Winifred Weizer is named to University Heights council
University Heights, Ohio--A vacant seat on the city council of this Cleveland suburb has been filled by northeast Ohio’s fourth openly lesbian or gay councilor.
Winifred J. Weizer, 57, was appointed on February 5to fill the vacancy left by R. Patrick Kelly’s resignation at the beginning of the year. She was chosen from a field of 17 applicants.
Weizer will hold the seat until year’s end. She will seek re-election in November for the remaining two years of Kelly’s four-year term, which ends in 2009. All seven members of University Heights’ non-partisan council are at-large. Weizer is a Democrat.
She and her partner Pat Baskin have lived in University Heights since 1991.
Weizer is a lecturer at Cleveland State University working on a Ph.D. in urban studies and urban affairs, and has been active in University Heights political and civic life. She is a trained member of the Community Emergency Response Team, and a member of the lay audit committee. She is a founding member of the University Heights Citizen Committee for Cedar-Taylor Redevelopment, the neighborhood where the couple lives, and worked on the campaign to raise the city’s income tax.
“I do a campaign a year,” said Weizer of her political activity.
Weizer’s activism also includes working for lesbian and gay equality, mostly in the 1970s, 1980s and early ’90s.
Weizer was part of the Eleanor Roosevelt Democratic Club, a forerunner to the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats. She was also involved with Dignity, the LGBT Catholic group, and appeared on local TV news talking about gay and lesbian issues during the Reagan administration.
Of her gay activism, Weizer says, “It’s a process we all go through. I did a lot of work for 7 or 8 years, and at some point, you have to live your life, too.
“As any group does,” said Weizer, “the next generation of gay activists has less to do. We’re in the mainstream a little more than we used to be.”
Weizer said being a lesbian had little effect on her appointment to city council.
“It’s part of my life,” Weizer said. “I didn’t apply for the position because I am a lesbian. What factored in was my experience and expertise. Working with the people of University Heights, I’m accepted for who I am.”
“They know me, and know Pat,” Weizer continued, “and the [members of council] felt I qualify. I think we’re past the petty stuff, and it’s a blessing.”
Weizer said the LGBT community has also gotten past supporting people for positions because they are LGBT, without regard to their qualifications.
“Years ago, so few showed up that we took everyone,” Weizer said.
“What I see now is we have more people with skills coming forth, and with a higher level of quality in leadership. We’re also realizing that our community is part of more than just ourselves.”
Weizer said her priorities on council will be repairing the relationship between the city and its namesake John Carroll University, the conditions leading to home foreclosures, and recreation options for the citizens.
Weizer becomes Ohio’s eleventh openly lesbian or gay person to hold office. Others on northeast Ohio city councils are Joe Santiago in Cleveland, Nickie Antonio in Lakewood and Mark Tumeo in Cleveland Heights.
Outside Cuyahoga County, former Columbus councilor Mary Jo Hudson serves in Governor Ted Strickland’s cabinet as the director of insurance. Kenneth Fallows is mayor of Haskins, near Toledo, and Joe Lacey serves on the Dayton school board.
Past gay and lesbian officeholders in Ohio include former Dayton city council member Mary Wiseman, former Toledo council president Louis Escobar, former Toledo councilor Lourdes Santiago and former Bloomdale councilor Skeeter Hunt.