Because he's only 45 years old, it should come as a shock that Tim Tramble has been the executive director of Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. for 16 years. It's the community development corporation in Kinsman, ground zero of Cleveland's "forgotten triangle" on the eastside, and Tramble has devoted his life to its resuscitation.
"Back when I started," he tells Scene, "I didn't even have a computer at my desk."
The choreographer of Kinsman's recovery is short and slim, and he speaks of community development as the stuff of personal vocation.
"There's a lot of blight in this city," he says from Bridgeport Cafe, the neighborhood coffee shop, culinary learning center and fast-food alternative next to BBC on Kinsman Road and East 72nd Street. "But redeveloping these neighborhoods would solve so many of our problems. A lot of the dysfunction would subside. Economic integration is the key, and if we work together and commit ourselves to it, it can happen."
Tramble was a teen parent living on East 89th and Quincy, but that didn't make him put his life on hold. He's been striving to be a model neighbor since he was a young man.
"When I came back home after freshman year of college and saw Cleveland through the eyes of a visitor for the first time, I recognized things that needed changing," he says. "I hadn't seen it before because I was born in it — the tall grass, the litter. When I was a kid, a blighted home was just a club house. An abandoned lot was just a shortcut."
Tramble was a science major, but he knew he wanted to utilize his education to help the community in some capacity. After a job with an environmental engineering firm in Willoughby, he landed a position with Cleveland's health department. There, he performed home inspections to identify lead hazards. After finding a particularly dangerous block, where three children had been poisoned, he worked with Union-Miles Development Corporation to abate as many homes as they could.
"When I saw the rehabilitation of that street," Tramble says, "I knew that this is what I wanted to do."
In terms of upcoming projects, Tramble says he's most excited about a community radio station, 95.9 FM.
"I want it to be the WCPN for the African-American community," Tramble says. "There will be something for everyone."
In addition to his work in the neighborhood, Tramble has been active in the various groups contributing to Cleveland's police reform. First, he was tapped to serve on the selection panel that assembled the Cleveland Community Police Commission and now he serves on the Monitoring Team's committee for community engagement.
"One of the pillars of the consent decree is making sure it's an all-inclusive process," Tramble says. "But a lot of people don't understand who all these groups are. The Police Commission? The Monitor? The DOJ? The city? What are their roles? There are so many pieces and parts to this. And if you're looking in from the outside, it's like a blur. So we try to be educators and give people a Consent Decree 101."
Back when the city was analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of various proposals from firms that wanted to serve as the Monitor, one of the weaknesses of the ultimate winner, the Police Assessment Resource Center — "Matthew Barge is a guru, by the way," says Tramble, of the Monitor himself — was that PARC didn't have many locals on its proposed team.
Enter Tim Tramble. They couldn't have found a better candidate.