A Moment with… Mary Dunbar

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City Council Member, Mary Dunbar


Over the next four posts I am highlighting four individuals who live in the Heights and have graciously agreed to be interviewed about their interest and love of the Heights.

In January 2012, Mary Dunbar started a four-year term as a Cleveland Heights City Council Member.  She is President of the Heights Bicycle Coalition and a resident of Cleveland Heights since 1970.

What keeps you busy during the day?    I spend too much time online! E-mail keeps me informed about what’s happening locally and beyond, and keeps me connected in many ways, but it can sidetrack me, too.  Sound familiar? I go to community meetings and relevant informational programs. I could easily spend even more time than I already do on programs such as the Heights Bicycle Coalition. I am training to participate in the Cleveland Marathon on May 20.  Finally, we have some projects around our house that we want to do.

What are your favorite aspects of living in the Heights?      This is a beautiful place, full of wonderful people. Completing the requirements for listing the Shaker Farm Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places made me appreciate more than ever the quality of the homes and their architecture here. This district was finally listed on February 15, 2012, after two years of effort by me and a team of local historic preservation enthusiasts. I also enjoy our library, church, many restaurants and coffeehouses and schools. But mostly I enjoy talking to people in our community.

What is your favorite restaurant in town? What’s the best thing on the menu?      That’s a tough question! We have a whole collection of favorites that we go to on a rotation. I like Jasmine’s dish at Aladdin’s – Jasmine was a neighbor long ago.

If you could change anything about Cleveland Heights, what would it be?      We’re still working through the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis. I’d like to fill all of our vacant homes with people and families who would own them and can afford to maintain and upgrade them – love them as much as homeowners here already do. Many people are buying homes and investing in our community. Even more would be better. We have so much to offer, not just as a city but because we are close to cultural attractions, jobs, major institutions. It’s a great time to buy here – home price and interest rates are low, and our schools are improving.

Have you always been interested in politics?      Years ago, my oldest brother was the mayor of my hometown (Davis, California), and his widow also was mayor recently. She enjoyed it so much that I thought it would be something I would enjoy, too. Now that I’m retired, I have time for it. I’ve decided that I am in a community service phase of my life. I’m actually not very interested in politics at any level. I believe incremental improvements can gradually made a big difference, so I want to help anyone who is making things better in our community. We have a lot of great community assets already – our parks, entertainment venues, community center and pool. We must maintain those.  But there’s always room for improvements.

Do you have any suggestions for others who want to get into local politics?      Think hard about what you have to offer and what you want to happen. Do something that helps the community.  Get involved in your community, because you’ll need a lot of supporters, and so you need to get to know as many people as possible.

What is the best thing about your job?      I love learning in depth about this community, being connected to so many people and places, and having new experiences.

What books are you reading at the moment?      Currently, Run for Life by Roy M. Wallack which is about what it takes to continue to run until you are 100 years old. I tend to like books that give me practical knowledge of all sorts.

What world topics are you interested in most?      As a former Peace Corps volunteer, I am fascinated by economic development worldwide and what enables people to improve the quality of their lives in different countries. At the same time, I am concerned about the environment and sustainability – can we live in ways that accommodate nature, plants and trees, wild animals and fish – all of God’s creation? I have grandchildren and want them to have as beautiful a world as I do.

Who are your heros in real life?       People who create and make things better – PE teacher Alice Stratton who is trying to start an after-school bike club at Fairfax School, the Phoenix Fellows for building a supportive group, volunteers in our schools – people who involve themselves in all sorts of positive ways to make our community better.

Do you have a motto you live by?      There’s always room for improvement.

Many thanks to Mary Dunbar for her insights and taking a moment with us.

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