Tallmadge Mayor David Kline has decided not to run for another term, making this year his last of a 13-year run.
Kline said last week the decision was a difficult one, made more so because running Tallmadge was his dream job from the time he was a child.
“Somebody asked when I was in elementary school: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” he said in an interview in his office. “I said, ‘I want to be mayor.’”
Kline is a lifelong resident, another reason the decision didn’t come easily.
“I was born and raised in Tallmadge and never left,” he said. “That’s what makes this decision so difficult.”
In recent weeks, he has revealed his decision to organizations in the city, he said. He’ll serve out his current term, with a primary election in May, if needed, and a general election in November to decide who will be his successor.
On call for 45 years
Kline started his career with the city as a part-time firefighter in 1978, going on to become a paramedic. He also completed a four-year apprenticeship program with the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union and worked in the HVAC field for several years.
But it was the call of public service that determined the course of his career, even if it had a bumpy start with voters.
In his first run for office in 1988, he lost in a close vote for City Council, he said.
“My very first election attempt, I lost,” he said. “I ran for 1st Ward council and lost by 30 votes.”
At the time, he declined to publicly oppose an unpopular development, an issue he believes cost him the win.
“Now there are condos at that spot,” he said.
He built his own house in Ward 3 and ran again in 1990. At the time, he still worked in the fire department.
“The law director said I couldn’t do both,” he said.
So he started working from midnight until 6 a.m. for an ambulance company, leaving from there to his HVAC job, he said.
He moved from Ward 3 councilman to a council-at-large position, and became council president in 1996. From there, he became the city’s public service director for 10 years.
When Tallmadge Mayor Chris Grimm left the city’s top position to work at the Stow Municipal Court, Kline was appointed by Grimm, and had to win an election to fill the final year of the term.
Since then, he has kept his winning streak intact.
“I subsequently ran for three terms and won overwhelmingly,” he said. “Last time was unopposed.”
Community commitment will continue
Kline said the lure of family played a big role in his decision not to run. He and his wife have three children, Michael, an Ohio State University graduate; Michelle, an OSU and Wright State University Medical School graduate; and Stephanie, a graduate of the University of Akron.
He has three granddaughters who live in Columbus and two “adopted” grandchildren who live in his neighborhood, he said.
Kline said after his term is done, he’ll continue to work with local organizations like the Rotary, Red Cross and Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank.
“I’m one that cannot sit at home,” he said.
As mayor, former firefighter, councilman and public service director, Kline said he kept himself available at all hours.
“I’m on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said. “I sleep with my phone.”
On Dec. 26 last year, when the sprinkler system at the Tallmadge Recreation Center malfunctioned, he was called in at 1 a.m. and was able to fix the problem.
“I still have tools in my car today,” he said. “I do a lot of work around here.”
‘In a good spot’
Kline said he’s leaving the city in a good financial position, built on economic development through the years. He said the new city fire station will open soon, with a back order on doors holding up the nearly completed project.
“One of my best accomplishments is the water infrastructure,” he said. “Now we have a redundant pumping station.”
The city’s No. 1 asset is its 100 full-time and 100-150 part-time employees, he said.
“I’ve probably hired 90% of them in my tenure,” Kline said.
Last year was a difficult one in some respects, he said, with a proposed Mindale Farms residential project rejected by council in February and litigation against the owner of Midway Plaza filed the same month.
“Mindale Farms was a tough (one),” he said. “I think, personally, it would have been good for the city of Tallmadge.”
The shopping center has since been sold, but the lawsuit will continue until condemned buildings are fixed or replaced, he said.
“We’re not going to come off that litigation until we see progress,” he said.
Kline said there’s still time to file for another run, but he won’t change his position despite his love of the job.
“It was my dream job forever,” he said.
Leave a message for Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.