Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman, who will soon vacate his council seat to take over the nonprofit Global Cleveland, has appointed 27-year-old Kerry McCormack to replace him.
McCormack, who currently works as Ohio City Inc.'s director of community affairs, is a Cleveland native who speaks Spanish fluently and who managed his father Tim McCormack's campaign when he unsuccessfully ran for Cuyahoga County Executive in 2011. Tim McCormack is an appeals judge
who served two terms as a Cuyahoga County Commissioner.
Cleveland City Council will vote on the appointment on April 4. And that vote, though not a guarantee, is essentially a formality. Cimperman told Scene
by phone that only once in the history of city council has a nominee not been approved.
Benny Bonano nominated Jay Westbrook back in 1979, but Council President George Forbes had other ideas. Forbes muscled in his own replacement, but it backfired: Westbrook went on to win the seat later that year.
Per the City Charter, no special election is required to fill the seat because there are fewer than two years remaining in Cimperman's term. If approved, McCormack will serve through Dec. 31, 2017, and then run for re-election (if he so chooses).
OCI's Executive Director Tom McNair called losing McCormack a "huge blow" to the organization. McNair said that what made McCormack a great community organizer will also make him a great councilman: passion for the community, intelligence, and strong communication skills.
"Over the past three years, he has attended nearly 300 community meetings, all of which take place outside of normal work hours," McNair wrote Scene
in an email, responding to questions about McCormack's qualifications. "He works tirelessly at this because he truly cares about making the neighborhood and the city a better place. He was born and raised in the City. It’s in his DNA."
Like Cimperman himself, McCormack hails from the east side. He's a Collinwood kid who attended VASJ high school (class of '06) and then went on to Miami University ('10). He was a field organizer for the Ohio Democratic Party before working on his dad's campaign. He is currently a homeowner in Ohio City.
When asked about his appointment, McCormack told Scene
that he really wouldn't have much to say until April 4, but that he was "truly honored to be entrusted" with the stewardship of Ward 3, a ward which includes Ohio City, Tremont, The Flats, Downtown, and slivers of Clark-Fulton and Stockyards.
"Joe [Cimperman] has an incredible legacy and I’m excited to work to build off of it," he wrote Scene
in an email.
He was also quoted by Cleveland.com, in true Cimperman fashion, saying that he "get[s] tingles" when good things happen to Cleveland.
Cimperman said that what made McCormack stand out to him were both his thoughtfulness and compassion with residents and his energy (in part, a function of his youth). Cimperman reiterated that he was seeking a candidate with a "heart of service." During the interview process, he had candidates respond to a day's worth of emails so they could experience the tedious breadth of a councilperson's responsibility.
"It's not all ribbon cuttings at the Hilton," Cimperman said. "The work of councilpeople is in inches and feet — address by address, storefront by storefront — and done thoughtfully every day, it's work that can create change. Kerry gets that."
Cimperman cited one recent example where McCormack helped a Puerto Rican family on the near west side through the permitting process of owning chickens. Due to language barriers, they didn't realize they were legally allowed to have chickens, but not roosters.
"He was patient and compassionate and helped them understand the process," Cimperman said, "and now he gets invited over for dominoes and rice."
Though some might question McCormack's youth — he'll be the youngest member on city council by a substantial margin — Cimperman pointed out that he was slightly younger than McCormack is now when he first arrived on council and that, to a great degree, having time and energy is critical in one's first couple of years on the job.
"Even though he's young, he's got maturity and experience in the community under his belt," Cimperman said. "And you need someone who can work nonstop."