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Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announces six new appointments to cabinet and director positions

"These latest appointments reinforce the administration’s commitment to hiring emerging and experienced leadership in the mayor’s cabinet and senior team."

CLEVELAND — As the second week of his administration continues, new Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb has announced six key appointments to fill roles in his cabinet and senior team.

Ahmed Abonamah will join the administration as Chief Financial Officer, Bonnie Teeuwen will serve as Chief Operating Officer and Jeff Epstein is appointed to Chief of Integrated Development. In addition, Karrie D. Howard has been promoted to Chief Public Safety Officer after previously holding the position of Director of Public Safety. Howard will continue to have oversight of those responsibilities.

You can read more about all four in their bios below.

“The addition of key roles in our cabinet will enable us to maximize our financial position and work towards becoming a more modern and responsive city hall,” Bibb said in a statement. “As we continue to build our team, we’re focused on combining wisdom with fresh perspectives to deliver on our commitments to the residents of Cleveland.”

Bibb also appointed two new directors in Alyssa Hernandez as Director of Community Development and Sally Martin as Director of Building & Housing, who will report to the Chief of Integrated Development. You can also read about the new directors in their bios below.

According to a release from the city, the Bibb administration "is focused on filling key positions in the mayor’s cabinet to reimagine how city hall operates, break down silos and better connect departments. These latest appointments reinforce the administration’s commitment to hiring emerging and experienced leadership in the mayor’s cabinet and senior team."

Cleveland's charter mandates a mayoral term to begin on the first Monday in January after an election, so Bibb officially took the oath of office just after midnight on Jan. 3 at the Cleveland Public Library's East 131st Street branch, located in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood where he grew up. His ceremonial swearing in took place last Saturday at Cleveland's Public Auditorium.

Bios below provided by Bibb’s team:

Ahmed Abonamah 

Abonamah joins the administration as CFO after six (6) years with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and will lead the City’s Department of Finance and provide counsel to Mayor Bibb on how to responsibly manage the City’s budget to promote sustained and equitable economic growth across the City. Most recently, he served as the Director in the SEC’s Office of Credit Ratings where he led the SEC’s oversight of credit rating agencies and managed a large and diverse team of professionals to, among other things, ensure that credit ratings are not unduly influenced by conflicts of interest and providing greater transparency to investors. Prior to his work in the Office of Credit Ratings, Abonamah spent several years in the SEC’s Office of Municipal Securities, where he served as Deputy Director among other roles, and played a leading role in the development and implementation of the SEC’s regulation and oversight of the municipal securities market, which included regularly interacting with state and local governmental entities. Earlier in his career, Abonamah worked as a public finance attorney representing state and local governments in a wide variety of public finance transactions.

Abonamah received his B.A. in political science from the University of Dayton, and earned his J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

Bonnie Teeuwen

Teeuwen has more than 30 years of experience in the civil engineering and public administration field, most recently serving as the Director of Transportation and Municipal Engineering for Osborn Engineering where she worked with public clients on infrastructure projects. Teeuwen was the first Cuyahoga County Director of Public Works, created under the new charter form of government in Cuyahoga County in 2011. Within her first year in that role, she advanced a study to review approximately seven million square feet in 66 different properties that the county owned and/or occupied and made recommendations to consolidate or dispose of properties. Prior to that, she was appointed by the Governor to serve as Deputy Director for ODOT.

Teeuwen received her Civil Engineering degree from the University of Akron and is a registered professional engineer in the State of Ohio.

Jeff Epstein

Epstein comes to City Hall from MidTown Cleveland, a non-profit economic and community development organization that serves the area between downtown Cleveland and University Circle. Epstein also serves as director of the Cleveland Health-Tech Corridor, an umbrella effort to attract innovative health-tech and high-tech businesses to the area. Under Epstein's seven plus years of leadership at MTC and the Health-Tech Corridor, the neighborhood saw $230 million of transformative real estate development.

Epstein holds a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and an undergraduate degree in Public Policy Studies from Duke University. Following law school, he clerked for the Hon. Solomon Oliver Jr. on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.

Karrie D. Howard 

Since 2020, Howard has served as Director for the Department of Public Safety and has been re-appointed to serve in this capacity. Prior to this, he served as the department's Assistant Director of Safety Operations and before that as Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the City of Cleveland. Howard's experience extends beyond city hall into the public and private sector as Counsel at the law firm Thacker Robinson Zinz LPA; Assistant Prosecuting Attorney for Cuyahoga County; and Assistant United States Attorney for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio. 

In addition to his position with the City of Cleveland, he currently serves as a Major in the United States Air Force Reserves. He is also commissioned as an Assistant Staff Judge Advocate General (JAG Officer) at multiple military bases.  

Howard earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from DeVry University, subsequently to completing his active duty service in the United States Marine Corps. He also holds a Juris Doctorate from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and certificates in Leadership and Human Resource Management from the University of Maryland University College.  

Alyssa Hernandez

Hernandez returns to the Midwest in her role as Director of Community Development after living in Florida where her career in public service began. Born and raised in Chicago, Hernandez was selected as a Florida Gubernatorial Fellow in the Department of Juvenile Justice. Most recently, Hernandez served as a Bureau Chief within the Office of Long-Term Resiliency at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity where she managed several HUD CDBG-Disaster Recovery and Mitigation programs with a combined budget of nearly two-billion-dollars. 

Hernandez is a DePaul University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Public Policy and a master’s degree in Education Policy and Leadership Studies from Florida State University.   

Sally Martin

Martin will join the administration as the new director of Building and Housing, drawing on her past experience as the Housing Director for the City of South Euclid since 2008 overseeing housing programs and code enforcement for the city. She also founded the city’s affiliate non-profit community development corporation, One South Euclid.  In addition, she serves on the board of the Cuyahoga Housing Consortium, the Cuyahoga Housing Stakeholders, the Cuyahoga County Reinvestment Advisory Subcommittee, and the Key Bank Great Lakes Advisory Board. For many years, Martin has served on the Executive Committee for the Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council and is the co-chair of VAPAC’s Delinquent Tax Working Group, and is a founding member and Chair of the Executive Committee for the Greater Cleveland Reinvestment Coalition.  

Martin is a graduate of the University of Florida. 

More Coverage of the Bibb Administration: