Issue: March/April 2012
One To Watch: William Tarter Jr.
28 | Manager of Business Research, Communication & Membership, Downtown Cleveland Alliance
Listen Up: William Tarter Jr. learned the secret of good communication from his father. As an English teacher in the Cleveland Heights schools for 30 years and an elder at the Cleveland Church of Christ, Tarter Sr. understood the impact of letting someone else be heard. “Watching him interact with other people was such a tremendous example to me,” Tarter says. “He taught me the importance of communicating by listening and understanding. People can feel empowered if someone is listening to them.” Walking to talk: After earning his master’s degree in public administration from Ohio University, Tarter took his passion to the streets as a voter education and outreach specialist in Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner’s office. “I was excited about changing the perception of public service,” Tarter says. He visited with Latinos, veterans, college students, ex-offenders and people with disabilities to register them as voters and answer questions about ballot issues. His ultimate goal? “To help people become part of their community through voting,” he says. Street Smarts: In his role with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance, Tarter hosts the Voice of Cleveland community forums, takes questions from businesses interested in moving to or expanding in downtown and talks with prospective residents. “A lot of people are curious about downtown,” he says.
IB: What is the state of Downtown Cleveland right now?
We are at a real turning point that’s been slowly building. ... We are doing great on residential. We have a 96 percent occupancy downtown. Businesses and retail are something that we are doing a lot of outreach toward.
IB: What can derail that evolution?
WT: There’s a delicate balance between maintaining and planning the community here. ... You don’t want to become stagnant.
IB: How do you explain the build-up in excitement about Cleveland?
WT: It’s a faith. It’s a passion for the city that’s more than just going to a restaurant or a location. It’s saying: “Cleveland is back!” We have the history, wisdom and experience of the city with a new energy that’s building. I believe that young professionals are excited about combining the history and aura of Cleveland with this new energy, and it’s contagious.
IB: What’s been the most rewarding part of your work with the Young Professional Senate?
WT: It was the Young Professional Town Hall with County Executive Ed FitzGerald that took place in December. We had seating for 80 people at CSU, and more than 160 people showed up. There was so much energy in that room.
IB: What’s a common misconception about young professionals?
WT: That we don’t have anything to contribute. A lot of people value experience, and it is very important — but we never want to undervalue wisdom. Young people have a lot of experience with social media and communication. It’s a fast-paced world and social media is a fantastic way of accessing information and transmitting it to a broad community.
IB: Why is coaching sports teams at your church important to you?
WT: Working with young guys and teaching them not just about basketball and football, but about listening, teamwork, responsibility and faithfulness. All of those things are lessons that stick with them far beyond the field.
IB: What’s your favorite place in Downtown?
WT: Zocalo. I really enjoy the atmosphere, and I love the food.
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