Cecelia Adams, PhD: 2013 TWCA Milestones Honoree for Government

Former City Councilwoman Cecelia Adams, PhD

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

The YWCA of Northwest Ohio has announced the 2023 Honorees for the YWCA Milestones: A Tribute to Women annual award. This year’s honoree for Government is Cecelia Adams, PhD.

Transformational female leaders have been making waves and breaking barriers in government for a while now. These women possess the unique ability to motivate, guide and encourage their communities, leading by example with their passion, intelligence and unwavering determination. Through their actions and vision, they have challenged the status quo, defied gender biases and shattered the glass ceiling in public service for future generations of women.

The Northwest Ohio YWCA Milestones annual Government award recognizes women who have made significant contributions to public service while breaking barriers and paving the way for other women in male-dominated fields. This week we celebrate the contributions to this year’s Government Honoree, Cecelia M. Adams, Ph.D.

With a background in biological sciences and chemistry, Adams began her career as a science teacher. “I shaped the next generation of scientists, engineers, and critical thinkers for 14 years,” she shares.

A Toledo native and Scott High School graduate, Adams comes from a family legacy of education and leadership.

“My mother, Dr. Samantha P. Adams, was the first Black woman to pass the Ohio State Medical Board in her field,” says Cecelia. “She was the only practicing Black Chiropractic Physician in Toledo at the time.”

Cecelia Adams, who earned her degrees from The University of Toledo, had a long and very successful career with Toledo Public Schools prior to her service in public office, and although she was given many career opportunities outside of Toledo, she decided to stay in the Glass City.

“My mom told my siblings and I that it was an honor to live and serve in the City of Toledo,” recalls Adams. “She would tell us to grow where we are planted.”

If you’re from Toledo, chances are you may remember when the now McTigue Elementary School was a junior high, housing only sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.

“McTigue was my first job in administration,” adds Cecelia. “I was Assistant Principal for nine and a half years and I loved it.”

At the time, Eugene Sanders, PhD, was the Toledo Public Schools Superintendent tasked with decentralizing the city schools and making each high school area its own learning community.

He appointed School Improvement Leaders for each high school learning community, each having its own Curriculum Specialist, explains Adams.

“The School Improvement Leaders were akin to area superintendents while the Curriculum Specialists made K-12 grade curriculum for each learning community.”

Adams would soon become the Curriculum Specialist for Start High School, and later become the School Improvement Leader for the entire area.

Named after Roy C. Start, two-time mayor of Toledo and founder of the West Toledo YMCA, Start High School is the largest comprehensive public high school in Toledo.

“It was quite the task breaking ground on the City’s Building for Success Project while I was at Start,” recalls Adams.

This building infrastructure improvement project was the largest in district history. The $650 million project was part of a major push by the state to overhaul Ohio’s schools. A TPS plan to renovate or rebuild 60 schools went before voters in 2002, and after an extensive campaign, voters approved a $4.99-mill, 28-year levy.

“Scott High School, Waite High School, Harvard Elementary, and other historically significant buildings were renovated,” explains Adams. “The rebuilding and renovations were a nice way of saying to the kids in the community that we care enough about them to make their learning environment an attractive one where they can get the same benefits as students in the most sophisticated school districts in our country.”

When the School Improvement Offices closed, Adams was appointed to the School Board as Assistant Superintendent and would eventually retire as Assistant Superintendent of Advancement and Development in 2008.

“I got the call in 2011 to run for Toledo’s School Board of Education,” says Adams. “ I didn’t plan this journey but Mother always said there was a purpose for our family in Toledo. I thought that was pretty neat to get the chance to follow in my mother’s footsteps as a school board member.”

It had been 13 years since any new levy had passed to make improvements to city schools, bus services, or competitive salaries for city employees.

I poured my heart and soul into my work at the school board,” says Adams. “But getting that levy passed while serving as President was truly a defining moment for me.”

Shortly thereafter, came the unfortunate news of the passing of former first Black mayor, Jack Ford. “Mr. Ford was serving on the City Council at the time and several of my community peers suggested I put my name in for the open City Council seat,” recalls Dr. Adams.

“There were 29 of us and we each had to give a two-minute presentation before the city council members. When we finished, they selected me right on the spot.”

She immediately resigned her seat on the School Board, as no one is permitted to serve on two governmental bodies at the same time, and began officially running her local campaign.

“That was 2015 when Mayor D. Michael Collins also passed away just weeks from Mr. Ford,” recalls Adams.

With Collins’ death, Council President Paula Hicks-Hudson was sworn in as acting Mayor until a new Mayor would be elected during the upcoming general election.

“I’ll never forget, Hicks ran for Mayor and I ran for City Council. We both won and replaced two distinguished men in public office,” says Adams.

“We had 145 city parks at the time I started in the City Council. We empowered the community to have a voice and a stake in the success of our parks through community collaboration.”

Cecelia Adams played a crucial role in restoring the city parks while still helping residents on social issues such as education, healthcare and workforce development. Bringing a unique perspective and her extensive educator experience to the table, Adams was instrumental in creating a committee called Education, Recreation and Employment, which was erected to rebuild our city parks and to get our recreational facilities back in shape.

“This had never been done before,” explains Adams. “At the time our city parks had a pittance of a budget. We had rundown basketball and tennis courts. The baseball fields were unlined and we struggled to even get the grass cut on such a small budget.”

Adams fought for an independent department for Parks, Recreation and Education. It was unanimously approved with three separate divisions housing three Commissioners. “I was fortunate to get Mr. Fausnaugh to direct the three divisions before I ended my term in City Council.”

Adams left office on January 3, 2022.

Joe Fausnaugh, the now Director of Parks, Recreation, and Youth Services, brings over 24 years of experience working with the City of Toledo’s Metroparks.

“These new divisions are significantly impacting the health and well-being of our communities, particularly our low-income and marginalized populations,” says Adams. “We are continuing to turn Toledo City parks into a point of pride for residents. I’m so proud of the work being done.”

Transformational leadership is characterized by a focus on inspiring and motivating communities to achieve a common goal. Leaders like Cecilia Adams, PhD, create a vision for the future, communicate it effectively, and consistently build a culture that supports it. Thank you for also empowering and encouraging others to develop their own potential. You are a true role model that demonstrates the behaviors and values you expect from others.

When asked what receiving the YWCA Milestone Award for Government and Public Service means to her, Dr. Adams says, “It’s an honor to be asked to serve the people in your community. There’s nothing more important than keeping your promises, standing up and being counted on to get the job done when it’s needed. My mother was selected as a 2011 Milestones Honoree for the Sciences so this means the world to me. I’m in awe and grateful to be honored among such a strong legacy of women role models.”

Milestones: A Tribute to Women will be held at the Glass City Center Ballroom on Thursday March 30, 2023.

Proceeds from support for the awards will go toward 29,000 nearby women and families who are assisted by the YWCA for empowerment.