Meet EA’s Cleveland Historian Brad Withers

by | Aug 7, 2023 | EA Staff News

After we sent Brad the questions below, which designed to showcase his knowledge and love of our region, we checked our database and were surprised to see that he had 329 EA Orientation Days under his belt. Brad is EA’s longest serving Guide, has had to change, and then change again the way he guides a new or prospective Cleveland transplant in order to keep up with the changes in our region including new developments (and whole neighborhoods) that continue to evolve over time and change the lay of ‘The Land’.

Q. You were hired as a Guide in 1993 and our city was a completely different place. What do you think are the biggest changes (either positive or “needs improvement”) that our region has made in the 25+ years since you joined EA?

A. Having grown up here, I can remember using my paper delivery money to take the rapid downtown to shop at (the now closed) Snyder’s Magic Shop and Goldfish Army Navy Store. There were hundreds of people walking through our central business district. Some buildings are gone, others have replaced them. We have reused, reimagined Downtown and have kept sports and entertainment as magnets. The “food scene” was minimal in the eighties.

By the time I started as a Guide, Cleveland was on an upswing with the number of residential buildings. It’s almost an old is new again. Our wonderful institutions have maintained through the test of time.

Could we have improved on some things? Had the NFL given us another year to relocate the stadium, we could have put it closer to Progressive Field to benefit the bars restaurants and parking. While I love the lakefront, the winter is challenging for hotels and residential neighborhoods.

Q. Do you have any vivid memories from days out on the road as an EA Guide?

A. Meeting our clients is always so interesting. It’s what makes this job fun as I get to go places I wouldn’t normally go! We have toured candidates who loved pro football through Cleveland Brown’s Stadium when it was totally empty! We have taken candidates to alpaca farms, thru brand new apartment buildings, and to the Observation Deck at the top of the Terminal Tower. After hearing about a recruit’s love of European art, we stopped at the Cleveland Museum of Art and I walked her in to quickly see this gallery, and have run another in to the gallery that houses the famous “The Burning of Parliament” by J.M.W. Turner.

It has always amazed me how the hand-picked community guests we connect newcomers and candidates to over coffee or lunch bring magic to the EA Day. Someone they may never have met becomes their first social connection and often ends up a lifelong friend because they share a common background or interest.

Brad has mad gardening skills!

Q. Executive Arrangements is just one hat you wear in the professional world. Can you describe your other hats, including writing a book, and how your skill set and knowledge work so well for all these roles?

A. I was part of the gig economy before it was given that moniker. Helping people has always been the nucleus of what I enjoy doing and every part of my professional life centers on this. I’ve now done over 2,500 presentations on ‘soft skills’ (personal attributes that enable someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people) throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. This then led to my first two books, which are based on the most common questions people kept asking during these facilitated workshops about time management, customer service, communications, and dealing with difficult conversations. I’m just beginning to write the third book on why so few people think and act like leaders and how to help them develop out of a manager’s mindset. The most important key is listening.

Q. If you were to recommend just a few ways a newcomer could quickly feel like a local – by joining an organization, attending an event, and understand a bit of our history – what would they be?

A. How to learn to be a Clevelander? Get a map and get lost! We are like many other midwestern legacy cities… we all grew up at the same time. If you are coming from another Midwestern city, our museum district may feel similar to the one in your town. Get in your car and drive around and really look at the architecture. Get out of the car and read the historic plaques. Go to a cemetery and get a feel for the melting pot of names and famous historical residents buried here. As for living, anything you are interested in happens here. You may have to look, but it’s here.

Go to the bookstore, Amazon or Triple A and get a real map – amazing what you will see!

Q. You have many hobbies; gardening, glass collecting, historian, Instgramer with 365 days year after year of flowers and witty captions to name just a few. Can you share a time where you were having so much fun that you literally lost track of time? What were you doing?

Brad’s Instagram shots always have a witty caption: Okay, everyone make a circle…Bob… where’s Bob?

A. I don’t often get lost for long periods of time, but when something piques my curiosity I have to do research to find the backstory. I recently came across a unique 30’ red granite monument in Lakeview Cemetery which a son built for his mother, both of which are buried here. I just had to know who this guy was and why he spent money to put up this grand memorial to his mom. I’m not sure if I will ever find out because the family didn’t keep records, at least that I can find, and even the employees at Lakeview Cemetery don’t know anything about this guy and they know something about almost every single person buried here. Anyway, the hunt is always fun!

Brad is naturally curious, enjoys meeting new people, loves to share his take on Cleveland’s past, present and future with job candidates, newcomers and their families – just a few attributes which make him such a valuable EA Guide. If your organization has had out of town recruits recently and could use a partner like EA (with Guides like Brad) to create the critical first impression, and then professionally onboard the whole family to our region, call Executive Arrangements, Inc. at 216.23.9311 for a consult.