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Incoming Richfield Council members offer diverse mix

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

Jim Kahoe
Mike Lyons
Roger Swan
RICHFIELD — Three new members took their seats on Richfield Village Council this month, but two of the newcomers aren’t exactly new faces.

Former mayor Mike Lyons and retired planning director Roger Swan joined incumbent Andy Ellis in success at the polls Nov. 5. Newcomer Jim Kahoe took the fourth seat up for election.

In addition to two terms as mayor, from 2004 to 2011, Lyons, 59, also served as a Councilman from 1988 to 1995 and again from 1998 to 2005. The lifelong Richfield resident is an attorney in private practice.

Lyons said running for office again wasn’t necessarily part of his plan. He said others encouraged him to run.

“It’s something that I debated quite a bit about because I didn’t know if I would be able to stretch myself to do it,” he said. “The whole thing is very open ended; It’s not like a job where you are only concerned about what your assignment is for the day. I have a little bit of a tendency to throw myself into things, so this will be an experience to see if I can not be quite so embroiled in the issues.”

Lyons also brings with him experience as a member of the village’s Planning Commission, as well as several years serving as law director for the city of Norton and as a prosecuting attorney in Medina and Cuyahoga counties.

In the two years since he left the office of mayor, Lyons said he has remained informed on the issues facing the village and he’s prepared to once again serve the residents. As a new Councilman, he’s been appointed to be the liaison to Richfield Township.

Among the biggest issues he sees coming before Council is the proposed placement of a water tower by Cleveland Water. Also, there has been talk of the village annexing township land in the Briarwood subdivision.

“I’m very familiar with the issues,” he said.

He noted the village is in good financial shape.

“We are in pretty healthy condition financially, and we weathered the economic difficulties fairly well,” he said. “Last year we paid off our last payment on our safety building and town hall renovations, so we have very minimal debt. There’re a lot of positives. We have a nice mix of tax base that does not impose on the community very much, and we’ve always kind of encouraged that type of development as opposed to a regional retail development.”

For Swan, 70, also a lifetime resident, the chance to be on Council came at the right time.

“I was the planning director for 12 years and on the planning commission before that,” he said. “It’s just something I was really interested in, and I didn’t lose that interest. Now that I’m retired, it worked out very well.”

During the organizational meeting Jan. 2, at which the new Council members were sworn in, Swan was selected to be Council’s representative to the Planning and Zoning Commission.

“Land planning is one of the basic necessities of a community,” he said. “I have a lot of experience with that.”

Like Lyons, Swan agreed the proposed water tower project could be a challenge in the community. Swan explained the tower would serve as a way to maintain water pressure in the case of water main breaks or other issues. But where to put the large structure could put Council in a tough place.

“The plan has been to have the tower near the highest point in Summit County, behind West Richfield Cemetery,” Swan said. “But not everyone likes the idea of having a water tower there because it will be in [some residents’] backyards. The other possible location is Richfield Woods Park. But no matter what, we’re not going to be popular.”

Swan said another challenge will be for Council to keep a tight rein on staffing levels.

Newcomer Kahoe, 46, comes to the seat after being involved in youth sports as a coach. He’s a native of Brecksville who has lived in Richfield for 12 years. He and his wife, a Revere Local Schools teacher, have two daughters.

With a degree in business and organizational communication and experience in business and sales, Kahoe said he brings a unique perspective to Council. He said he’s most concerned with the village’s spending.

“I wanted to have some input on that,” he said.

As an example, he said he recently questioned the proposed purchase of a new fire pumper/rescue unit for the fire department that was estimated to cost more than half a million dollars. In December, the issue did not move forward after a 3-3 vote.

“I don’t bring in a fire and police background, but I looked at possibly buying one used,” he said. “I looked online and found some that others have not even considered for $300,000.”

Kahoe also said the village saw its health care costs rise 40 percent, and that’s a big concern for him.

“We have to make changes,” he said. “We should look at deductibles and other ways to pay for that. We have to look at a lot of different things. Our revenue coming in certainly did not increase by 40 percent.”

He added, however, he believes the village’s finances are in “fantastic shape.”

“Geographically and all around, we’re a great place to be,” he said, noting that several businesses who were on the Weatherhead 100 list of the region’s fastest-growing companies based on revenue are located in Richfield.

Kahoe said he thinks that the new members will mesh with the current Council well.

“I think we’ll come together and do a good job together,” he said. “We all come from different paths in life.”

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