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Laura Johnston
By Laura Johnston September 1, 2011

FitzGerald appointment handles outreach to young people

Cuyahoga County has been better known for brain drain than brain gain. So as part of Ed FitzGerald's campaign to change Cuyahoga County, he pledged to better connect county government to young people.

Part of that pledge was that he would appoint a community liaison to maintain contact with young community leaders and arrange regular meetings between different segments of the youth community and the county executive.

After he was elected the county"s first county executive, FitzGerald hired Justin Bibb to take on the task.

A Cleveland native and 2009 graduate of American University in Washington, Bibb handles outreach to young people. This summer, he coordinated the county"s first competitive Public Policy Fellowship Program, which hired college and graduate students to focus on regional collaboration, economic development and other areas of county government. Now, Bibb is meeting with young professional organizations, such as the Cleveland Professional 20/30 Club.

"Ed"s always been a big fan of building that farm team,” said Bibb, 24, who also serves on the board of Cuyahoga Community College.

FitzGerald plans to launch a group called the Next Generation Civic Engagement Commission this fall to brainstorm ideas to attract and retain young people, and to serve as a pipeline for future government leaders. The county also wants to act as a conduit, connecting young people with business leaders who have volunteered as county consultants through the loaned executives program.

"That"s tremendous. Because the single biggest issue I see in Cleveland is fragmentation,” said 20/30 President Andrew Bennett. "If we can bridge the different stakeholders in this community together, then our chances for success are much much greater to become a thriving community.”

FitzGerald"s focus dips even younger, though. Seven high school students will be interning at the County Administration Building this year.

So while FitzGerald hasn"t yet put Cleveland on par with youth-attracting cites like Chicago, he is engaging youth. That"s why we set the Fitz-O-Meter for this pledge to Promise Kept.

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