Profiles

LEVIN COLLEGE PROFILES

MEET JOHN LITTEN (MPA '11)

John Litten
I went to Levin for the degree – based upon reputation – but left with a treasure trove of knowledge, a rolodex of contacts, and a community that I feel I can always turn to.

Degrees:

  • M.P.A. Cleveland State University
  • B.F.A. Graphic Design, Ohio University
Where are you currently residing? 
Lakewood, OH
 
Where are you from? 
Cleveland & Lakewood, OH
 
Current Employment
  • Executive Director at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul 
  • Councilman for the City of Lakewood
Job Duties:
 As Executive Director, Society of St. Vincent de Paul:
  • Oversee the management of over 1,200 volunteers and nine staff serving the poor of Northeast Ohio to the tune of over 240,000 individuals served who received nearly $7 million in assistance value
  • Initiate and maintain all aspects of fundraising, budgeting, strategic planning, and interactions with the public
  • Oversaw the recent acquisition of three food pantries from another local agency. These pantries included five staff, multiple funding streams, and thousands of clients in some of Cleveland’s more impoverished neighborhoods
  • Supervise and support a total of nine food pantry operations throughout Northeast Ohio
  • Support and implement policy within 65 volunteer groups based in Catholic parishes
As City Councilman, City of Lakewood:
  • Represent ¼ of Lakewood population (Est. 52,000 total) as a ward-based councilman
  • Respond to calls, emails, and messages from constituents with various needs and questions
  • Collaborate in charting strategic priorities as part of seven member council
  • Serve as chair rules and ordinances committee, and also serve as member of health and human services and public safety committees
Volunteer Experience
  • Coach little league baseball
  • Volunteer at hunger centers throughout the area
  • President, Winterhurst Hockey Association (2013-2015)
  • Member & President, Next Generation Council – Cuyahoga County (2012-2015) 
  • Board Member, Lakewood Hospital – Cleveland Clinic  (2011-2015)
  • Mentor, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network Cleveland (2012)
  • Member, Lakewood Citizens Advisory Committee, Mayoral Appointee (2010-2013)
  • Board Member, Keep Lakewood Beautiful (2009-2011)
Why did you decide to attend Levin?
I was in a non-profit leadership role running a summer camp where I learned a lot of great lessons, but felt I lacked the backing to take my work to the next level. I went to Levin for the degree – based upon reputation – but left with a treasure trove of knowledge, a rolodex of contacts, and a community that I feel I can always turn to.

How did your experience at Levin influence your career path? 
Roughly one year in, I was inspired to write a book that combined the leadership lessons I learned at summer camp with the leadership and management theory I learned during the program. That book – "Becoming A Camp Leader" – was published in 2011. I was also hired for my current role with SVDP just as I finished my MPA, and know now that it was that degree, the experience that backed it, and the confidence I'd grown to have that got me a role where I could commit myself to service.
 
What's your favorite Levin memory?
Outside of the great professors and classmates (Dr. Nick Zingale & Dr. Larry Keller especially), many of whom I keep in contact with to this day, I'd have to say that the Columbus Seminar was most memorable. Getting to spend a week at the state house, with Former State Rep & Senator Patrick Sweeney as well as Dr. Vera Vogelsang-Coombs and taking in so much of how our state operates is something I remember (and continue to learn from) weekly.
 
What piece of advice do you have for current Levin graduate students? 
Take your time. Soak it all in. I only took 1-2 classes at a time, and it resulted in me being there longer, but I feel that I got to meet twice as many people as a result. I also found value in having worked in leadership already, rather than going straight from undergrad.
 
What was the most valuable lesson you learned at Levin? 
That there are, and will always be, thousands of people who are smarter than I am, and many of them are willing to be a mentor, friend, advocate, and reference.
 
What inspires you about Northeast Ohio? Why? 
The groundswell of people, young and old, who collectively want to make it better. I find myself meeting more every week.
 
In your opinion, what’s Northeast Ohio’s best kept secret?
Our best kept secret is always that which lies outside of our home and work "bubble.” There is simply so much to discover if we are brave enough to venture beyond our comfort zones. NEO has had a tendency to be segregated (in many ways including race) and I truly believe our best secrets are understood through openness.
 
What’s one thing someone would be surprised to learn about you? 
I was a wedding DJ. Also, I was (and still sometimes pretend to be) an artist.
 
What issues are you passionate about/what inspires you? 
Helping people in a thoughtful, person to person manner. This has taken on the form of hunger & poverty prevention, work as a city councilman with individual issues, and also things like coaching baseball, being a camp counselor, and more.
 
Who’s your hero and why?
My wife, Carrie. I married the only person I know is busier than I am. My parents, one of whom I lost. These three are most directly responsible for my path and for that they are my heroes.