Citing his age, his commitment to family and his belief that fresh leadership enhances government, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced his decision not to run for a third term Nov. 16.
Budish, 68, made the announcement by Cuyahoga County YouTube video Nov. 16.
Budish told the Cleveland Jewish News Nov. 16 that Jewish values informed his decision to run for county executive and to serve as a four-term state legislator, where he also served as Speaker of the House.
“My Jewish upbringing has guided everything about me being county executive, including getting into the business in the first place,” said Budish, a lifelong member of Park Synagogue in Pepper Pike and Cleveland Heights. “I believe very strongly that it’s our obligation to repair the world, to do what we can to help those who need help. And I have done that work. My entire lifetime actually, most notably, recently as first a state legislator … and then a county executive. I gave up a very successful and lucrative law practice so that I could help people better through the government service that I’ve done.”
Budish said he has made no decisions about his next move following the end of his term Dec. 31, 2022. He followed Ed FitzGerald, who became the first county executive in 2010.
In the video, he outlined the two reasons why he is not pursuing a third term.
“First, I respect the limits of public service and leaders must know when it’s the right time to step aside and pass the torch to new leadership with fresh ideas,” he said. “It should never be about us. It should always be about the people we serve. Two terms, eight years, that’s the right amount of time to serve as county executive. As the first two-term county executive, I want to set the right precedent.
“Second is the fact that I love my wife, Amy, my kids and my out-of-town grandchildren. I’ve devoted myself to community service for the last 15 years working seven days a week, nights and weekends. And now is the right time to rebalance my priorities. Now, though my wife, Amy, may not like it so much, I’ll be able to spend a lot more time with her. And I’m 68 years old, although I know I look a lot younger. And I want to spend more time with them while I’m still healthy.”
Budish named as accomplishments doubling the number of children receiving pre-kindergarten education; transforming criminal justice in Cuyahoga County through the establishment of diversion centers for those with mental health issues and addictions; job creation; business and job retention, specifically noting the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Cleveland Guardians and Sherwin-Williams.
“It’s not just, you know, the ballplayers,” Budish told the CJN of keeping the sports teams in Cleveland. “It’s all the people that work in the bars and the restaurants that service the people who come down to the games.”
Budish said in his announcement he is looking forward to creating a microgrid, which is in the planning stages. That microgrid would be both duplicative and more reliable than the electric grid the county has. It would, he said, guarantee power with power failures of no more than five minutes a year.
“And that is very, very attractive to businesses,” Budish told the CJN. “So, the aim of it is to create a business attraction tool for us here in Cuyahoga County.”
In the video, he also spoke of the future of the county.
“Over the next 14 months, I am not going to be just a caretaker,” he said. “Our county deserves bold leadership. That’s what I intend to continue to provide. I’ll be bringing forward a number of exciting initiatives. … We’ll highlight our fresh water to bring in manufacturers that need a steady supply of our plentiful resource. And we’ll create the most aggressive talent attraction and development program in the nation. Leadership means serving in a way that promotes the best interest of the community both today and tomorrow.”
Budish also spoke about the FBI raid of his county office on Feb. 14, 2019.
“I haven’t heard much of anything,” regarding that raid, he told the CJN. “I will say that the reasons that I gave are the reasons I am not going to be running for a third term.”
In his video announcement, Budish also vowed to work with his successor.
Chris Ronayne, a Democrat who resigned as president of University Circle Inc. as of Oct. 1 to run, and former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Lee Weingart, a Republican who established LNE Group, an international government relations and business consulting firm headquartered in Cleveland, have announced their candidacies for the county executive position.
“During the coming months, I’ll invite all candidates regardless of party affiliation to reach out to discuss the challenges and opportunities that we must face together. … And I want to make the next 14 months the most productive in our history,” Budish told the CJN.
A Cleveland native, Budish grew up in South Euclid and Beachwood, graduating from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md. He graduated from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania and from New York University Law School. He clerked for a federal judge and worked at Hahn Loeser & Parks in Cleveland prior to opening his own firm in the eastern suburbs, Budish, Solomon, Steiner & Peck, Ltd. He left the firm to enter public service.
“I will leave the next county executive with a very healthy county, very healthy county government,” Budish told the CJN. “We have money. We have a lot of momentum. And we have a lot of projects that are and have been successful, and a lot that are on the path to becoming very successful. So I leave my successor in really good shape, I believe.”