CLEVELAND — Cleveland will soon have a new mayor for the first time since 2005. Mayor-Elect Justin Bibb spoke with News 5 just after he won the election in November, and it was clear then that his mother was a very important person in his life. So we asked her: Who is Justin Bibb, really?
His mom, Charlene Nichols-Bibb, shared with News 5's Danita Harris some insight into Cleveland's next leader. Harris spoke to Nichols-Bibb at a location that has special significance, both for Bibb and in Cleveland history.
"We are here now in the very place, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, the location of his watch party where he declared victory," Harris said. "Take me back to that night, mom."
"I was like 'WOW, he did it. They did it,'" Nichols-Bibb said. "I was overwhelmed, and I'm still overwhelmed with gratitude of all the people that supported, and I can say this...my baby.
"And for him to do his watch party here where Martin Luther King stood, and my baby had the same opportunity to stand here to be able to make change. I'm in awe."
While Bibb, 34, will always be his mother's baby, his mother says being a young mayor should work well for him.
"I believe his age will work for him. Because his age will allow him to think outside of the box. His age will allow him to not worry about the next election. To do what's needed right here and right now," Nichols-Bibb said.
Watch part one of our two-part interview below:
Nichols-Bibb is excited to watch her son continue reaching his goals and, like most Clevelanders, is pulling for her boy to help lead Cleveland well while he is in office.
"I pray that he leads the city with wisdom, that he surrounds himself with people who can help him, that he listens to those people and the city gives him a fair chance to turn things around," Nichols-Bibb said.
Before his first-place win in the primary, Bibb's fellow candidates had name recognition and political experience in Cleveland. Bibb's name was unfamiliar, and had some asking, "Who is Justin Bibb?"
"He was already on several different boards, he had jobs, he was always actively involved in what was going on in the city," Nichols-Bibb said. "But I guess the people, the residents in the neighborhood really didn't know him. So I think that's where the confusion came in — 'Who is Justin Bibb? I never heard of him.' But it was a whole other sector of people that knew all about Justin."
Of course, no one knows a son better than his mom, and Nichols-Bibb saw the qualities of a leader in Bibb from an early age.
"Justin as a little boy was somewhat precocious. Inquisitive. Very busy," Nichols-Bibb said.
Being precocious and inquisitive in nature helped guide Bibb on his journey to office.
Nichols-Bibb said she worked to instill a passion for healthy community relationships into her son at an early age.
"I taught him to whom much is given, much is required," Nichols-Bibb said. "So we always did things to give back to our community even when he was a little guy."
When Bibb announced he was running for mayor, some in Cleveland may have been surprised—but his mother knew this was meant to be.
"Justin wanted to be mayor since he was 16. He was in this program at high school....called Look Up To Cleveland. And he fell in love with Cleveland and being a part of Cleveland politics through that program," Nichols-Bibb said. "He was already on several different boards, he had jobs, he was always actively involved in what was going on in the city. But I guess the people, the residents in the neighborhood really didn't know him. So I think that's where the confusion came in, 'Who is Justin Bibb? I never heard of him.' But it was a whole other sector of people that knew all about Justin."
Bibb put in the work as he carved a path to reach his goals of city leadership.
"He was like, you know, one day I think I want to be the mayor of Cleveland. And I want to start developing relationships with people that can help me do that," Nichols-Bibb said. "So every year when he came home from college he always had a meeting with different mayors from different surrounding cities to just talk to them about what it was like to be the mayor of their prospective city."
If there's going to a future Mrs. Bibb, his mom, like most moms, knows the qualities her prospective daughter-in-law should have.
"Someone that first loves God, someone that loves Justin, someone that's family-oriented that loves family, and someone that sees the vision and that's a team player. Because we're a team," Nichols-Bibb said. "And I'm more than willing to pass the torch to a team player."
"But you better come correct," Harris added.
With a shared laugh, Nichols-Bibb agreed: "You better come correct."
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