Cleveland Mayor Bibb retains predecessor's safety director, announces new cabinet hires

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, pictured here during last year's campaign, announced a string of cabinet hires Wednesday. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced a new set of cabinet hires on Wednesday, including his predecessor’s safety director, who will retain that role.

Karrie Howard, who served as safety director under previous Mayor Frank Jackson, will become Bibb’s chief public safety officer. The new mayor swore Howard in last week as interim safety director. As director, Howard oversees the city’s police, fire and EMS divisions.

Bibb named Ahmed Abonamah as the city’s new finance director, styled as chief financial officer. A graduate of the University of Dayton who earned a J.D. at Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Abonamah worked for six years at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Two months ago, Abonamah was named director of the SEC’s Office of Credit Ratings. Prior to joining the SEC, he worked at Squire Patton Boggs, an international law firm headquartered in Cleveland.

An early job for the city’s new finance director will be to help the mayor’s administration draw up a budget for the year, which council will review in the coming months.

Bonnie Teeuwen will join the Bibb administration as the city’s chief operating officer. She leaves behind a top job at the Cleveland-based firm Osborn Engineering. Previously, she worked as Cuyahoga County’s director of public works and as a deputy director of the Ohio Department of Transportation under Gov. Ted Strickland.

The mayor hired Sally Martin, who is well known among Northeast Ohio housing advocates, as the city’s director of building and housing. Martin currently serves in that role in the suburb of South Euclid.

Bibb’s pick to lead the community development department, Alyssa Hernandez, comes to Cleveland City Hall by way of Florida. There, she managed federal disaster relief block grant dollars within the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Martin and Hernandez will report to Jeff Epstein, whom Bibb hired as chief of integrated development. Epstein led MidTown Cleveland, the community development corporation that works in neighborhoods between Downtown and University Circle.

“The addition of key roles in our cabinet will enable us to maximize our financial position and work towards becoming a more modern and responsive city hall,” Bibb said in a news release. “As we continue to build our team, we’re focused on combining wisdom with fresh perspectives to deliver on our commitments to the residents of Cleveland.”

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