Former Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Harris has accepted a major, high-profile job in Detroit, where he will live during the week.
Harris, 39, was hired Monday as the first executive director for Excellent Schools Detroit. The new organization is comprised of various education, government, community and philanthropic leaders who have developed a 10-year, citywide education plan to improve Detroit's public school system.
The $200 million, one-of-a-kind initiative's goal is to ensure the school system is graduating 90 percent of its students by 2020 and having them enroll in colleges or other post-secondary training programs. Currently, the system is the worst-performing in the nation.
Among the groups involved with the effort are the Detroit Parent Network, Detroit Public Schools, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the Kresge Foundation.
“Education policy is a really exciting field right now, and it's an area where I can make a real difference,” Harris said.
The ex-councilman was hired after the organization conducted a nationwide search.
From 2000-05, Harris served as executive director of Citizens for Civic Renewal, which built public support for smart growth policies and regional approaches for addressing some of Greater Cincinnati's development issues.
“We were especially impressed by his breadth of relevant experience, his proven track record in building and managing broad-based coalitions, and his passionate commitment to children’s well-being,” said Carol Goss, the organization's chairwoman, who also is president and CEO of The Skillman Foundation.
A West Price Hill resident, Harris was appointed in January 2009 to fill the unexpired term of Democratic Councilman John Cranley, who was facing term limits. After publicly challenging spending and deployment issues in the city's Police and Fire Departments as part of budget talks in summer and fall of 2009, he was targeted for defeat by the police and firefighters unions.
That November, Harris placed 10th in balloting for the nine-member City Council, missing the final spot by about 3,400 votes. Reportedly, his willingness to challenge public-sector labor unions was one of the factors that helped him win the Detroit job.
Harris, who is divorced, will spend weekends in Cincinnati to visit his two sons.
An Illinois native, Harris moved to the region more than a decade ago to attend graduate school at Miami University in Oxford. He most recently worked as a public policy officer at KnowledgeWorks Foundation and is an ex-Miami University instructor.
Also, Harris ran twice unsuccessfully for Ohio's 1st Congressional District seat against Republican Steve Chabot, in 2002 and 2004.