They stretch from his open office door to windows that overlook East Eighth Street — ideas scribbled on pink, blue, yellow and green Post-it notes that, in Dan Moulthrop’s mind, will make the City Club of Cleveland bigger and better than ever before.
He runs his hands along the paper-covered walls. Handshakes. Locally sourced food. Better coffee. “This nation was founded on coffee,” says Moulthrop. “We could use better coffee.”
The new City Club CEO crosses the room, where the Post-its boast even bigger ideas. He stars a green one that reads John Campbell. The U.S. Rep is already booked to speak Nov. 1. He leaves Hillary Clinton’s yellow paper untouched. “She’s just a dream,” Moulthrop explains.
But for a 39-year-old who’s spent his life jumping from one impossible dream to the next — educating inmates at a San Francisco county jail led to co-authoring a book that hung out on The New York Times extended best-seller list — a star next to Clinton’s name seems possible.
Moulthrop took the City Club’s helm in May. He left behind Civic Commons, a social media-based “curator of civic conversation” he co-founded after five years spent hosting 90.3 WCPN’s The Sound of Ideas radio show. “It was the total dream job in so many ways,” he recalls. “I got to host a program every day about what was most meaningful to the community.”
He’d never worked in live radio when he joined the station’s morning talk show in 2005 — but then again, Moulthrop had never held a video camera when, as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, he filmed a documentary about the city’s chronically homeless that ran on area TV stations. He was promoted to The Sound of Ideas more than a year later.
When asked if he’s ever considered his goals unattainable, Moulthrop looks genuinely puzzled. “No,” he says. “I never stopped. I’ve suffered from a lack of confidence, but I’ve never stopped and said, ‘This is beyond me.’ ”
Moulthrop was urged to apply for the City Club’s top position by its board after 20-year veteran executive officer Jim Foster announced his plan to retire. He reviewed Civic Commons’ goals, then read the club’s founding 1912 mission statement, and surmised the two were strikingly similar.
“[The City Club] was often described as a social club with a civic purpose,” Moulthrop says. “The idea of bringing people together and directing them toward social good is not new. It’s a bedrock of civic policy.”
That’s not to say Moulthrop hasn’t brought new ideas to the 100-year-old club. From offering Clevelanders a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the club on Instagram to plans for using a live video-streaming app to share speeches in real time, there’s not much Moulthrop isn’t thinking about doing for the organization.
“I had an important experience when I was in high school,” Moulthrop says. “I had been working on the newspaper for years, and I loved it. I had sort of been rising through the ranks and then, in my junior year, we were discussing who would be the new editor-in-chief. My adviser asked me, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said I wanted to be the news editor. And he said, ‘Then who do you think will be the editor-in-chief?’ I hadn’t seen myself at the top. But it was an interesting moment for me, because that’s when I realized there is not something I am lacking. I can do it.”