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Robart ends run as Falls mayor

12/26/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Don Robart ends his 28-year run as Cuyahoga Falls mayor Dec. 31.
Photo courtesy of the city of Cuyahoga Falls
CUYAHOGA FALLS — An eventful journey is coming to an end for the longstanding mayor of Cuyahoga Falls.

Don Robart, elected mayor in 1985, will cease to be at the helm Dec. 31 after 28 years of service to his community.

“It has been a great ride,” said Robart, a Republican who lost re-election this past November to City Council President Don Walters (D-Ward 6).

“Don Robart’s tenure as mayor is not measured simply by his terms in office but rather by the positive legacy he created that will touch every part of this community for generations to come,” reads a resolution by City Council to commend Robart for his dedication and leadership to the city.

According to city officials, Robart, a resident of Cuyahoga Falls since age 7, graduated in 1963 from Cuyahoga Falls High School. He went on to serve in the U.S. Marines Corps from 1965 to 1971.

Robart stepped up to serve on City Council from 1984 to 1985, during a career at Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. During his two years on Council, Robart was a leading proponent of the 1986 merger of Cuyahoga Falls and Northampton Township, according to city officials. When he was elected mayor in 1985, he became the first mayor to serve the merged community and helped to integrate the city and township governments, according to city officials.

Robart additionally initiated curbside recycling, earning several state and national recognitions for the city’s recycling efforts, according to city officials.

According to the resolution, Robart strived for the city to “control its own destiny,” especially when it came to municipal utility services, which is why he dedicated much of his time to preserving the city’s independence as a full-service water utility.

“Mayor Robart has consistently worked to maintain and preserve the city’s ability to offer high quality, low cost water, sewer, electric and sanitation services to the community,” the resolution states.

Robart said he spent a great deal of effort to bring the community high quality, but cost-saving equipment and ideas. These initiatives included automatic water and electric meter reading, “e-poke” salt spreaders and energy saving  measures, he said.

The mayor even served on the Board of Directors of the Ohio Municipal Electric Association and received the 1999 Distinguished Service Award for his work with electric generation joint ventures with other municipal electric agencies, the resolution states.

Improving recreational activities in the community also has been a top priority for Robart.

During his tenure, the Natatorium and Wellness Center was improved, as well as the city’s historic center through the construction of the $5 million Falls River Square District, now home to numerous city festivals and special events each year.

Robart said he worked diligently to bring a first-class hotel to the Falls’ historic center in 1987, creating 200 new jobs with the opening of the Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls.

In addition, Robart encouraged the 1992 purchase of a struggling nine-hole golf course for the development of the now 18-hole Brookledge Golf Club, which is one of the most successful municipal golf courses in the state, according to city officials.

While serving as mayor, Robart also guided the creation of the global headquarters, research and development facility and production plant for Americhem; a $22 million expansion of GOJO Industries in the city; and additional public-private development partnerships that produced more than $1 million in new commercial, industrial and residential development in the city, officials reported.

In 2007, Robart helped bring about the purchase of the dilapidated State Road Shopping Center. Despite tough economic times, city officials said he stayed the course, closing a deal with Stark Enterprises for the 2014 construction of Portage Crossing to feature numerous shops, restaurants and recreational opportunities.

He also focused his tenure on the redevelopment of contaminated, former industrial properties, cleaning them up for reuse, city officials said. These projects include the New High Bridge Glens Park and the Watermark mixed-use development.

He doesn’t take full credit for the city’s progress and prosperity, however. Robart said he always surrounded himself with “good people.” He praised his cabinet members for their persistence and the passion they have always displayed for the community.

“No mayor can do it all. You can have a vision and blueprint, but if you don’t have good people to follow up, you will fall on your face, and some mayors do,” he said.

Even as a child, Robart felt drawn to politics and displayed a loyalty for Cuyahoga Falls.

“I feel like I was made for the job, and it has been a perfect fit,” he said. “I have just had a great passion for the city and seeing it succeed.”

Robart said he never envisioned having the opportunity to serve as mayor for seven terms.

Although disappointed he lost his seat, Robart said he can’t “be bitter.” He is sad to see his team, which boasts more than 300 years of knowledge, leave city hall at the close of the year.

“I just want to thank the city for 28 great years,” he said. “It has been an honor to serve for seven terms, and I owe the community a tremendous debt of gratitude.”

Robart said seeing the city flourish is all the reward he has needed during his time in office. He said he enjoys driving around the city, viewing landmarks that would not have existed had he lacked the ambition and enthusiasm needed for those projects to come to fruition.

The mayor said he is not ready to “sit in a rocking chair” now. Robart said he now is basking in his new role as a grandpa and said much of his free time will be spent enjoying the twins his family recently welcomed. He also said he will continue to run 5 miles a day and is considering several employment propositions.

“I am weighing my offers to see what works best for me,” he said.

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