When roll was called, as it is at the beginning of every Cleveland Heights City Council meeting, Mark Tumeo didn't just recite "here" as usual.
"For the last time, here," he said.
Tumeo, chair of the Finance Committee, that he would resign May 17 from council. He was offered a job as dean of the college of engineering at the University of North Florida, and couldn’t pass up an opportunity that has long been a professional goal for him.
“While I’m truly excited about the opportunity and the challenge this new position will offer me, I cannot express the depth of the sadness I feel at leaving this council and leaving the environment of Cleveland Heights, which has nurtured me for over 14 years,” said Tumeo, who has sat on council since 2006 and is a professor at Cleveland State University.
While reading his final resolution, one that declares June 2011 LGBT Pride Month, his voice shook and his eyes filled with tears, especially when he spoke about how residents and officials in Cleveland Heights supported him. It was one of the first initiatives he brought to council.
"I grew up bullied, I grew up harassed, I grew up beaten because I was gay," he said. "And I came to a city that not only accepted me, but elected me."
Earlier that evening, council members gave Tumeo gifts, including a green Cleveland Heights jacket with his name on it, and they served one of his favorite desserts — carrot cake.
During the meeting, council members, city officials and people in the audience gave heartfelt farewells to Tumeo and thanked him for his service.
“We have talked about how you bring another way of thinking to the table on Monday nights … sometimes by doing nothing more than asking the question, ‘Why? Why do we do it this way, Mr. City Manager?’” said City Manager Robert Downey. “It made us think. It made us rethink. It made us do our jobs better.”
Dennis Wilcox noted his specific efforts to improve the relationship between the police force and residents, such as his help in implementing the Meet Your Police meetings that are held Thursday nights and a bike patrol program that will start at the end of May.
"His ability to analyze data, critique financial proposals and, most importantly, the city’s budget, served council and the community very well," said Mayor Ed Kelley.
“More importantly and perhaps Mark's strongest impact was in communications with our residents. He attended countless street meetings, many with me, answered emails and phone calls, all in an effort to listen and support our residents,"
Cleveland Heights resident Christine Johnson and former Mayor of Cleveland Heights Alan Rapoport also spoke about Tumeo’s service to the city.
Johnson stayed until the end of the meeting to say goodbye to Tumeo and take photos with him. She couldn’t hold back her tears.
"I am deeply touched," Tumeo said after the meeting.
Watch the video above for more from Monday night's City Council meeting.