Michael D. Polensek, the “Dean” of City Council, and Councilman representing Cleveland’s 8th Ward, has served the neighborhoods of northeast Cleveland since 1978, making him the longest-serving Council member in the city’s history. Currently he serves as the Chair of the Public Safety Committee and sits on the Utilities and Rules Committees of Cleveland City Council.
For over four decades, Councilman Polensek has represented the Collinwood / Nottingham Neighborhoods. Today, he represents the ethnically and racially diverse communities of North Shore Collinwood, Collinwood Village, and the East Glenville neighborhoods.
During his long and productive tenure, Councilman Polensek has been at the forefront of numerous development projects and issues and has been vigilant in creating grassroots community groups and helping business develop and grow in the community. He co-sponsored Cleveland’s first Fair Housing Law.
He served as President of City Council from 1999 to 2002. During this tenure he created the Neighborhood Equity Fund which targeted millions of dollars into neighborhoods for redevelopment projects and presided over the expansion of the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.
After working for years, he was instrumental in the construction of the $11.0 million Collinwood Recreation Center, located at 16300 Lakeshore Boulevard, in the community. It opened in November 2011 and was the first Gold LEED certified building in Cleveland’s history.
Mike Polensek championed the effort to transfer the Cleveland Lakefront Parks to the Cleveland MetroParks System and continues to work on improving the infrastructure and public access to Cleveland’s lakefront. He was also instrumental in creating the Waterloo Arts & Entertainment District along Waterloo Road.
He is presently working on the new streetscape for the East 185th Street business corridor, which is also home to the historic LaSalle Theatre, which in itself, has undergone complete renovation into an entertainment complex through the Councilman’s vison and financial support. He also sponsored legislation to create the new senior housing complex at the historic Henry W. Longfellow School located on East 140th Street at Darley Avenue.
Polensek was born in the Glenville neighborhood on East 120th Street and raised in Collinwood and graduated from Collinwood High School. He was also inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
He became involved in politics and in the community at an early age through the activism of his own late mother, Dorene. Through her and his late grandparents he become very aware of the importance of faith and ethnic identity. It was this that laid the foundation for his involvement in politics and the Slovenian & Italian communities.
As a former employee of the White Motors Corp. on St. Clair Avenue, Mike became involved in Local 32 of the United Autoworkers Union, which led to his first run for Cleveland City Council.
He serves on the Advisory Committee of the Benjamin Rose Center, is a member of the NAACP and the Urban League. Councilman Polensek is also a member of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party’s Executive Committee and the Senior Ward Leader in Cuyahoga County.
He has been honored as the ”Slovene Man of the Year” both by the Federation of Slovene Homes and the Collinwood Slovenian Home. He is a proud member of the Italian Sons & Daughters Lodge 192, the Lithuanian Club, SNPJ Lodge 142, KSKJ Lodge 169 and AMLA Lodge 6.
Mike lives in the North Shore Collinwood area and is an active member of St. Mary’s of the Assumption Church in Collinwood. He has five grown children and three grandsons.
Mike is truly honored to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame, following in the footsteps of so many outstanding community leaders before him.
Mike Polensek was inducted by Joe Cimperman
Watch the video (below) of Joe Cimperman’s induction of Mike Polensek and then the councilman’s acceptance speech.