He is nothing like the Kinks' song except for the title. Bill Resseger is retiring this summer from his decades of service to the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development. He has a wealth of knowledge that the City is unfortunately losing. He knows everything about the funding of homeless services and the development of housing. He knows how to assure that the City gets its fair share of State and Federal dollars to preserve and expand affordable housing. Resseger has an even temperament and was a calming presence even when the neighborhoods were being robbed by predatory lenders and financial services industry. Resseger served six mayors from the low key Ralph Perk to the explosive Michael White and finally the former tenant organizer, Frank Jackson.
He knows government regulations and how to get funds into Cleveland. He is an expert on funding of homeless services, and has a long history for what would work and what will not work. We recognized his years of service at the CAHA meeting yesterday. Bill Resseger was part of the founding of Cuyahoga Affordable Housing Alliance meetings to preserve affordable housing locally back in 1998. This was a time when there was a huge threat to affordable housing with the loss of thousands of subsidized housing units. In the late 1990s, Community Development was more about bailing water from a sinking ship than it had to do with developing anything. Resseger was not the guy running around screaming that "Rome was burning." He was not the guy who organized town hall meetings or criticizing stupid decisions by government. Resseger was the guy who showed up every day and did his job.
He knew how to cut through red tape and understood bureaucratic written instructions to complete a grant application. He learned how to go from paper applications back in 1974 to the all electronic world of 2014. He knew how to satisfy the federal beast which was always requesting more and more information. He was good at cleaning up messes and implementing the goals of six different administrations in community development. He probably saved the City millions in fines and settlements that plague other cities efforts to spend federal development dollars. He knew his job. He knew the social service system and the people he served: taxpayers.
He was not the speech maker or the General who put together a strategy for moving a neighborhood forward. He performed the essential job of keeping the wheels of government working. Bill Resseger quietly told politicians that their grand magic bullet plan for saving the city was not workable, was corrupt, was stupid or all of the above in the most subtle and understated way possible. He could translate vision into paperwork, and often did. We saw this when he worked to transform a strip club/prostitute motel into a transitional housing shelter. The barely clothed female dancers were told that they would be out of a job on the day that the Mayor was showing up to do the ribbon cutting on the new shelter, which made for an awkward afternoon for community development.
He did not always agree with us, but he was always honest. If Bill took no position on an issue, we knew that the City would most likely not take a position. I wish he would have been more adventurous, but Lakeside Ave. is littered with the carcasses of adventurous public employees. We always got a fair hearing with Bill Resseger and the tax payers of Cleveland were well served by his long career. He championed the City of Cleveland and always defended their interests at the table. I never heard him complain about bad bosses or terrible elected office holders either in the executive or legislative branch. He did every job he was asked to do. He was a shining example of public service in a time when government service is often criticized or scorned.
We have a much improved shelter system in Cleveland. We do not turn people away at the shelter door, which Bill can certainly take partial credit for along with Ruth Gillett. We have some beautifully renovated subsidized buildings in the City and we did not have the wholesale loss of housing that we saw in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit and Chicago. We have robust Permanent Supportive Housing and senior housing developments, which seems to be the only game in town for developing housing in America. We have the innovative lease to purchase program operated by Cleveland Housing Network and a Public Housing program that did not wither away because of a lack of federal support. We do not have the incredible number of people sleeping on the streets as we see in Washington, San Francisco or Detroit, and we have some neighborhoods on the rebound locally. Thanks Bill for showing up and serving the citizens of Cleveland.
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PS: If you have any questions about how much of a behind the scene guy Bill Resseger is, try to find a picture of him. Go ahead...in this age of Facebook and photographs of everything on the internet...try an image search for Bill. It does not exist. He has been sitting at his desk filling out paperwork while the rest of us have been posting selfies and updating our profiles.