“It was something I believe God called me to do,” said the new and first African American Mayor of Elyria Frank Whitfield.
Whitfield had been working for the city for 17 years since he was 15 years old. “I just always had a passion for helping people and it grew over time. You fall in love with helping people.” To reach a tier such as becoming mayor, you must have support and help and Whitfield indeed had it from the start. “My wife is number one. No doubt about it. She’s been by my side the whole time. This was a very risky move for me professionally and personally and she never moved from my side from the beginning.”
Exposed at a young age
Whitfield grew up on the south side of Elyria and was exposed to life as a juvenile. “I was exposed to drugs and violence at a very young age,” said Whitfield. Whitfield and his group of friends had to take on the responsibility of finances around the age of 13. “A lot of them went down the wrong path and tried to find the short term ways to get money,” he continued saying.
Whitfield admits nine of his friends had experienced jail or prison time and he’s the only one who hadn’t been institutionalized.
“I watched us go down these paths and it wasn’t because we were bad kids or because we didn’t care about our future. We were hungry for opportunities and we took the ones more available to us in the neighborhoods. In most cases, they were illegal. That’s a part that motivates me. I understand what kids are facing and are tempted by and I want to disrupt that pattern and provide opportunities for them. I want to create a city that is designed to help the youth become successful.” Whitfield said he still sees what he experienced in today’s community.
The cycling repeating
“It’s sad to see the cycle repeat itself. I’m on my third generation of seeing it. I watched the dad of my peers go down that path. Then I watched my peers go down that path and now I’ve seen children who are facing the same problem. As every generation comes and goes, I’m glad to see this upcoming generation stay out of trouble. It seems we are learning and teaching the younger generation to be better than us.”
Whitfield had collected a vast collegiate background of knowledge and degrees including a Bachelors in Nonprofit Administration from Cleveland State University, becoming a Certified Weather head Executive Coach and earning a MBA from Case Western Reserve University. Yet the community college in his hometown is the foundation where he began to mold his career together.
“LCCC is where I learned how to be a leader,” said Whitfield. He earned his Associate of Arts degree at LCCC. While on campus, Whitfield ran into his old professor, Malcolm Cash, who used to work in his old neighborhood and offered Whitfield a deal he couldn’t turn down, which was to come down to New Orleans with his group of students and help rebuild the community Hurricane Katrina destroyed.
“I got involved with the group, raised money, presented a bunch of presentations. It really showed me how to put a project together and have a set initiative,” said Whitfield.
More interactive with others
From that point on Whitfield had been more interactive in the community. He has been part of many organizations such as Youth Development Leader Save Our Children, Boys and Girls Club, Eden Vision (Co-Founder) from 2001 – 2010, Foundation Fellow Nord Family Foundation from 2012 – 2014 and most recently the President & CEO of Lorain County Urban League 2014 – 2019.