q & a: will tarter, jr., president of cleveland young professional senate

Will Tarter, Jr. stands out as a leader and a representative of Cleveland’s young professional community. As the charismatic head of the Cleveland Young Professional Senate, he champions causes and issues that impact this highly in-demand demographic, not to mention the long-term well-being of Cleveland.
Fresh Water’s Joe Baur had a one-on-one with Tarter to better understand one of Cleveland’s visible young professionals.

What exactly is the Cleveland Young Professional Senate?

The Cleveland Young Professional Senate is a non-partisan organization that meets regularly to discuss information and issues that affect young people. Civic education, innovation and involvement are critical to create a city that is a destination for young professionals. We also bring in guest speakers who share their wisdom and experiences. We’re a diverse group from different professions, backgrounds, political affiliations and hometowns. 

So, how does this Senate work?

CYPS is a place where young people can engage in critical discussion and dialogue, similar to what you see in other deliberative bodies. Opinions are shared, views exchanged, statistics are presented and viewpoints are respected. Collectively, we are creating a solid foundation upon which recent college graduates and the next generation of young professionals will continue to create, articulate and advocate for their vision in the overall direction of the city.  

Like most cities, Cleveland has no shortage of issues. What do you believe young professionals need to be paying attention to?

Citizens everywhere have to be vigilant about issues and trends that are impacting their community. Young professionals are increasingly becoming a factor in economic and community development in neighborhoods across the country. We want Cleveland to be in the best position to retain young people and eventually attract others. In every sector, young professionals need to be present and represented, to provide that perspective and insight when decisions are made. Literally, decisions are being made now that will affect YP’s for the next 25 years or more. 

Do you buy the latest "Comeback City" narrative, or do you count yourself as a skeptic?

Absolutely! I love it! I think we are realizing the amazing assets that we currently have and are sharing them with the world. The low cost of living, the public transit system, the world-class health systems, the Cleveland Orchestra, the museums, the lake, the Metroparks, the West Side Market, PlayhouseSquare, the chefs, the historic buildings and neighborhoods... these all make Greater Cleveland great. Most young people are looking for cities with character and history, and are gravitating towards cities like Cleveland, even before they find a job.

Give us your diagnosis of civic engagement in Cleveland. 

Overall, I think that civic engagement before Election Day was strong. As 2012 demonstrated, there was a huge interest in Cleveland and Ohio prior to Election Day. But the challenge is after Election Day. How do we stay informed and involved, and ensure that our thoughts and views are being taken into consideration as much as our votes? There are also a high number of organizations who are highly effective in helping young people shape their community through civic engagement.

How would you describe the current relationship between young professionals and city government?

In my opinion, city government has done a good job of trying to identify policies that affect young people, including the creation of an Office of Sustainability and the Sustainability 2019 Conference, the creation and passage of legislation for food trucks, the landmarks commission, bike lanes and education reform. The County has also gone to great lengths with the creation of the Public Policy Fellowship Program. Certainly, all these things affect the lives of young people in a big way.

You are active in other organizations as well, correct?

I serve on the Cuyahoga County Charter Review Commission, Area Governor for Toastmasters International, Board Member of Global Cleveland and Engage Cleveland, Board Member for the Hispanic Business Center and member of the Cleveland NAACP.

What keeps you so motivated, positive and happy?

I'm blessed to have an amazing wife, a loving family, supporting friends and colleagues, strong mentors and a church family that is constantly encouraging me along the way, one day at a time. I’m serious when I have to be, but love and joy keep a smile on my face.

Describe for us your perfect day in Cleveland.

Hmmm. A perfect day to me is a game of ultimate Frisbee in Edgewater Park followed by dinner with my wife, and then some Honey Hut Ice Cream or Lemonberry Frozen Yogurt.

Have to end on the "will you run?" question. Can you give us a glimpse into your political future? When can we expect to see your name on a yard sign?

Will I run? I need to run, more often -- as in exercise! Seriously, I have been so blessed to have fantastic examples in my life. My parents, grandparents and others have taught me the importance of service to your community. It's about the people that you serve and the lives you touch. That is what I strive for. Wherever I can serve and help make people's lives better, Lord willing, that is what I will do.

Photos Bob Perkoski

Joe Baur
Joe Baur

About the Author: Joe Baur

Joe Baur is an author, writer and filmmaker who has worked for a variety of local and national publications including Matador Network, Yahoo! Travel, National Geographic and BBC Travel. In addition to freelance writing, he is the author of Best Hikes Near Cleveland and director of numerous travelogues from across the globe. You'll currently find him working in Ciudad Colón, Costa Rica, because spending the first year of marriage where others vacation seemed like a good idea.