Jim O'Bryan: Lakewood's Unconventional Mayoral Hopeful

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You may recall a September story that mentioned Lakewood’s scramble to address its line of mayoral succession in the event that Ed FitzGerald won the race to be Cuyahoga’s first county executive.

The wee problem: Nobody else wanted the Lakewood post.

Now that FitzGerald has locked up the county job beginning in January, Lakewood has stepped up its hunt to fill his chair. Council President Kevin Butler put out the call for applicants before the election, but his plea yielded only a lackluster cast of unknowns.

A second call yielded a couple of new entries this week.

One is just the kind of guy you might expect to see in the mayor’s chair in a city of 50,000 people: Mike Summers, a Lakewood councilman, former school board member, and businessman. He says he had long considered serving the city, but wasn’t sure whether he could afford to step away from his family-owned rubber company.

The other candidate is somewhat more … unconventional: Local hippie and community newspaper magnate Jim O’Bryan. The founder of the Lakewood Observer (which has spun-off sister papers in Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Collinwood, and Parma, with additional plans for global newspaper domination) is a collector of funny little cars that fit him almost like clothing. He’s also a fixture at Lakewood coffee shops.

Other candidates expressed their interest via old-fashioned cover letters and résumés; O’Bryan applied by submitting a campaign poster promising “New Ideas” and “Respect and Love for Community.”

“All my peeps said, ‘That makes you sound like a Jesus freak,’” says O’Bryan, quite possibly Northeast Ohio’s first mayoral candidate to have peeps.

But this freak is all business: He says he’s talked to the city’s four most recent mayors about wanting the job and adds, “I’m not doing this half-heartedly or as a joke.”

The decision rests with Lakewood City Council, which plans to deliver its punch line before Thanksgiving.

“I will say unequivocally Mike Summers is the front runner,” says Butler. The new appointee will serve until the elections of fall 2011.

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