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Community News

Walters takes reins in Falls

1/2/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Don Walters
CUYAHOGA FALLS — The new year brings new leadership to Cuyahoga Falls after nearly three decades as Mayor Don Walters was officially sworn in Jan. 1.

Summit County Juvenile Court Judge Linda Tucci Teodosio swore in Walters, who defeated longtime Mayor Don Robart in the Nov. 5 General Election, during a 1 p.m. ceremony at the Natatorium. Robart, a Republican, served for 28 years.

Walters, 50, a Democrat and the former Ward 6 Councilman, said he grew up a street away from previous mayor Robert Quirk and always had an interest in city government. But taking the city’s highest office was not necessarily something he aspired to.

“I was pretty content with City Council and I liked what I did,” said lifetime Falls resident Walters, who was first elected to Council in 2001. “I was approached four years ago to run for mayor, but I did not feel the timing was right for me. I’m not one to ever lose — I’m competitive by nature.”

Last year, he again was approached to run against Robart, and he believed he had a better shot as long as he had the volunteers and funding to do it.

Initial polling and the reception he got during campaigning gave him the confidence he could win the race, Walters said.

“I’m fortunate because on Council, people come to me with their issues and problems,” he said. “In those 12 years, I could definitely see the issues that were affecting the residents.”

Increases in rental properties and crime were the kinds of things he heard about on the campaign trail, too. But Walters said his ideas for new programs to address the problems while a Councilman weren’t well received by City Hall.

“It was easy for me to see the way the city needs to change, but it wasn’t happening in my eyes,” he said. “I realized the only way to make the city better was to make the changes myself.”

Since election night, when Walters earned 51 percent of the votes, the new mayor has worked to establish his senior cabinet. Last month he named Russ Balthis director of law, Bryan Hoffman director of finance, Eric Czetli director of service and Diane Sheridan director of community cevelopment. City Council will be asked to approve their appointments at the Jan. 6 meeting, Walters said.

The change of administration means the appointees who worked under Robart — Susan Truby, community development; Valerie Wax Carr, service; Joseph Brodzinki, finance; and Paul Janis, law — are no longer with the city.

“They have to be someone who shares your vision,” Walters said of the cabinet members.

In addition, the new mayor said he has begun the process of evaluating all city departments and job descriptions as he searches for efficiencies.

“I come from the private sector,” said Walters, who just completed a 24-year career with YRC, formerly Roadway Express, in operations and logistics. “Everything in the private sector is based on efficiency and profits. In government, it’s not that way. I may be shocked initially, because I’m sure I can find ways to do more with less.”

He added he also wants the city to contract with Summit County’s Internal Audit Department for a complete audit of city finances.

“Every tax dollar is precious,” he said. “If money isn’t being spent properly, we need to [address] that as soon as possible.”

Walters said he wants residents who are concerned about changes being made to know he has the skills to run the city.

“A lot of people, they like to hang on to what they have because they fear the unknown,” he said. “I want them to rest assured that I will do a great job. I’ve been in town my whole life, and I’ve seen on City Council the things we need to address.

“Great things are going to happen,” he added.

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