After Jackson: Cleveland's Next Mayor - Episode 17: Mayor-elect Justin Bibb

Justin Bibb takes the stage at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church after winning the Cleveland mayor's race.
Justin Bibb takes the stage at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church after winning the Cleveland mayor's race. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]
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Justin Bibb will be the next mayor of Cleveland.

He won a commanding 25-point  victory Tuesday night over Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley.

Bibb held his victory party not at a bar or event room, but in a multi-purpose space at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, his family’s home church, the location of his father’s funeral. Bibb spoke about his late father, Donald, as his mother, Charlene Nichols, stood by his side.

Bibb is 34 years old, just three years older than Dennis Kucinich when he became Cleveland’s youngest mayor.

And although Kelley often sought to contrast his years of experience with Bibb’s freshness, that did not seem to obstruct the new millennial mayor-elect’s path to victory. He thanked his closest campaign staffers and volunteers, many of whom were about his age, and some of whom were younger.

Bibb found resounding support among fellow millennial young professionals in Cleveland, in neighborhoods like Downtown, Ohio City, Tremont and Detroit-Shoreway.

But his coalition is broader than that. Surrounding Bibb on the stage were several of Cleveland’s Black religious leaders. Dozens of prominent pastors had endorsed his campaign in the days after the primary.

Also with him were Zack Reed, the former city councilman and primary opponent turned stalwart ally, and Jawanza Colvin, the pastor of Olivet.

The real job hasn’t yet started, of course. Bibb acknowledged that he’ll take office in a city with a long upward hill to climb.

"I won't be a perfect mayor. I'm going to make mistakes. But I'm going to serve you well," he said.

Across town, at the Harp, an Irish pub on the West Side, Kelley began his concession speech by thanking his wife, Elizabeth, their five daughters and his extended family. Kelley congratulated Bibb and said he would put any bad feelings aside.

The future of the city will be shaped now in the coming days, as a new mayor lays the groundwork for his administration.

We are not yet done telling this story. Stay tuned for a final installment of the podcast next week, in which we look ahead at the challenges awaiting the new Bibb administration next year.

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