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Aurora -- Julie Kirk, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party and a 2008 Aurora High School graduate, said she and co-workers faced challenges in helping to make July's Republican National Convention a success.
"For us as a county party, the last two years have really been a balancing act," she said. "Everywhere I went, people wanted to know how they could get involved, how they could be a delegate or how their company could get a contract.
"We wanted to share this information with everyone but also had to keep expectations realistic," she said. "There were only 66 delegates from Ohio -- ultimately chosen by the John Kasich campaign -- and only so many vendors would be hired.
"Luckily, they needed volunteers by the thousands, so most people who were interested were able to contribute that way in a variety of positions."
She said another challenge was hosting the week-long hospitality venue.
"We don't know of anyone else typically doing this kind of venue with live performances every night with acts like Jim Brickman, Big & Rich and the Marshall Tucker Band," she said. "It took a team of very dedicated people to make it happen."
Kirk said in her role as executive director, "we helped support the RNC staff's Committee on Arrangements with things like volunteer recruitment and making sure they were hiring and contracting with the best Cleveland companies."
"Additionally, we also helped them make sure local people and things were included in the convention programming and delegate experience," she explained.
She said several local groups were tapped to lead the Pledge of Allegiance, present the colors or deliver a prayer including the Republican Veterans Color Guard, while local students participated in the Red, Write & Blue essay contest that her organization helped support.
"IT WAS great to be able to work with the members of the RNC staff that were very receptive to our suggestions and really did want to show Cleveland in the best possible light," she said.
Kirk said as a county party, they hosted a week-long hospitality and entertainment venue just outside the perimeter.
"It was great to host delegates from across the country alongside our local voters who wanted to get a feel for what the convention was all about," she said.
"This is not something host county parties typically do at conventions and was really due to the leadership of our chairman, Rob Frost."
Kirk said she was particularly impressed by the energy that was on display in the downtown area all week.
"It really felt like a big city where everyone wanted to be," she said. "At the same time, everyone, including the wait staff, valets and volunteers, was so excited to be there and was so helpful and friendly."
Kirk said Cleveland did "a great job" as a host city.
"Traffic was never really an issue for locals, the police did a great job of respectfully monitoring protests and the weather was perfect," she said.
"All the recent improvements downtown, including the remodeling of Public Square, really helped us put our best foot forward. I expect that many of the delegates will be encouraging their friends to come back.
"All of the media attention will help shed light on what we all know -- that we have a perfect mixture of sports, dining, history and nature to keep visitors more than entertained."
Kirk said she was inside Quicken Loans Arena on the Thursday night of convention week.
"It was really a sight to see all the delegations from across the country in one place," she said. "And to see how they were able to transform our basketball arena into a full blown Republican Party."
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187
Twitter: Mike Lesko@MikeLesko_RPC