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It is my honor to serve all of Beachwood. If you have questions, comments or a suggestion, please email my office or call 216-292-1901. --Mayor Justin Berns
Posted on January 21, 2022 at 7:57 AM by Mari Conroy
I am both thrilled and humbled to stand here tonight, engaging in the protocols to become the next Mayor of the City of Beachwood. It is such an honor and an enormous responsibility to be in this position to lead our residential and business communities.
In some ways, I feel that I may have been destined to hold this office. I can trace the first indication back to my childhood, when the weight of leadership and stewardship was thrust upon me. I was in 5th grade at Fairmount Elementary School, and my teacher, Ms. Simon, needed to select a student for the role of Safety Patrol Captain.
This was an important position, involving a term lasting the entire school year, and carrying with it the duty to help fellow students cross the nearby busy streets, including Fairmount Blvd. and Deborah Drive.
When Ms. Simon picked me from among my 45 classmates, I was overjoyed but also a bit daunted. This was a serious job. I understood that the safety of my classmates hung in the balance. So I handled it with the diligence and determination worthy of the title, and no one saw harm under my watch.
Since those days, growing up in Beachwood provided some indelible memories, many of which help to inform my sense of history, connection and awareness of what’s been transpiring in this city for the past 40 years.
For example, I was at Beachwood Place Mall when it opened, and I rode in the no-longer-existent glass elevator in the center of the mall which delivered a great sense of wonder and excitement. It was impossible to not take pride in what’s such a jewel in this city. I have fond memories of eating at Roy Rogers, wandering around B. Dalton bookstore and hanging out with friends. Now Barbara Janovitz and I are among the few in city hall who grew up in Beachwood possessing these specific memories.
My history here also includes watching my father, Sheldon, eat an early dinner a couple times each month on Monday nights before he left to attend Beachwood City Council meetings. For 7 years, he served as a councilperson. To earn this position, he knocked on doors all over the city to deliver campaign literature, and I accompanied him on many of those days. I learned about composure, compassion and effective campaigning.
In addition to these civic lessons, I learned a bit on my own during my attempts for a spot on city council. I was appointed to my first term, but afterward, I ran for a seat and lost, then ran again and lost, then ran again and…won. And I’ve been winning in this city ever since then.
I think these experiences clearly reflect my commitment to Beachwood, but they also demonstrate a track record of service and hard work, as well as having the support of this community.
When it comes to administering to Beachwood going forward, my plan is work carefully on both micro and macro levels. Regarding the former, you can count on me to work closely with city council members.
I want to convey that our efforts will not be about any one person. Instead, there will be many heroes, and we’ll accomplish our goals by addressing issues collaboratively. When problems arise, we’ll solve them together.
On the more macro level, I will work to maintain warm relationships with our neighboring communities, and I have already been in touch with some of their mayors. When I was a volunteer firefighter, I saw firsthand the need to keep close ties, especially between the safety forces.
As firefighting volunteers, we could be paged for any alarms, sometimes several times a day. Our role was to augment the full-time fire department staff members. We served as outside support, and we were assigned tasks such as changing air bottles, pulling hoses and connecting to fire hydrants. One profound memory was a fire at the Village Green apartments where nearly every neighboring city’s fire departments responded. Unfortunately, we still lost an entire apartment building.
To offer you a little more insight into my mindset, I think a place to drop in would be with my practice of long distance running. It started in 2016 when my wife began fast walking on the Beachwood Park trail along Shaker Blvd. I tried to keep up but it was uncomfortable. I told her I can’t walk like that, but I can run, so I tried and very quickly worked up to 3 miles. I figured I could go a little further, so I advanced to 5 miles, but then I thought about a 10k race which is 6.2 miles. Within a few months, I was able to run 13.1 miles which is a ½ marathon.
Around the same time, I was on a family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, and I learned about the resort’s annual 4-day marathon weekend. It features a 5k run on the first day, a 10k the next day, then a ½ marathon the day after and on the last day, a full marathon. There’s also an event jokingly called The Dopey Challenge, named after one of the 7 dwarfs from the Snow White story, the one who is dim-witted. Participants in this event compete in all 4 races.
Who else but people hungry for an extreme challenge would do this? I vowed that the following year, I would run in all 4 races. I did that in 2018, 2019 and again 2020. I believe that setting myself up for those races made me a better runner.
What I love about running is how it gives me time away from everything. Gates Mills Blvd. is part of my regular route and when I run, my mind is pulled away from everything. It’s very peaceful. Running is mental, and if you want it, you can do it, you just need to put your mind to it.
The key is to take an incremental approach. I believe that managing a city is very much like running a marathon, rather than a sprint, where a gradual approach is often a solid strategy. So I somewhat facetiously liken my work as Mayor to that of another Dopey Challenge. And I’ll undoubtedly be breaking a frequent sweat.
It would be an understatement to say that Beachwood means a tremendous amount to me and my whole family. My wife Lisa strongly supported me throughout my campaign, as did my children, my parents and my siblings. So I have them to thank for their time and energy. But I truly have this opportunity to be Mayor because so many residents voted for me, and I will work very hard every day to validate their choice.
The last point I’d like to make concerns a message I received a couple weeks ago. Former Beachwood Mayor Merle Gordon texted and said, “Hope you’re enjoying your last 2 weeks of freedom, have a great day!”
My thought is simply this. We’re all in this together and I am eager to get started. I welcome what the next 4 years will bring.