Some Summit County voters might see an unfamiliar name on today’s election ballot, but U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge plans to become more well-known quickly.
Fudge, a Democrat, represents the 11th District, which now includes an additional 172,000 residents due to redistricting. Her district — previously the east side of Cleveland and much of the eastern suburbs in Cuyahoga County bordering Lake Erie — now adds Akron, Bath, Fairlawn and Richfield. The area was mostly U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton’s territory, along with some of Rep. Tim Ryan’s.
She now represents 731,000 people from about 30 municipalities.
“Everyone is saying it’s going to be tough representing Cleveland and Akron, but I don’t think so,” she said. “I will look at how we can create an environment that makes us stronger, and I think that if we work together, we are stronger.
“So it may have even been a blessing that I now represent both of the large municipalities in Northeast Ohio. I can find a way to connect the two communities with resources and the ability to work together in ways that benefit the entire Northeast Ohio and not be competitors, but be collaborators.
“I think it’s going to be good.”
Getting to know her constituents has always been high on her list of goals, Fudge said in a recent interview.
“I want to have a presence in this community. I am already looking for an Akron office,” she said.
Fudge’s local office is located in Warrensville Heights, roughly the middle of the 11th District, meaning it would take about 35 minutes to travel there from the farthest points of her boundaries.
Fudge, 60, is unopposed today. She officially will represent parts of Summit County starting in January, but already has met people in this area. She has attended Akron-area functions and has set up several meet-and-greet events.
“I try to meet 500 people a week, whether it’s at a job fair, town hall meeting, social event or a parade. If I can’t find a venue, I will create one,” Fudge said. “It’s important to be there for people, and not just when you are asking for their vote.”
At a recent welcoming event at St. Joseph’s Family Center on West Exchange Street in Akron, Fudge didn’t leave the room until she had a conversation with everyone who attended.
Fudge served nine years as mayor of Warrensville Heights —the city’s first black woman in that job. She focused on economic development and is credited with creating 3,000 jobs to the area. She joined Congress in a special election in November 2008, following the sudden death of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, with whom she had close ties, and was re-elected in 2010.
She is also the past national president of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a public service sorority. Professionally, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ohio State University and a law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law at Cleveland State University.
Staff members say she is a workaholic and has “character and substance.” They and fellow elected officials say she genuinely cares about the people she represents.
“Sometimes people’s heart can be in one place and their head be someplace else, but from my opinion, Marcia Fudge is one of those individuals who gets this business and what’s important and has continued to work for the issues that are important to the vast majority of people — Republican or Democrat or independent,” Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said.
He said Fudge knows and understands the basics of what government is supposed to be and refuses to get gobbled up in Washington through false promises.
“She stands up for the people who need the help in our communities,” Plusquellic said. “I support her because she is on the right side of the issues and has an understanding of how government has to be business-oriented and efficient.”
Fudge told those attending a recent gathering that all the areas she represents are similar.
“The areas I represent are really not that different. I represent some of the very poor to some of the wealthiest,” she said. “People have the same needs in Summit County as in Cuyahoga County. We still have schools that need to be better, people who are homeless, businesses that are trying to thrive, great institutions of higher learning and great health-care institutions in both [the Akron and Cleveland] communities,” Fudge said. “I’m excited to be able to show you that they are both the same.”
Fudge described herself as a strong supporter of voting rights and education. She tries to attract young voters to get them engaged.
“Whatever it takes, we are going to have to make sure our children are able to compete in this region,” she said. “We can’t give excuses. We have to invest in our young people and in our communities.
“I don’t want to live in a place where my neighbor doesn’t think their house is important enough to maintain.”
Fudge said she works in Washington three or four days a week, but comes home every weekend because “politics is always local.”
“I truly do want to serve and represent everyone in my district,” she said. “I want people to know that I’m open to hear what they have to say.”
She said she tries to give something back every day.
“We have to take care of those less fortunate, and I am blessed with the opportunity to do it. I begin each morning with a firm promise ‘to do the people’s work.’ ”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.