By Amanda Emerson, NKU Journalist Intern, firstname.lastname@example.org
Early retired Mason cop Derek Bauman may be known as the city’s “go-to guy” for promoting the new streetcar but now he’s making a run for Cincinnati City Council.
“I think he would be an amazing city council member,” said Chris Seelbach, a council member for Cincinnati since 2011. “I know Derek to get things done.”
Bauman, 48, who lives in Over-the-Rhine, got involved more than a half dozen years ago with community work in the West End and with volunteering for such organizations as Cincinnatians for Progress and All Aboard Ohio.
In Seelbach’s view, Bauman should speak to his work in the community and his public safety expertise as well as to his passionate interest in public transportation.
“I think any first-time candidate has to make sure that their message is all of who they are and why they are running,” Seelbach said. “You have to be more than a one-issue candidate.”
Bauman says he understands diversity having grown up in a diverse neighborhood on Cleveland’s East Side as the only child in a working-class home. He developed an appreciation for public transportation at an early age because his father had to use the transit system to get to his job as a travel agent.
Bauman says he also understands the struggles that some families have gone through. He started a GoFundMe account that helped raised over $200,000 for Sonny Kim’s family, a Cincinnati police officer who was killed in the line of duty.
When the West End Reds Little League was on the verge of folding financially, Bauman stepped in to help them raise over $15,000. He continues to help with their fundraising efforts, recruiting sponsors and donors.
In 1991, Bauman received his undergraduate degree in business at Akron University.
But after deciding that a career behind a desk wasn’t for him, Bauman rode along with his police officer uncle, where he witnessed the pursuit of a suspect who had a warrant out for his arrest. The man bailed out of a car and led officers on a foot chase while Bauman was sitting in the front seat of the police cruiser.
“I was worried because I wasn’t sure if the guy was going to pull a gun out or what,” Bauman said. “It was kind of overwhelming but it was the first thing that I saw that was exciting.”
Exciting enough that Bauman discovered his career path.
After graduating from the police academy in 1990, Baumann worked as an officer for Montville Twp. police in northern Ohio. There he trained fellow officers while also earning a master’s in education at the University of Akron in 2000.
In 2001, Bauman attended police leadership school for 10 weeks, where he made his connection with the Mason Police Department and, two years later, joined the force there.
Because “just doing my regular 40 hours a week isn’t enough,” Bauman said, he went on to earn a second master’s degree, in business from Touro University in 2007.
According to Bauman, moving to the Cincinnati region “changed his life.”
“I fell in love with this city and the people. It gave me the opportunity to get involved,” Bauman said. “You don’t necessarily have to be rich, politically connected or have a family name. If you want to put the work out and build relationships with people, you can make a difference here.”
The plans for developing the Banks, the remodeling of Fountain Square and the Cincinnati streetcar kept drawing Bauman’s interest to downtown Cincinnati. He wanted to be a part of the vision, which influenced his decision to buy a condo in Over-The-Rhine in 2010 while he was still working for Mason police.
After connecting in OTR with local fashion designer Nathan Hurst, Bauman helped develop Cincinnati’s first Fashion Week event in 2009, now an annual production that attracts several thousand designers, buyers, consumers and corporate representatives to a series of runway presentations, retail experiences, higher-learning opportunities and nightlife venues.
The success of Cincinnati Fashion Week raised Bauman’s profile and inspired him to envision a bolder future for the city, he said, including the development of the streetcar that now runs between The Banks and the outer edge of Over-the-Rhine.
Bauman was a key advocate in lobbying both the state and the city for the $34 million project, which was opposed as a “boondoggle” by fiscal conservatives, including Mayor John Cranley, and especially COAST, the local Tea Party chapter in the Cincinnati area.
Brad Beckett, a public policy professional and the new chairman of COAST, has no problem with Bauman running for office, “the more people running for council the merrier,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing and it’s healthy for our democracy.”
But he warned that “anyone who wants to throw their hat in the arena and go for council, has to be committed, because it’s a tough job (and) it’s not an easy race. You have to build a coalition across the entire city.”
Howard Wilkinson, a politics reporter for 91.7 WVXU, Cincinnati Public Radio, said this “will be a difficult race” because Bauman isn’t running against one person but instead “running against an entire field.”
There are more than 30 candidates running for city council and only nine can be elected. Several non-incumbent candidates have been running for years with an advantage of being well known in the community. And six of the nine open seats belong to incumbents.
Bauman doesn’t want to be known as a “one trick pony,” Wilkinson said. He needs to focus and develop a campaign around other issues such as policing and how city resources are allocated.
Beckett agreed. “You can’t just be for a liberal cause. You have to put yourself in a position where you can draw from a lot of different groups.”
According to Beckett, the Democratic Party will have a slate card of nine candidates that they will ask the party faithful to support.
“If Derek can get on the party slate card, then his chances have tremendously increased,” Beckett said. “But if he does not, then he’s practically not going to win, in my opinion.”
Bauman has been very active throughout the city the past few months and has no intention of slowing down, he said. He has a campaign manager, treasurer, a couple of close advisors and several dozen volunteers helping him run his campaign, he said.
This won’t be Bauman’s first major challenge. In 2011, while on a domestic disturbance call with a stabbing in progress, he had to kick down the door to enter the premises. He severely injured his knee and was forced to retire early but was awarded Mason’s Medal of Valor for his service.
Police work taught him to communicate better with others and to understand people from different backgrounds, Bauman said. “It was a great way to learn people skills, to learn empathy for others and the situations that they are in.”
“After a career in law enforcement,” Bauman said, “it was really more about connecting with the people and working on ways that I could build relationships in the community.”
According to Seelbach, Bauman isn’t just a dreamer with big ideas to better the community. He is able to “execute the idea very well” and “make it happen,” he said.
“Authenticity is key,” Bauman said. “For what I believe in and for what is right.”
In 2013, only around 27 percent of Cincinnati voters turned out for the last election, with Mayor John Cranley winning his seat with about 30,000 votes in a city of 300,000 residents, according to Bauman.
Bauman’s goal is to get Cincinnatians engaged, give them something to be excited about and to communicate with each individual who may have any questions. Bauman said he plans to be there on the frontlines.
“Technically, Cincinnati City Council is a part-time job but if you’re doing it right, it’s a full-time job,” Bauman said. “If I’m not in the office down at City Hall, then I will be in the neighborhoods.”
Bauman said he understands that he can’t solve every person’s problem but the important thing is to take the time to listen, care and be there for the people in his community.
“I have dedicated my life to public service and to helping all of the people,” he said. “I view my service to the citizens of Cincinnati as their next council member as a continuation of something that I have dedicated my entire life to.”