He is young, black and
ďsavedĒ at a time when a generational divide exists, not
only between older and younger black churchgoers, but also
among current members of Toledoís city council. If elected
though, Shaun Strong, candidate for District One, brings the
inspiration and spirit of ďgrandmamaís African-American
churchĒ and a black millennial voice to local government,
two perspectives which have been absent from recent public
discourse in Toledo.
I caught up with Mr.
Strong for a one-on-one talk about his candidacy.
Please tell me a little bit about your background.
Strong: I was born and raised
in Toledo, grew up in the Washington Local Schools area
graduating in 2007 from Whitmer High School where my pride
and joy was being the mascot my senior year.
Perryman: So, you were the
Strong: I was Pete the Panther.
And after Whitmer, I studied at the University of Toledo
majoring in English education and English literature. During
my college career I also moved in to care for my grandmother
for almost six years until she passed away.
Perryman: You have a church
background, tell me a little bit about that.
Strong: I was born and raised
in the grand old Church of God in Christ (C.O.G.I.C.). My
motherís family are charter members of what is considered
the mother church of this area and that was Wabash Church of
God in Christ. Itís now on Oakwood and called New Life
COGIC. My fatherís family grew up at St. James Church of God
in Christ, first at 801 Vance and then on Nebraska.
I was officially licensed
as a minister at the age of 15, ordained an elder August of
2013 at age 23 and served in various capacities, locally. As
a youth pastor at St. James, I taught Sunday school, taught
Bible study, Iíve also done things on the district and state
level. On the national level, I held a couple elected
positions including secretary of our International Youth
Perryman: How has the
church shaped your philosophy towards becoming a council
Strong: The church definitely
has reminded me to have principles and standards. I donít
think that Iíll always be perfect, I donít think that Iíll
always make the mark, but there ought to be something that
Iím striving toward and reaching for. I believe that as long
as I keep those things at the forefront of all the decisions
I make then I wonít have issues of losing myself in the
process and I wonít have issues of a marred character or
loss of integrity.
Perryman: How has your work
experience shaped your candidacy?
Strong: Iíve been working with
the City of Toledo for the last seven years. I was an
intern in the mayorís office under the Bell administration
and then the late Mayor D. Michael Collins actually hired
me. While I was in his administration, I was his personal
assistant and then helped with the transition between
Collins and Mayor Hicks-Hudson. After Mayor Hicks-Hudson I
worked in several other divisions of the city.
So, one of the things that
I think is very unique about my candidacy is, if being
elected to City Council, Iím the most recent and probably
one of the few that have actually worked for the
administration. Iíve seen it up close so when we talk about
funding and where we can make improvements and changes, I
think I would be the person most knowledgeable on city
council to do that because I worked right there in the thick
My time at the mayorís
office has also helped me understand the role of the mayoral
administration and the role of city council and how that
relationship should work together in harmony. Iíve written
legislation before, using the administrationís tools like
Legistar, so itís all stuff that Iím very familiar with and
although Iím a new face, I donít have the steep learning
curve as someone who would just walk off the street and put
their name in the hat.
Perryman: What is your
agenda for District 1?
Strong: One, I want to look at
establishing an active and functioning Block Watch
Association or Neighborhood Association in each community.
I believe that when residents come together, they will
understand that they have more similarities than differences
and itís our similarities that pull together the fabric of
community. Weíll put in our residents a sense of pride for
their neighborhood, theyíll start getting involved at a
greater level with local government and I believe itíll help
them start caring about their community, which will actually
help reduce blight, crime and all those other issues and
perils that face our communities.
My second goal and
priority is economic development. I would love to be able
to work with government agencies. I believe that weíre
better when we work together and we donít have to reinvent
the wheel. There are so many wonderful organizations in our
community like the local library that offers so many
programs, but people just donít know about it, so helping to
expand those programs so that we can do things like grant
writing workshops, resume building courses, job readiness
training, workforce development programs, helping people who
want to start small businesses write a business plan, become
an entrepreneur. Those are things, I think, that will have
a tangible impact on the local community, strengthen our
communities and help our communities to thrive and to grow.
differentiates you from your opponent?
Strong: One is, I offer fresh
ideas, a fresh face and not the same ole same ole, but
something new. I also offer responsive and responsible
leadership, and that simply means that itís not just going
to be a group of people in the district that know me that
Iím comfortable with and they will be the only people that I
serve. My availability, in contrast, is for all the
residents of Toledo. I have to resign from my job once
elected and thatís a sacrifice that Iím willing to make
because I believe in District 1, which means all of my time
is going to be devoted to improving my community. So, when
people call me, I will definitely call them back, Iíll be
walking the neighborhoods and meeting with residents,
sitting down in their homes discussing the things that
affect them the most.
Also, Iím not against
expanding my network. I think one of the things that we
need to do that we may not have done in the past in the city
is branching out, meeting new people, going to trainings
across the nation to learn how to do our job better. When
we open up our mind and our scope of influence to other
things, then we can get better ideas that we can tailor to
Toledo. I have a friend who is president of City Council in
Columbus, Ohio and just recently they recently were
championed for growing their population and economy. Things
like that, going to Columbus City Council President Shannon
Hardin saying, ďHey, what have you done in Columbus that has
helped boost your economy and surged your population
growth?Ē Let me see that so I can tailor it to Toledo and
do the same thing here.
Perryman: Do you have any
further thoughts on your candidacy?
Strong: At the end of the day I
just want people to really hear my heart and to hear my
passion. This whole thing (campaign) is like a
rollercoaster so you have your high days and low days and
you have your times when you ask yourself Ďcan I even really
do this, is it really worth it?í And the other day in my
meditation time I came across a quote from Bobby Kennedy
that said there are two types of politicians or politics,
something of that sort. And, he said, thereís the election
you know you can win and then thereís the election that you
believe in. And so, some people will say that Iím probably
biting off more than I can chew and I probably wonít win
this, and thatís fair, theyíre entitled to that opinion. But
what I do know is that this is something that I 100 percent
believe in and that Iím committed to and thatís my
community. This isnít a case of if I were to lose then Iíll
just throw my name in the hat for 2021 and run at large. I
donít plan on doing that. I care about District 1 right
now, thatís my focus, thatís my passion, and this is what I
really want to do and I really hope that people have a
chance to see that passion and to really hear my heart, that
I care for the community.
Perryman: Alright, thank
you very much.
Contact Rev. Donald Perryman, D.Min, at