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New Richfield trustees no strangers to issues

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

Jeff Shupe
RICHFIELD TOWNSHIP — The two new members of the Richfield Township Board of Trustees said they are prepared to face the community’s issues due to their past experience and involvement.

Robert Luther, 64, a lifetime resident, served as a trustee from 1985 to 2001. He won the office again in the November General Election after a tight contest that saw him and incumbent Laurie Peters Gilmore separated by just one vote.

Also elected was Jeff Shupe, 61, a retired Cleveland firefighter who has been a resident for 27 years and involved in many issues that have come before the board.

The two were sworn in Jan. 2. Fellow Trustee Janet Jankura was appointed chairperson for this year. Previous trustee David Wyatt opted not to run for re-election.

Luther, who is semi-retired from his family’s farm business, said he enjoyed his previous service on the board.

“I liked the job before and I still like it,” he said.

He said the farm has been in his family since 1900. The family still maintains 100 acres with Black Angus beef cattle, hay and vegetables such as corn, pumpkins and soybeans. The rest of the acreage is rented out, he added. He noted that his grandfather served as a trustee from 1930 to 1950.

His experience running the business makes him well qualified for the trustee position, Luther said.

“Being a private business owner, you look at things a little different than some who had a paycheck coming whether they worked or not,” he said. “That’s the way to try to run the township, to make sure there’s no waste.”

Since his earlier terms on the board, Luther said there have been some changes in the township.

“Back when I was a trustee, we never had a lot of money in our budget,” he said. “Today they are in a better money situation and have better equipment.”

Luther said among the most pressing issues coming before the trustees in the coming months is the possible annexation of the Briarwood neighborhood. The trustees met for a work session Jan. 6 with Richfield Village officials to discuss the proposed annexation of 125 acres in the Briarwood area to the village. During the Jan. 2 meeting, they had agreed to have the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office represent the township in the matter.

“The developer has been talking about that property for the past 30 years,” Luther said. “I guess they have someone who is kind of serious. There’s not a lot we can do to stop the annexations. We’ll just try to do the best deal we can.”

Canton native Shupe said he moved to Richfield like many do — for the “country living.”

“I’ve been involved in community government all along,” he said. “My whole career has been with municipal governments as a firefighter. I got involved [in Richfield] years ago because of a couple of issues that came up in the township.”

He previously ran for trustee in 1997 but didn’t win. The next few years he served on the Safety Committee and Zoning Commission and as the township’s fire prevention officer.

This past year, it seemed like the right time to run again, Shupe said.

“I’m retired and available, and as we saw one of the trustees not running for re-election, that helped me make the decision,” he said. “I want to do things that are good for the community.”

He added that his years of involvement are a positive, as he believes 60 percent of the township’s current residents have been there less than a decade and aren’t aware of some of the past issues that have come up.

“If you don’t study history or know history, you’re likely to repeat it down the road,” he said. “It’s an overused phrase, but it’s true.”

Shupe said he has been attending trustees’ meetings over the past year to get up to speed on the current issues facing the township.

“The wrong thing is to enter office thinking you know everything,” he said. “I’ve got to get acquainted with what’s already in place.”

He agreed with Luther that the possible Briarwood annexation is going to be a big issue in the next year.

He added that the plan to construct a building for the township’s offices is also going to be an important subject in the coming months.

Currently, township officials are seeking revised bids after bids came in much higher than expected for the project. The township has been using a house owned by Richfield Village to conduct business, but after an agreement to use it rent-free expired, the cost was going to be more than the township liked.

Shupe said he agrees the building is important for the township.

“Now we have a choice: We can pay rent to the village to the tune of $1,200 or we can build our own place and have an asset for the township,” he said. “That’s why we’re looking at this building.”

Editor’s note: A recent photo of Robert Luther was not available.

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