Government

She’s a Delegate, Vendor and Broadcaster at RNC

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — When Tracey Winbush walks into the Quicken Loans Arena today for the start of the Republican National Convention, she’ll do so as this city’s only delegate, an entrepreneur with an on-site pop-up store that sells jewelry and greeting cards, and as a talk-show host for a Cleveland radio station.

“I’m trying to make it, to be successful,” Winbush says of her business ventures and political adventures. “I owe a lot of people and when I say that I owe them, it’s because they invested in me.”

Truth is, Winbush invests in herself.

In 1983, after she graduated from Hubbard High School, “I threw my clothes in a car and drove to California,” she says. “I had $280 in my pocket and didn’t know anyone. When I got there, I slept in my car but I worked hard and I found jobs, whatever it took to make it.”

Winbush took college classes, held jobs with Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gillette, learned video production and volunteered with the Orange County Republican Party.

“I found a great church, great people to mentor me, who taught me a lot and gave me direction,” she says. “I worked for some wonderful people and companies, and then 10 years later, almost to the day; I came home and started living in Youngstown again.”

She worked for the Trumbull County prosecutor, sold radio time for the minority owned company that formerly operated WRBP-FM and WGFT-AM in Youngstown, performed consulting and contract PR work and volunteered for the Mahoning County Republican Party. She was elected to the Youngstown School Board in 1999 and served a four-year term as its president.

“I came to have great respect for Tracey after first meeting her when she ran for school board, says Mark Munroe, chairman of the Mahoning County GOP. I was impressed with her insight, her common sense approach to problems, her willingness to take chances and to work hard.

With backing from local Republican leaders, in 2006 she began buying blocks of radio time to express her political views, sold advertising sponsorships and created a radio blog and program she branded as Tracey & Friends. The talk show was heard weekday mornings on WSOM 600 AM until a few weeks ago when the station switched its news talk format to music.

Today Winbush is the treasurer of the Ohio Republican Party – the first person from Mahoning County to hold an executive office in the state party since former mayor Jack Hunter was treasurer decades ago. She’s vice chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party and serves on the county board of elections, the first black to do so.

“I can hardly keep up with Tracey,” Munroe says with a laugh. “She’s always exploring new opportunities, particularly involving radio and communications. She obviously has a strong interest in sharing the Republican conservative message with as many people as she can.

At this week’s convention, Winbush will host “Tracey & Friends” all four days on WERE 1400, a Cleveland urban talk station. Sponsors are underwriting the purchase of two-hour blocks of morning time, among them Youngstown Granite, Window World and Udderly Smooth, Winbush says. Her broadcast “friends,” contributors to her program when it was on WSOM, will add commentary from their seats on “Radio Row” in the press gallery. They include jazz musician Jeff Green, attorney Mark Mangie, treasurer of the county party, activist Lloyd Burt, and Brian Kennedy, a member of the Columbiana County Port Authority Board of Directors and the newly appointed executive director of Turning Point Counseling Services, for which Winbush recently completed a term as board president.

“My radio program is what I love to do,” she says. “I’ve got a lot of opinions, a lot to say, and I want to become a syndicated show, I want to grow bigger and larger outside of here, but I want Youngstown to always be my base.”

Winbush participated in the the first round of the Youngstown Business Incubator’s Women In Entrepreneurship mentorship program, during which she produced a business plan for video streaming her program online. That venture is just one of many she’s pursuing including one conceived during the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa, Fla., where Winbush was an alternate delegate. “I didn’t see any places where you could buy souvenirs at Tampa,” she explains.

This week she’ll be one of 11 minority businesses selected to sell products at the Urban League of Greater Cleveland’s pop-up store across from the entrance to the convention center. The pop-up store, an offshoot of the league’s Entrepreneurship Center, is supported by KeyBank and Cleveland area foundations.

Winbush’s company, Unlimited Adds LLC, received a $5,000 micro-loan to underwrite her costs. At her kiosk, she’ll sell “Republican patriotic jewelry” as well as greeting cards designed by artists Ray Simon and Ginger Mangie. “The artwork, the graphic work, the envelopes, all that was local and manufactured locally,” she says.

The Urban League pop-up store will be open when the convention is in session, and Winbush has hired two women to operate her kiosk. Should she sell half of her stock of 7,500 greeting cards, “We could net $20,000,” she says.

“That’s what entrepreneurship is about. Being able to get an income and being able to support other people, and to help them achieve their dreams.”

Of course, Winbush’s first obligation is her work as a convention delegate, and she has been open about her discomfort with some of Donald Trump’s positions.

“He is not my first choice, I would’ve preferred John Kasich. But if John Kasich is not the nominee, then I need to go with who is. I believe that Donald Trump has a big mouth. But I will say this, we are from the Valley, and we are used to scrappers — Jim Traficant. We’re used to people who fight with their mouth, but are soft in their heart. When you look at Donald Trump, I don’t believe that he’s a racist. … But at the end of the day, when you want someone to fight for you, you know that he’s going to be there and he will fall on a sword for you.”

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A team of Business Journal reporters is on-site in downtown Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. Stay tuned to our website for updates throughout the day.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.