Melissa Yasinow is less than two months removed from a successful reelection bid for Cleveland Heights City Council. She even increased her vote tally by more than 11 percent from the 2013 race. But the 33-year-old isn’t done campaigning.
Her platform? Get more women into political office.
“We deserve more women in leadership roles, and I want to do whatever I can to help women of color, Jewish women, LGBTQ women, and just all women step into these positions of power,” says Yasinow. “Leadership should be representative. It’s how we’re better able to bring life to our values.”
A Kohrman Jackson & Krantz attorney who stands proudly at 4 feet 10 1/2 inches, she packs a feminist punch and is quick to give curious women a copy of her guidebook How to Start Your Local Campaign in Cuyahoga County.
She penned the 18-page manual in 2015 in a grassroots effort to educate, inspire and help others navigate an election process that was alien and overwhelming to her when she was a first-time candidate. The information she provides covers everything from the intricacies of campaign finance to how, where and when to file qualifying paperwork.
“At the beginning, I kept wondering, Where is square one?” recalls Yasinow. “I wanted to help others start on more solid footing.”
For Yasinow herself, the inspiration to step into public life came from the long line of strong and accomplished women in her family who set a high bar and constantly held up notable women in society for her to see.
“When my mamushka talked about Madeleine Albright, she was demonstrably excited,” she recalls. “I didn’t understand why that was so important. But now I do.”
In her time on council, she helped pass the strongest LGBTQ human rights ordinance in the state of Ohio, assisted in transitioning the water department over to Cleveland Water, and now looks to break ground on the Top of the Hill Development to provide an economic jolt to the area.
“People need to know that you believe in them,” she says. “I want to be that role model for all the little girls out there who think ambition is a four-letter word.”
Interesting Fact: In middle school, Yasinow received a treasured Hanukkah gift: a life-size cut-out of Captain Kathryn Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager.