By Fletcher Word
Sojourner’s Truth Editor
As Toledo City Councilwoman Cecelia Adams, PhD, is on her way out, a new city department is on the way in – a city department that the councilwoman has spent a considerable amount of time developing during her short time on Council.
The Department of Parks and Youth Services is in the development phase as funds have been set aside to provide the salaries for the second half of 2021 for “highly qualified staff members,” says Adams who will plan and organize programming in the critical areas of parks, recreation, youth services and educational engagement/workforce development.
A director and three commissioners will oversee the planning phase by developing “a comprehensive strategy for each division,” says Adams. “We need people who know how to do the job – experienced individuals.”
The correct name for the new project, says Adams, is “Creating the Department of Parks and Youth Services” while the actual department is still in the development phase.
The creation of the project and the new department to follow has not been without a certain amount of controversy. Adams had proposed the department back in March and it was approved by her council colleagues but vetoed by Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz due to a legal process issue. Several council members switched their votes in order to uphold the mayor’s veto. So she went back to the drawing board, worked with the administration and sorted out the issues that caused the veto.
Now instead of a Department of Parks, Recreation, Youth Services and Educational Engagement, a Department of Parks and Youth Services will come into being – although recreation, youth services, educational engagement and workforce development will all be part of the new department. The major structural change in her new proposal is that park maintenance will remain with the Department of Public Services.
Adams, an educator by profession and choice and an elected official who was drafted and cajoled into her current situation, has clearly identified what she can do to improve the lives of the city’s youth.
“We want robust internships and apprenticeships,” she insists. “We want to support youth academically. We have all these professionals everywhere – doctors, lawyers, teachers, accountants – we want to get the kids prepared.”
The new department is also expected to work cooperatively with other city organizations that are in the business of helping youth, particularly with educational attainment.
“We need the department to pull in all these other organizations and coordinate their efforts – we need the weight of the city behind these other organizations and to sustain them.”
Adams, a Toledo native and daughter of the esteemed Samantha Adams, attended Scott High School, graduated from Bowsher, earned her bachelor’s degree from the former Mary Manse College and three graduate degrees, including her doctorate, from the University of Toledo.
She taught science for 14 years in the Toledo Public Schools district before moving into administration, eventually becoming assistant superintendent for middle schools.
After her retirement, Adams was persuaded to join the Toledo Board of Education to replace the departing Jack Ford. Reluctantly, she recalls, she accepted and then was persuaded to run for election to remain on the board.
In 2015, after the death of Jack Ford, then a Toledo city councilman, she was persuaded to replace Ford on council – a replacement voted on by the council members. She once more reluctantly agreed. In 2017, she won election in her own right, doing so with the intention of serving only one full term.
Now in 2021, she has declined to run for re-election, in large part because she believes that she has accomplished on Council, what she had intended to accomplish. Because of legislation, or the collaborative efforts with other organizations, that she has introduced or supported on Council, she takes pride in a number of successes: the end of certain types of discrimination due to appearance, the end of pay day lending proliferation, the establishment of the EMT certification for Toledo students via Owens Community College, a program of study for 10 to 12 graders that credentials them in public safety.
And the creation of this new department, given her concern for education and the well-being of youth, is undoubtedly her crowning achievement.
“I’ve done what I was asked to do and I am proud of legislation I have helped pass,” she reflects.