said.

Bibb and police leaders spoke with media Friday night outside Fairview Hospital, where the officer, 25-year-old Shane Bartek, was pronounced dead. Authorities have charged Tamara McLoyd, 18, with aggravated murder in the case.  

The new mayor now faces the task of making good on his campaign pledge to modernize City Hall and attune it more sharply to residents’ needs.

“It’s my commitment and pledge, as your mayor, to do the hard work to make sure that we fight violent crime that has plagued our city for too long,” Bibb said. “I take that oath to make sure that we have a truly modern and responsive city government that’s going to support all of our neighborhoods, from West Park to Mount Pleasant.”

Bibb will lead a city that has seen both decay and sprouts of new growth in the dozen years since the financial crash. He must implement Issue 24, a voter-passed police oversight measure, while contending with a recent surge in homicides.

He also inherits outgoing Mayor Frank Jackson’s nearly decade-old transformation plan for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. The schools have faced particular trials during the pandemic, with many students reported absent.

To confront these challenges and others, the incoming Bibb administration will wield a unique weapon: the better part of $511 million in federal COVID-19 stimulus funds.

Cleveland City Council approved Jackson’s broad priorities for the first half of the money. Under Bibb’s leadership, the city will receive the second half – about $255 million – later this year.

An early task for the new mayor is filling out his cabinet.

Several confidantes on the campaign will join Bibb inside City Hall. Campaign manager Ryan Puente will become Bibb’s chief government affairs officer. Bradford Davy, a friend and the manager of the transition, will serve as chief strategy officer.

Bibb has also hired Elise Hara Auvil, a former human resources director for Cuyahoga County and the city of Westlake, as his chief administrative officer. Auvil and Davy will split the functions of chief of staff.

Campaign advisor Angela Shute-Woodson will become a senior advisor on community and governmental affairs. Jessica Trivisonno, a campaign supporter and assistant transition manager, will lead the mayor’s strategy on the West Side Market.

The new administration has yet to name a police chief to replace Calvin Williams, who left the job with Jackson’s exit. Wayne Drummond, one of Williams’ top deputies, will serve as interim chief of police.

Other positions yet to be named include finance director, chief operating officer and the directors of economic development, community development and building and housing.

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