In 2005, Mark Mallory became the first African American to be elected mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, under a new system in which voters chose their city leader by direct ballot. Mallory had little experience in municipal leadership, but had forged an impressive career representing his hometown in Ohio's state house and senate over the past decade. The Democrat came from a family with deep roots in Cincinnati and with a long legacy of public service. "I need everyone in the city to take pride in our city," Mallory asserted in his inaugural speech, according to the City of Cincinnati's Web site for the Mayor's Office. "Everyone must focus on solutions rather than problems. Everyone should consider the needs of the city and know that each and everyone of us are part of making this city great."
Born April 4, 1962, Mallory is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati and grew up in a politically active family. The doorbell of the Mallory home in the West End neighborhood frequently rang with community leaders and ordinary citizens hoping to speak to Mallory's father, William Sr., a public school teacher who was elected to the Ohio state house in 1966 and served there for the next 27 years. When Mallory was nine years old, his father began to take him to Columbus, the state capital, on days that he was out of school. "I would seat him at a committee table with the representatives," William Mallory told Margo Pierce of Cincinnati CityBeat, "and I would deliberately go out of the room and come back and I would say, ‘Look, I didn't leave you here to chew gum. What'd they talk about while I was gone?’ Just to make him alert."
Mallory graduated from the city's Academy of Math and Science and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in administrative management from the University of Cincinnati. He worked for city library system in various management posts before deciding to run for his father's seat in the state house when the senior Mallory announced his retirement. After winning that 1994 election, he was reelected two years later, but in 1998 made a run for a seat in the Ohio senate, and won that race by ousting the Republican incumbent. He was reelected in 2002, but limited to two consecutive four-year terms by law.
Like his father, who had served as Democratic majority leader in the state house for almost 20 years, Mallory quickly emerged as a leader in the senate. He served as assistant leader of its Democratic caucus and then became the assistant minority leader. Though the Democrats were in the minority in the upper house, he managed to win passage for an impressive number of bills. One of those was purely symbolic, but signed into law in a solemn ceremony on Constitution Day, September 17, 2003: a resolution that finally ratified the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution 135 years after Congress sent it to the states for approval. This Amendment defined U.S. citizenship and guaranteed equal protection under the law to all persons, not just citizens, living in the United States. Mallory's resolution was a mere formality to correct a technical glitch—one Ohio General Assembly had ratified it back in the 1860s, yet that vote was rescinded by their successors—but its ratification in 2003 was an important symbolic gesture. "Ohio has made some terrible mistakes in the past," Dayton Daily News writer William Hershey quoted Mallory as saying at the ceremony. "This afternoon we took an opportunity to correct those mistakes."
With the end of his career in the state senate nearing, Mallory entered the Cincinnati mayor's race of 2005. Over the past several decades, voters in the city had chosen only their city council, which then elected a mayor from amongst themselves. After 1987, the council candidate with the highest number of votes became mayor. In 1999, the city implemented a new system whereby candidates were directly elected in a municipal election, but political infighting remained a hallmark of Cincinnati City Hall, and the problems worsened after the city erupted in riots in April of 2001 after the shooting death of a black man by a police officer—the 15th such death in six years.
A third political party, the Charter Party, had dominated Cincinnati city politics for several decades, but there had long been a shortage of Republican candidates willing to run for municipal office. In the Democratic primary in September of 2005, Mallory and David Pepper Jr.—son of the former chief executive officer of Procter & Gamble, one of the area's largest employers—received the highest number of votes and faced off on the general election. Pepper was a city council member and campaigned on his experience in city government. "Mallory has clearly staked out a position as a politically experienced outsider," noted Cincinnati Post writer Barry M. Horstman, "one familiar with the city's litany of problems but whose fingerprints cannot be found near any of them by virtue of having served in Columbus, not City Hall." The final vote on November 8, 2005, was close, with Mallory winning with 51.8 percent, compared to the 48.2 percent that Pepper garnered. Mallory became the first mayor in more than 70 years who had not served on Cincinnati's city council, and was the city's first African-American leader to be elected under the new system.
Mallory resigned from his seat in the state senate and was sworn in as mayor on December 1, 2005. During his first year in office, he added more police officers to street patrols, made cuts in property tax rates, and increased regional cooperative efforts with officials across the Ohio River in Kentucky and Indiana. He also launched what he called the "Young Professionals' Kitchen Cabinet" to keep younger working families and singles from leaving the city. "You are among the most energetic people in this city," he told the advisory board at its first meeting in October of 2006, according to Cincinnati Post journalist Joe Wessels. "It only makes sense to reach out and try to get information from you about how to keep you here and about how to reach out and attract more people to this city."
The Cincinnati mayor is not the only Mallory who followed their father into a career in politics or government service. The mayor's brother, William Jr., is a municipal court judge, while another, Dale, serves as a state representative, and a third, Joe is a civic leader in nearby Forest Park. They were undoubtedly inspired by their father's career as a public servant, but their mother was a formative influence, too, as Mallory recalled in the interview with Pierce for Cincinnati CityBeat. "I don't care what you do in life but you have to do something," were her words to her six children, Mallory said, "and you need to do something that's going to make me proud."
At a Glance …
Born April 4, 1962, in Cincinnati, OH; son of William L. Mallory Sr. (a politician); married. Education: University of Cincinnati, BS, 1993(?). Politics: Democrat.
Career: Hamilton County Public Library, manager of graphic production department, and of security department, 1993-94(?); Ohio State General Assembly, representative, 1994-98; Ohio State Senate, senator, 1999-2005; Cincinnati, mayor, 2005-.
Memberships: 4C for Children Advisory Council, board of trustees; the Friars Club, board of trustees; Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati, advisory board; Students in Free Enterprise, advisory board.
Awards: Meryl Shoemaker "Legislator of the Year" award, 1998; Correctional Education Association, Excellence in Correctional Education award, 1999; National Association of Social Workers, Legislator of the Year award, 2001; Ohio Association of Election Officials, Wolfe Award of Excellence, 2002; Ohio Library Council, Andrew Carnegie Award, 2003; Ohio Community Corrections Association, Legislator of the Year award, 2003.
Addresses: Office—Mayor's Office, 801 Plum St., Rm. 150, Cincinnati, OH 45202-1979.
Cincinnati April 2006, pp. 90-219.
Cincinnati CityBeat, May 11, 2005.
Cincinnati Post, September 23, 2005, p. A10; May 16, 2006, p. A1; October 18, 2006, p. A1; December 25, 2006, p. A2.
Dayton Daily News, September 18, 2003, p. B3.
"Mayor's Biography," City of Cincinnati—Meet the Mayor, www.cincinnati-oh.gov/mayor/pages/-3052-/ (July 6, 2007).