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Herbert takes seat on Fairlawn City Council

1/16/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Ariel Hakim

Rick Herbert
FAIRLAWN — Rick Herbert said he was excited and nervous to attend his first meeting of Fairlawn City Council representing Ward 1 Jan. 6.

He arrived early to look over resolutions being presented and to make sure he had the information he needed to cast his vote on the agenda items, he said. The meeting went well, he added.

Herbert, a resident of Fairlawn for 26 years, said his nervousness stemmed from the move from being a member of the audience to sitting on Council. The 61-year-old ran unopposed in the November General Election to represent the ward, which covers the southwest corner of the city, an area east of South Cleveland-Massillon Road and north of Ridgewood Road.

Herbert, who is entering politics for the first time, said he was introduced to Fairlawn’s inner workings when he needed a variance on his property last year. He started attending Council meetings regularly while he was campaigning.

This past summer, he found out James Butler, the ward’s representative on Council for the past 18 years and a neighbor of Herbert’s, was not running for re-election. Butler, knowing Herbert’s background, later encouraged him to run for the open seat, he said.

Herbert works as multi-store operations manager for Macy’s Department Stores. He’s been with that company for more than a quarter of a century.

Originally from Dayton, Herbert attended Wright State University there, which led to a career in retail. He has moved around a little bit, living in Louisville, Ky., for five years, prior to settling in Fairlawn. Married since 1976, he and his wife have a 22-year-old son who also lives in the area.

Herbert campaigned throughout the ward, following Butler’s example by listening to residents and engaging in conversations, he said.

“Two things that Jim did really well were he listened to the residents and got to the right people to get things done,” said Herbert, adding he plans to write and distribute a regular newsletter, as Butler did.

Herbert said he believes his career also has helped prepare him for his role on Council.

“Making sure the stores are running properly and maintained properly — those are things I do with Macy’s,” and skills he can bring to Council, he said.

While he plans to make sure the city grows and is maintained well, Fairlawn is already on a good track, he said.

“I believe our mayor [Bill Roth] is on the right path, taking our city forward,” he added.

Also with his background, Herbert said his vision for the city is to continue to grow business. There are opportunities for growing small businesses in the area, he said.

Herbert said it is important to him that he represents the residents of Ward 1, as well as the city as a whole. While he did not hear of any major issues in the ward while he was campaigning, Herbert said some residents in his ward had a lot of thoughts and ideas on things going on in the city and others expressed changes they would like to see. He said he plans to stay in close touch with ward constituents so he can accurately represent their thoughts and concerns on Council.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to become more involved in the community is part of what he is looking forward to in his new role on Council, Herbert said.

“I am excited — I feel like this is a good opportunity to get out and meet more residents,” he said.

Over the years, Herbert has participated in the community by volunteering as a Cub Scout leader when his son was younger, and continued to lead as his son moved on to Boy Scouts. Also, for 10 years, Herbert volunteered for the NEC World Series of Golf (now called World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational) by heading committees to raise money for local charities, he said. For the past few years, he also has been a member of Knights of Columbus St. Hilary, which as a group does many good works locally, he said.

Overall, his introduction to the new role on Council has not been a “shocker,” he said. City officials have welcomed him, he added.

“The mayor has been extremely good about keeping me informed, along with Russ Sharnsky [at large], who is Council president, and Brian Nace [Ward 3], who is vice president,” Herbert said, adding his other fellow Council members have also had a part in helping him get acclimated.

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