GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — In less than a month, voters across Northeast Ohio will head to the polls, deciding on issues and races impacting their communities. In Garfield Heights, they will decide who will lead their city into the future.
Before the votes are even counted, we know the next mayor of Garfield Heights will be a former city council member.
Matthew Burke left his post as council president in February to replace the outgoing mayor, who retired early.
"What's nice about it, is you understand what the legislative branch does. I'm very proud of this city. It means a lot to me," said Burke.
Burke is facing off against Shayla L. Davis, another lifelong Garfield Heights resident.
"My entire professional career has been public service," said Davis.
Davis, who works for the City of Cleveland, abruptly resigned from Garfield City Council earlier this year.
"My job suddenly became an issue. About 25 days after I announced that I was running for mayor," said Davis.
The mayoral candidate called the controversy politically motivated.
"I was deeply saddened because I am a public servant," said Davis.
Both candidates told News 5 that their experience makes them the best choice.
Burke says he has 34 years of experience in business.
"The future of Garfield Heights has to be industry, has to be manufacturing, it has to be distribution," he said.
Davis touted her 27 years in government.
"Having government transparency with the community is something that I really pushed and worked on while on city council," Davis said.
Davis pointed to the city's slogan, “A Caring Community" as she looks to the future. "The care is not in the city anymore. That is something that needs to be put back in," said Davis.
Burke used the other slogan, “A City of Homes” as an example. "I think that was one of the biggest things that has held the city back over the years is that we were known as the city of homes and we didn't want industry," said Burke.
In order to do that, Burke wants to see the Transportation Boulevard corridor extended down to Rockside Road.
"Between that Garfield Heights and Valley View border, you could build on that," said Burke.
Davis said driving economic growth requires a leader – not just someone who manages.
"A leader is someone who is thinking outside of the box and who is trying to create a different space in a different time, and they know how to get that done," Davis said.
If Davis wins, she would be the first female African-American to lead the City of Garfield Heights.
"You have to have diverse perspectives in order to lead your government in a way that it really reflects your community," Davis said.
Burke told News 5 that he too wants that diversity and a chance for children to see themselves in community leaders. Burke is the first Asian-American Mayor to hold the Mayoral Seat in Garfield Heights.
"I just feel bad for them because they're young and they aspire. They're looking for a leader, they're looking for somebody they can, a role model, and she's not it," said Burke.