TWDC Board President Henry Senyak resigns
(Plain Press, October 2012) Tremont West Development Corporation (TWDC) Board President Henry Senyak resigned from serving on the Board of Directors on August 19th, the day after the August TWDC Board of Directors meeting on August 18th when a number of board members walked out of the meeting. Senyak, elected as President by the general membership in January of this year, says in leaving the board, he will do his best to back the efforts of Executive Director Cory Riordan and the TWDC Board of Directors’ new president, Susan Coy. Following Senyak’s resignation, he responded to some questions from the Plain Press about his resignation and the future of Tremont West Development Corporation.
Why did you resign from the position as President of Tremont West Development Corporation’s Board of Directors?
The main reason I resigned as President was the disrespect shown me by a handful of current board members. This was coupled with the fact that Community Development Corporations (CDCs) are just too political. Also, going to at least 10 meetings a month just for TWDC Board and Committees, and that was taking a toll on my health. Some board members failed to show up for their Committee assignments, or just participated in one meeting a month. TWDC Board is a working Board and it is easy to get burned out. Every week you must be prepared for new challenges. TWDC should be the priority, not someone’s social calendar to have cocktails at a specific time if a board meeting runs late.
Was your activism an issue with fellow board members and funders?
The TWDC membership knew when they elected me into office that I was an activist. I worked at 150% to get things done for the community of Tremont. Funders like Neighborhood Progress Inc (NPI) and Councilman Joe Cimperman wanted full control on how the organization is run, this was unacceptable in my eyes especially when the Councilman would start calling other Board members requesting influence. NPI tried to influence who we hired in January as our new Executive Director, and this caused disharmony on last years board for at least four months.
The code of regulations of TWDC state “The membership is the ultimate authority of the organization.” Many TWDC members have felt Tremont has lost favor with the funders and the City Administration over the past several years. I was providing significant pressure on issues our stakeholders felt were important. Tremont’s roads are like minefields and our business owners are at a disadvantage with all the available money in grants and loans being provided to upstart businesses in Ohio City.
I was elected by the membership, I felt complete responsibility to them, they have invested everything into Tremont. Tremont is the premier success story and is the only neighborhood that has a sustainable renaissance over the past 20 years. My interest was bettering the community and not being a good political soldier waiting to get some type of City job as many others do in the CDC’s world. I worked hard to get people together to solve issues, even people that were the worst critics of TWDC or some that did not support me. Tremont is like a full contact sport, no neighborhood can compare to its energy and the advocacy of its residents and business owners.
What are some of the accomplishments you can site, during your term on the Board of Directors?
I am very proud of my service over the past four years on the TWDC Board. We changed this organization and gave it back to the people. The board is composed now of a lot of talent and energetic newer residents that understand they work for the membership. I will assist Sue Coy in her roll as President, she works very hard and is a very fair person. I will support TWDC as long as they keep to their new- found transparency and policies. Our new Executive Director is hands down, 100% better in working with the community than prior executive directors.
What are some of the challenges TWDC faces?
1) TWDC needs to stay focused on their mission and work to better Tremont. Stay out of political matters or electioneering as many other near west CDC’s are involved in with CDC employees hosting and running political fundraisers. Keep the membership involved especially in Ward 14.
2) To be influenced by the membership not NPI. NPI is providing funding for a consultant coach to provide influence to the Executive Director and the Board President. The Community is Tremont’s best asset not influence or politics.
3) Councilman Cimperman has made it clear to me and other Board members that within the next two years that NPI wants to merge Tremont West with Ohio City Inc. and defund a CDC located in Tremont.
What about bars and restaurant growth in Tremont?
It is clear based on two recent proposals this year in Tremont that many feel we have reach a saturation point. Many existing operators even feel this is true and came out against a new proposal for Professor. You can only have so many similar businesses competing without having businesses having negative impacts.
The unfettered development with the help of the City of Cleveland in Ohio City, which is within walking distance of Tremont, has affected some businesses already and they are seeing a significant drop in business.