Mayor-elect Justin Bibb talks next steps after winning Cleveland race: ‘Hitting the ground running’

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 9:23 AM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cleveland voters have chosen Justin Bibb to be their next mayor.

Final, but unofficial, results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections show Bibb beating Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelly 63% to 37%.

The Ohio Secretary of State will certify the election results in about two weeks. Kelley conceded the race and said he’s going to work hard with leaders to continue making Cleveland a better place.

Bibb said a transition plan is well underway with a lot of hard work ahead. Picking a chief of staff and cabinet are among his top priorities.

**Watch Bibb’s full interview with 19 News This Morning in the video player below.**

“We’re already hitting the ground running, looking at potential names for my administration and looking at a host of community leaders that can help help lead our transition,” Bibb said. “Because the work must start. And we can’t let up since we’ve been campaigning all across the city.”

Bold ideas and transparency were heard often on the campaign trail.

“Last night, we launched our transition website at, to give people an opportunity to share their ideas and submit their resumes for serving in my administration,” Bibb said. “I think that’s an indicator of how I’m going to lead the city, you know, using technology, using data, and really being an open mayor and having an open government where residents feel like their voice can be heard.”

Voters approved Issue 24, the plan to create a Community Police Commission to increase civilian oversight of the city’s police department. The commission will consist of 13 members appointed by the mayor and approved by city council. The police union has and continues to be vocal about its opposition to Issue 24. Leaders have threatened a lawsuit.

“How do you move forward with this passing, the people voting for it, and also fostering that relationship with the rank and file.. the police officers who are charged with protecting the city?”

“It’s really the way I’ve led this campaign,” Bibb said. “I’m going to reach out to the leadership at the police union, and other members of law enforcement to listen, hear their concerns. And, work to get their buy in, as well as talk to members of our community to make sure we can reset the conversation and do the hard work of how to have a more accountable police department that better serves our residents. Cleveland will be in the national spotlight on this issue. And I believe we can create a national model of how we do good policing, that shows the country of how to get it done in a more just and equitable.”

When asked if we’ll see an exodus of police over Issue 24 passing Bibb said, “No. Listen, I’m going to do everything in my power to work with law enforcement, to hear their concerns, and make sure their concerns are heard, to make sure we can operationalize Issue 24 in the respective way.”

Crime is a big issue Bibb will have to tackle. Violent crimes, including homicides, are up in the city.

“One thing is we have to pay our officers more. We’re losing many of our officers out of the academy that are going to our suburban counterparts. So paying officers more is critical. Making sure we have a good culture of accountability,” Bibb said. “A good culture that respects their values (and) respects their concern, so they can show up and do their job everyday. My father was a cop, and I want to create a department that my father will be proud of. But it’s going to take a mayor that can bring law enforcement and bring our community together to do this in our city.”

Bibb, who was critical of current Police Chief Calvin Williams during the campaign, said he’s looking for the police department’s next leader.

“You talked about not being happy with the performance of the current Police Chief Calvin Williams. Have you had a conversation with him? Do you have that conversation before you take office? Still the same sentiment?” 19 News This Morning Anchor Damon Maloney asked.

“I haven’t had the conversation with him, and I do intend to hire my own police chief. But again we currently have a mayor already... and so I want to make sure I’m respectful of Mayor Frank Jackson and his administration and do my work over the next couple of months to build my government.”

When pressed if there’s a short list of possible police chief candidates Bibb said, “It’s something we’re looking at right now as we speak.”

Bibb said he has not spoken yet with Mayor Jackson.

“But, I’m looking forward to meeting with Mayor Jackson and members of city council as soon as they possibly can to get to work to move our community forward,” Bibb said.

Bibb, who’s 34, will become the city’s second youngest mayor. Dennis Kucinich was the city’s youngest mayor elected at the age of 31. Bibb has had little time to reflect on his win, but calls it a “new day in Cleveland.”

“I think our campaign shows that no matter how old you are, no matter how long you’ve actually spent in politics, if you can bring a diverse set of experiences, put together a smart and thoughtful team and listen to your customer-- the voters of the people, you can execute and be successful,” Bibb said. “That’s what we did in this campaign. We did the hard work early, meeting voters where they are. We built a smart and talented campaign team. We used data and technology to power our campaign. And that’s how I’m going to lead and run the city come January.”

Voter turnout in Cleveland was 23%. Bibb said there’s lots of room for improvement.

“This is going to be a long-term systemic issue we have to tackle in Cleveland. We don’t just have a voter suppression in cities like Cleveland, but we have a voter depression in Cleveland,” Bibb said. “And as a next mayor, I’m going to do everything in my power to reinvigorate democracy, to give people hope in their city. So that when they vote, they feel like their voice is going to be heard and that their vote actually matters in this in this community.”

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