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Fairlawn finance director settling in to new role

1/16/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Mark Ludwig
FAIRLAWN — Mark Ludwig said he appreciates the chance to serve his community as Fairlawn’s new finance director.

Ludwig, 64, was the sole candidate in the Nov. 5 General Election to fill the seat after the death last year of longtime Finance Director Jerry Apple.

“Mayor [Bill] Roth called and asked if I would consider filling the unexpired term,” he said. “And as a matter of service to my community and my city, I said I would. It’s a chance to serve.”

The Cleveland native came to Akron during his junior year of college and earned a degree in business administration and finance from The University of Akron (UA). He then earned a full scholarship to the UA School of Law.

He’s worked as an attorney since then, with 28 years at Cole Co. and the last three in private practice, specializing in appellate law.

He and his family moved to Fairlawn about 20 years ago, attracted by the Copley-Fairlawn City School District. But Ludwig said he’s also been impressed over the years by the city’s administration. He said he worked as a defense attorney with Roth and Fairlawn Law Director Ed Riegler when they were prosecutors.

“Their integrity and their work ethic always impressed me,” Ludwig said.

While this was his first time running for elected office, Ludwig does have experience working for local governments. He served as assistant prosecutor, prosecutor, assistant solicitor and solicitor for Peninsula Village for more than 20 years.

“I knew a little bit about village finances and dealing with state audits through that,” he said.

He was also on the city’s Charter Review Commission and Civil Service Commission.

In Fairlawn, the elected finance director position is a part-time role that is more supervisory than hands on, Ludwig said.

“I view it more as the biggest part of the job is making sure that long-range issues are addressed,” he said. “As for the day-to-day operations, I hope to never write a check. I don’t see that as the finance director’s job.”

He added he feels the department, which is responsible for receiving and disbursing city funds, is at the top of its game. Patricia Bertsch is the assistant finance director and tax administrator and served as the interim finance director after Apple’s passing, and Jacob Kaufman is the department’s financial analyst.

“You’ve got people who know what they’re doing and do it well,” Ludwig said. “It’s not tough to supervise with quality people like that.”

He said the first weeks of his term have seen him in several meetings and working to get up to speed on the city’s finances. But he added Fairlawn is in good shape.

“Fairlawn is blessed with a pretty solid working base,” he said. “The challenge is to make sure that you’ve been economic with the public trust.”

Ludwig said he knew Apple and he wants to maintain the office’s integrity.

“I’m not going to try to fill Jerry’s shoes; I’m just going to carry them well to the end of his term,” he said. “Jerry was a dedicated individual. The rule Jerry had was make sure we don’t spend too much money, and make sure we’re conservative with the people’s money. I think that’s a special trust.”

Ludwig said he is continuing to maintain his law practice while serving as finance director. His term will run through the end of 2015, and he said he’d take a wait-and-see attitude as to whether he will run for a full term at that time.

“Stepping into a smooth-running, well-organized and well-intended organization is a joy and privilege; it really is,” he said.

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