Conversation with Councilman Kerry McCormack

This spring, SCA’s Josh Rosen connected with Councilman Kerry McCormack, who represents Cleveland’s 3rd Ward.

The Ward, which is home to Tremont as well as Downtown, Ohio City, and the Stockyards, is one of the city’s most diverse. Read the full conversation below, which spanned topics from ways for citizens to support the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to the American Recovery Act to Cleveland’s upcoming Mayoral election.


Q: When you started on City Council, you were one of the youngest members. How long did it take for you to feel in your gut like you belonged? And from this experience, what advice would you have for others who are new to a job or challenge and surrounded by others with more experience?


A: I was 27 years old when I joined Cleveland City Council. For the first year or so, before people really knew me, I could tell when I was in meetings people would try to sideline me or muscle me out of a conversation or decision. I committed from day one that I would have to hold my own in these situations so that I could be a strong representative for my Ward. This meant various uncomfortable situations where I had to assert myself in clear ways. If you let people run you over, they will sense weakness and you’ll lose the ability to effectively do your job. At the end of the day, my residents expect me to be a strong advocate.


Q: Many of our residents don't have school aged children but very much want to see the Cleveland Metropolitan School District succeed. What can we do to help support the district?


A: First we need to more heavily invest in our children and families. We can’t expect the district to mend the many disadvantages that our kids come to school with. We’ve got to focus on making sure our kids are healthy, happy and taken care of before they hit the school door in the morning. From a global perspective, the district has seen a lot of success with its real world partnerships (Metro Health, Cleveland State, Manufacturing, arts etc.). I believe that we need to better connect our rich assets in Northeast Ohio with our school system. This means both major institutions and on the individual level. Imagine what it would do if each kid in the Cleveland schools had a one on one mentor.


Q: How have you balanced or reconciled the notion of second chances and restorative justice with wanting to see perpetrators of serious crimes committed in the Ward sent to prison?


A: First and foremost we’ve got to maintain community safety. That means that when individuals are committing violent and repeat crime in our community that they are held accountable for that and not allowed back into the community to commit those crimes again. With that said, I believe that people are inherently good. Whether it be juveniles or adults, we should focus on rehabilitation, especially when it comes to mental health and young people.


Q: Cleveland is poised to see 541 million dollars from the Recovery Act. What are some initiatives you would like to see the City take on with these resources?


A: At this point we don’t know what strings will be attached to funding that comes through the American Recovery Act. This will most likely guide where and how the city can allocate these resources. With that said, we need to spend the majority of that money on working to break generational poverty in the city. This could mean significant housing assistance for people to invest in their homes or become first time homeowners to build wealth, additional support to educational wrap around services and scholarships to higher education and workforce training, affordable housing, equitable infrastructure investment and so much more. We should convene experts from the community and beyond to come up with initiatives that are proven to break the poverty cycle. We can’t miss this opportunity to really turn things around for Cleveland families that need the help the most.


Q: So many of our residents from out of town registered to vote in Ohio. There's a Mayoral election coming up. What attributes should the next Mayor of Cleveland have?


A: We need fresh leadership in Cleveland from the Mayor’s office through the administration and beyond. I would recommend that our community demand excellence in the City government and a Mayor/administration who energetically seeks innovation and best practice, does not start with “no,” embraces bold policies and agendas, and hires the best of the best to run the City. Cleveland has so much untapped potential. We are a world class city, and we should start acting like it.


Q: I know prior to 2020 you were an adventurous traveler. How has traveling made you a better city councilperson?


A: In high school I took a trip down to El Salvador and traveled the country. This was my first exposure (besides Canada) to international travel. From that point, I fell in love with travel, meeting people from different backgrounds and new language. In college I traveled Europe and other parts of Latin America. When I graduated from college, I moved to Madrid, Spain where I worked in the Spanish public schools for almost 2 years. Through my time in Spain, I traveled to 31 countries, coming home broke, but happy. Through all of that I broadened my perspective on the world, learned fluent Spanish and met a ton of wonderful people. When I moved home in 2012, I gained a whole new perspective on Cleveland and the potential in the city that I grew up in. I took Cleveland for granted, until I saw the world. Now I’m passionate about leveraging the potential that this city has.