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Outgoing officeholders reflect

December 23, 2011
By Sam Shawver - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Boxes of books, a bicycle and other odds and ends were stacked at one end of Marietta Mayor Michael Mullen's office Thursday as he packed up after eight years of service.

Mayor-elect Joe Matthews will take office Jan. 1.

Although Mullen is leaving the city administration, he'll still be involved with municipal business, as he was elected to a city council at-large post in November.

Also stepping down on Dec. 31 are Councilmen Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward, David White, R-1st Ward, Josh Schlicher, R-at large, and council president Paul Bertram III. Bertram will be returning as city law director Jan. 1.

Looking back on his two terms in office, Mullen said he's proud of helping the city through some difficult financial times.

"Overall I think we've been able to keep our services at a high level, despite ever-shrinking revenues," he said. "We've tried to do more with less, like consolidating some departments to get the most out of those units and to better manage city operations."

Fact Box

Outgoing Council:

David White, R-1st Ward

Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward

Jon Grimm, R-3rd Ward

Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward

Josh Schlicher, R-Council at Large

Harley Noland, D-Council at Large

Denver Abicht, D-Council at Large

Incoming Council:

Roger Kalter, D-1st Ward

Mike McCauley, D-2nd Ward

Steve Thomas, D-3rd Ward

Tom Vukovic, D-4th Ward

Michael Mullen, I-Council at Large

Harley Noland, D-Council at Large

Denver Abicht, D-Council at Large

During his tenure the recreation, cemetery and lands, buildings and parks departments were combined into a new public facilities department.

Mullen said more use of technology has also saved money.

"For example, instead of spending $800 to $1,000 a month on Internet services we ran fiber through the state OARnet (Ohio Academic Resources Network) site at a very low cost to the city, increasing capacity and speed at a savings of about 80 percent," he said.

Mullen said the bandwidth gained allowed wireless connection of all municipal sites and enabled processes like court arraignments to be conducted via video.

"These technologies have saved a lot of time and expense," he said.

Making the most of state and federal grant funding has also been a big part of Mullen's administration.

"We've been able to do many projects by using our finite resources to leverage larger grant monies," he said.

A recent example is this week's award of a $397,000 grant from the Ohio Public Works Commission that will allow the city to do more than $500,000 worth of work during the 2012 asphalt paving program.

The Armory Square project had also been a focus, the mayor said.

"I'm extremely pleased to see the potential to complete the Armory Square project has come about," Mullen said. "When I took office we didn't have a dime in that account. When I leave there will be $3.49 million in grants and tax credits for the armory restoration project.

"I believe this is another step toward revitalization of the city's downtown area," he said.

Mullen said he's also proud to have had a part in other major projects, including the Marietta Aquatic Center and especially the ongoing construction of the River Trail.

"There was some skepticism about the trail when it was first proposed but now it's one of the most-used pieces of public infrastructure in the city," he said. "And this time next year we'll have a full four miles of trail completed that will hopefully connect in the future with other trails in Devola, Reno and the Belpre and Athens areas.

"When I walk out of this office on Dec. 31, I can say I've loved this opportunity to work with a great team of city employees for the betterment of Marietta," Mullen said.

Council members

White is completing his second term on city council and has now tossed his hat into the ring to campaign for Washington County Commissioner in the March primary election.

"I guess I'm most proud that we were able to get the municipal court project moving and the same thing for the armory," he said. "Those projects were almost a mandate when we first campaigned for office and we have done it."

White said he felt the current council also created some initiatives that helped the city financially.

"That included consolidating services and moving residential permitting to the county, although there still needs to be some refinement in the permitting process," White said. "That has saved the city lots of money in the long run."

White said he hopes the next council works to make the city more business-friendly.

"I was glad to be part of the vote that passed the TIF (tax increment financing) package for the First Colony Center development," he said. "But we don't want things to stop there. We need more of that type of movement forward.

Schlicher has been on council for a year, finishing out the term of Andy Thompson who was elected to the state House of Representatives at the end of 2010.

"I'm glad during my year on council we were able to finish the bidding on the municipal court and armory projects," he said. "That alone was a big accomplishment. We also began a $26 million upgrade of the sewer treatment plant, as well as enabled many equipment upgrades."

Schlicher said he hopes the incoming council will continue the momentum for the armory renovation project.

"But I also hope they'll make sure the expenses for ongoing operations of the facility will be available," he said. "I think this can be a self-sufficient project if we get the right business plan. But we don't want to place any more burden on our city government funds.

"I do wish the next council well, and I plan to stay involved in city business," Schlicher said.

Like White, Grimm also served four years on council.

"It was really an eye-opening experience," he said. "I've always been politically active and aware but being a part of the process is lot different than being an 'armchair quarterback.'"

Grimm said he, too, is proud to have been part of getting the municipal court and armory projects underway.

"The court was probably our biggest achievement," he said. "But I think we did get a lot done in four years.

"And one thing we tried to do was make city government more efficient. Outsourcing management of the aquatic center and consolidating departments has made a difference and saved money," Grimm said.

Grimm pointed out that several current council members are businessmen and that they brought a unique way of thinking to city council.

"And that's what the new council needs to continue," he said. "This city's growth and forward movement depends on its economy and the key to growing that economy is support for local small business."



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