No one has done more to change Northeast Ohio in the last year than Ed FitzGerald.
That’s why he tops this year's Power 100, the list of the region's most powerful players, in the new issue of Cleveland Magazine's sister publication, Inside Business.
The Cuyahoga County executive has helped to restore confidence in the government he leads by upending a longstanding patronage system. He's also stepped into some of our biggest civic conversations, from regionalism to downtown Cleveland’s future -- expanding our sense of how a political leader can lead.
And he showed a shrewd understanding of power in his high-drama negotiations with Secretary of State Jon Husted over how Ohioans vote by mail.
He's the first politician to be #1 on the Power 100 list since Inside Business began publishing the issue in 2004.
FitzGerald still faces many challenges. His successes on economic development and regional cooperation are modest so far, his housecleaning may be making him enemies in his party, and the political critique of him as an opportunist could resurface since he’s not ruling out a run for governor in 2014.
But he's going to push the limits of local political power again this year. Not only is he about to debut a $100 million county economic development fund, FitzGerald tells Inside Business he'll announce three new policy initiatives at his Feb. 1 State of the County speech.
FitzGerald says he wants human service programs to include strategies for “changing outcomes” — the teach-a-man-to-fish school of social aid. He wants to use the county's casino revenues downtown and on the lakefront. And he wants to advance regionalism by having Cuyahoga County offer to contract with cities to provide some municipal services.
“If you’re talking about having the county emerging over time, possibly in years or decades to come, as the primary provider of [a lot of] municipal service, the county starts to become the city,” FitzGerald told me. “This whole county starts becoming a unified community from a governmental point of view. We’d start becoming one of the larger cities in the U.S., as opposed to the traditional barrier between the city and county."
You can read my article on FitzGerald here and in the January-February issue of Inside Business, published today. You can see who else made the Power 100 list here.