How many public administrators have a discography? Ryan Adcock was a singer-songwriter before serving as Mayor Mark Mallory’s director of legislative affairs. Today he’s heading Cradle Cincinnati, the sweeping effort to improve the city’s infant mortality rate. His father—the late Cincinnati health commissioner Malcolm Adcock—would be surprised. And pleased.
My dad was trained as a microbiologist, as was my mom, and they would go on a walk every night and discuss work stuff. But with me he was mostly just Dad. I think that the time when I would have started being more interested in his work was right around the time he passed away, unfortunately. But when I was a musician, he was my biggest fan. One of my last memories of my dad was he came to see me at Allyn’s Café on a songwriter night. It’s this bar filled with twentysomethings drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. And then just sitting there quietly in the corner is the health commissioner drinking a Diet Coke. He could not have encouraged what I was doing more.
My father passed away when I was 25. And it was very, very sudden. Lots of people came to pay their condolences. One woman came up to me and said, “Your father was a very good leader.” That’s all she said, and it got my brain thinking, “Huh, I wonder if there’s something that he passed on to me.” You don’t do a lot of leadership when you’re playing acoustic guitar for a living. And so as a result of my dad’s passing, I went back and got my master’s in public administration, which certainly wasn’t his exact field but very similar. My interest in government came from him and my interest in leadership came from him.
[Being Malcolm Adcock’s son] has been nothing but helpful—very much a wind-at-my-back kind of situation. It’s part of the reason I got my foot in the door at the mayor’s office; they were familiar with my father’s
work. The woman who most directly hired me for Cradle Cincinnati is Dr. Elizabeth Kelly. She worked with [and] loved my father. Craig Brammer is president and CEO
of the Health Collaborative. I sat down to meet with
him a year and a half ago, and he told me, “You know, your father was a mentor of mine. We’d just casually get together and he’d teach me tools of the trade.” I asked him straight up, “Would you be willing to do the same thing for me?” So my dad taught Craig, [and now] Craig’s teaching me.
In my office right above my desk, I have the sign that was my dad’s office sign. It says: Malcolm Adcock—Health Commissioner. That’s something I look to pretty frequently when I’m having rough days. It’s a great thing to know that I’m part of a bigger story, a generational story. And not something that I ever would have written for myself.