John Curp and Sheryl Long

Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval has narrowed down his list of potential city leadership candidates to two, and it turns out they have a lot in common.

Both work for the city at the moment. Both are graduates of the University of Miami. Both live in Clifton.

They both wanted to be astronauts when they were kids.

They even both wanted to be astronauts, until they answered the call for municipal service.

One is Acting City Manager John Curp, who was the city’s attorney the best lawyer in townunder Pureval’s mentor, former Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory. The other is Deputy City Manager Sheryl Long, who has held the position for two years; she previously served as a trustee of North College Hill.

Pureval has been working with both since taking office in January. But while the city manager’s job is important – running a city of 17 departments and 6,000 workers – the city manager is largely a behind-the-scenes role. Citizens rarely see the manager except in a crisis or to answer questions at council meetings.

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Prior to Pureval’s choice, The Enquirer set out to get to know Curp and Long better.

Members of the Cincinnati City Council are reviewing candidates in one-on-one interviews in hopes they will give Pureval their thoughts in the coming days. Then Pureval, possibly as early as this week, will submit its choice for final board approval.

The manager’s first big task will be to hire a police chief to replace retired Chief Eliot Isaac. City manager Paula Boggs Muething left in January. She was paid $265,130 a year, but Pureval will negotiate the new manager’s contract and doesn’t have to follow any specific guidelines.

The board has the final say on who is hired and how much the manager will be paid. The decision could come at a special meeting on August 29.

John Curp

Curp was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio. He aspired to be an astronaut, and every rocket and space shuttle launch was a must-see TV in the Curp household. He grew up reading two newspapers a day, sparking his interest in government. He went to the University of Miami, where he majored in finance, and then to Indiana University School of Law, believing both would provide a good foundation for government work.

His first job out of college was at the Taft law firm in Columbus, where he became a partner. He applied for and won the Cincinnati attorney position in 2008, which he held for six years. He left in 2014 for the Blank Rome law firm when Mayor John Cranley was elected and brought in his own team.

Since then, Curp has received job offers from other big city governments, but said after losing his wife to breast cancer in 2014, staying grounded in Cincinnati was important for his children. He has since remarried. Pureval hired Curp as interim manager in February while Pureval searched for a permanent manager.

Q: Can you tell me a story from your career where you did something that you felt was rewarding?

A: I take great pride in my work to establish the Cincinnati Legal Department as a premier legal institution. We’ve been able to attract talent from top law schools and top firms and create the most diverse legal institution of its size.

Q: What makes you the most qualified candidate?

A: I have an established reputation in the neighborhoods, in local, state and federal governments, and in the business community. I have worked with community agencies and they understand my commitment to bringing about change and improving the quality of life for everyone in Cincinnati. I also have hands-on experience in understanding the charter, the proper role of the city manager and how all departments work. This experience and my connections will allow the city government to send a clear internal and external message to get things done.

Q: What qualities do you want to see in the next police chief?

A: The next Cincinnati Chief of Police will be someone who understands our community’s commitment to the letter and spirit of the Collaborative Agreement as it has evolved to its current form. This person should be smart, innovative, and experienced in community-based problem solving. The ability to earn respect and connect with our officers and the community is essential.

Q: If you took a day off and could do anything, what would you do?

A: I would start my day with a dawn run where I would connect as many city parks as possible. The riverside is my favorite and on an ambitious day a finish at Eden Park is the goal. Then it would be an afternoon Cincinnati Reds game with a beer and a hot dog. Baseball in Cincinnati always brings me back to the special trips to the stadium with my family and the nostalgia for the Big Red Machine. The evening would be a jazz concert in Washington Park where you always see and meet interesting people. The ultimate ending is a late dinner at one of our amazing restaurants. My wife and I like to walk in without a reservation and try to get a seat at the bar where you can always share food and drinks with someone new or a chatty bartender.

Q: Which municipal service needs strengthening?

A: As City Manager, I believe our focus on providing best-in-class service requires us to break the mindset that we are 20 different agencies with siled objectives. I have made it a priority to connect our leaders and reflect on how we contribute to a common mission. The greatest weakness of municipal government is communication with our stakeholders. My priority is for the city government to do a better job of listening and then providing feedback by telling the story of our results.

  • Age: 52
  • Education: University of Miami, Farmer School of Business, Indiana University School of Law
  • Family: Married to Liza Brackman Curp; five children, aged 10 to 19.
  • Piece: Clifton

Sheryl Long

Long was born in West Price Hill and moved to Forest Park when she was 5 years old. She was raised by her grandparents. She said she saw her neighbors’ struggles with her own eyes. She wanted to be an astronaut, inspired by the movie “Space Camp”. She was the first person in her family to attend college and went to the University of Miami, where she majored in black world studies. “Both in my personal experience and in my upbringing, I came to understand that the vast inequalities experienced by the African American community were largely systemic and I knew that my life’s work had to be part of the solution” , she said.

Long began her career in sales and property management, then joined the City of North College Hill in 2013 as Director of Communications. She served there as a city administrator from 2016 to 2019 before joining the City of Cincinnati as deputy city manager.

Q: Can you tell me a story from your career where you did something that you found rewarding?

A: Without a doubt, my involvement in leading the 911 reforms following the Kyle Plush tragedy. As a mother, I was especially dedicated to ensuring that no family in Cincinnati ever had to suffer this unimaginable loss. These reforms include faster response times, increased staffing, and more rigorous quality control and training; our work at the emergency communications center is never done, but we have made great improvements.

Q: What makes you the most qualified candidate?

A: I have developed expertise in budgeting, management and other essential functions of local government and most importantly, I have developed a solutions-oriented approach to policy implementation and execution. I am the past president of the Ohio City Managers Association, and as the first black woman in this position, I have been able to offer my colleagues a perspective based on my own experience of living and working in a community Afro-American. I understand the issues our residents face on a daily basis in a deeply personal way, as well as from the perspective of a professional city administrator, which drives me to find diverse and equitable solutions to the challenges we face as that community.

Q: What qualities do you want to see in the next police chief?

A: Cincinnati has been a model police force for over a decade. I want the next leader to be someone who can further elevate our approach to policing, with a dedication to the safety of every member of our community. In particular, we need a leader who is passionate about keeping our community safe, who feels responsible to all of our citizens for providing them with excellent service, and who is committed to commanding a police force that inspires trust and respect.

Q: What municipal service needs strengthening?

A: Our Utilities Department and the Emergency Communications/911 Center, no doubt, both require our employees to perform incredibly difficult and stressful tasks. These issues are compounded by declining wages (and) understaffing, which puts a strain on the existing workforce, and the mental and emotional toll these jobs take on our employees. I have managed these departments and know firsthand that morale issues are ever-present and that the city’s executive management must remain vigilant to ensure that we are doing everything we can to extend the life cycle of employees; this happens by listening to what our employees need and making every effort to provide those resources.

Q: If you took a day off and you could do anything, what would you do?

I would love to go skydiving (something she has never done before).

Age: 42

Education: Master of Arts in Marketing, Southern New Hampshire University; Bachelor of Arts in Black World Studies, University of Miami

Family: Married to Albert Lester Long Jr. She has a 22-year-old stepdaughter; two sons, aged 16 and 18, and a pug named MP

Piece: Clifton

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