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Out & About in Cleveland

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Mentor and Willoughby/ Western Lake County Chamber of Commerce

On Tuesday, August 26th, we attended a joint chamber of commerce luncheon involving the Mentor and Willoughby/Western Lake County chambers at the Andrews Osborn Academy in Willoughby. The speaker for the day was Mr. Bob DiBiasio, VP of Public Relations for the Cleveland Indians who we had also heard speak at the North Coast Chamber of Commerce luncheon in May, 2014. Mr. DiBiasio was just as entertaining in an informative way as ever so everyone had a good time. He admitted that the Cleveland Indians were "awesome to watch on occasion but also maddening to watch on occasion." Lately things haven't been going so well but Mr. DiBiasio seemed upbeat in a practical way and maintained that "we just have to play better fundamentally" and that we still have a chance in our division if we "just continue to pitch and catch the ball."

He was proud to talk about plans for a new kid's level clubhouse that sounded like a great place for families with small children which will cost the stadium about 7,000 seats but the team believes it will definitely be worth it and pay off in the long run. In terms of attendance and customer relations, he went on to say something we hadn't thought of before which is that it is much more difficult to get a person to come to the stadium for the first time than to get someone who has come to the stadium 3 or 4 times to come 6 or 7 times more.

When asked about the Chief Wahoo controversy, Mr. DiBiasio said that "heard both sides" and it is tough to walk the fine line regarding cultural sensitivities. He pointed out that the team has said a firm no to ad agencies who would like to create a talking/animated Chief Wahoo to sell products.

We shared a table with Mr. Wojtek Wencel and Ms. Elena Rind from a new gym called Crossfit Tornado who had just joined the Willoughby chamber. Mr. Wojtek and his family immigrated from Poland in 1993 and, among his accomplishments, he earned a business degree from CSU and became a United States citizen in 2005 which was the year that Ms. Rind immigrated to the United States from Russia and she went on to become a citizen in 2009. We wish them the best of luck with their venture.

We talked to Mayor Dennis Morley of Eastlake and to Mr. Al DiFranco, Director of Student Experience at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. When we told Mr. DiFranco that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates, he lit up and told us that Ms. Wong has done a lot of work to help international students and said to be sure to say hello to her.

We also had a nice conversation with Mr. Martin Grmek, Assistant Vice President/KeyCenter Manager of KeyBank in Wickliffe. Mr. Grmek said that back in the 1990's he worked with a woman whose boyfriend immigrated to the United States from Holland and said that, from what he heard, the man had to "jump through a lot of hoops" to be able to be able to stay here. Mr. Grmek said he sure hoped the process had been made easier for such a person who was here legitimately.

That evening we attended a fundraising event for our friend Ohio State Senator Michael J. Skindell (D) of District 23. It was held in the Waterside Room of the Emerald Necklace Marina in Lakewood and we were amazed by the number of people who turned out; Senator Skindell's mother Ms. Carol Skindell estimated that there were at least 100.

Senator Skindell thanked all of us for being there and spoke with genuine conviction for 20 minutes about a broad range of subjects including education, the importance of voting, labor and the economy. Senator Skindell cited Costco as an example of a business that is successful while being supportive of its employees.

Attending this event was former Lakewood Mayor Madeline A. Cain of Lakewood, and Senator Skindell had a good time reminiscing about how they created the Lakewood Dog Park years ago when he was a City Councilman.

Above all, Senator Skindell paid tribute to the volunteers who have consistently helped him on his campaigns throughout the years who are known as the "A Team."

Other elected officials who were there were Mayor Debbie Neal of Lakeline, Judge Maureen Clancy, Judge Pat Carroll (who says hello to Ms. Wong), Councilwoman Lesley DeSouza of Parma Heights, Brunswick Councilman Brian Ousley, Judge Diane Karpinski, Law Director of Rocky River Andy Bemer, Ms. Ashley McLaughlin of Linndale (Senator Skindell smiled and told everyone that she was not here to receive complaints regarding speeding tickets), Former Lakewood City Councilwoman Nancy Roth, Fairview Park Councilman Paul Wojnar and South Euclid Councilman Marty Gelfand.

Other prominent people in attendance were ADAMHS Board CEO Bill Denihan and Rob Rivera, President of the Stonewall Democratic Club. Wyn Antonio was there from the North Shore AFL-CIO as Mr. Glen Shumate from the Construction Employees Association who served with Ms. Margaret W. Wong on the Diversity Panel at Kent State University. Other labor organizations that were represented there included Plumbers 55 and Teamsters 407.

We really liked it when Senator Skindell introducted Judge Pat Carroll and told the attendees that the judge swore him in 12 years ago when he first entered the state legislature and has since swore him in several other times. "Now he swears me in and swears at me," said Senator Skindell and everyone there, especially Judge Carroll, laughed out loud.

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