Solon Mayor Susan Drucker Talks 2010 and the Year Ahead
Mayor sits down with Solon Patch to answer a range of questions
Susan Drucker just finished her first year as mayor of Solon. A former member of city council and chief probation officer at Bedford Municipal Court, Drucker sat down with Solon Patch to talk successes and failures, the big issues of the year and a look ahead to 2011.
Solon Patch: In our welcome piece, Solon Patch talked about why Solon was a great place to live. Why do you think Solon is a great place to live?
Mayor Susan Drucker: I think the greatest thing about Solon is the diversity here. I grew up on the West Side – Catholic Irish, that's all you're surrounded by. You come to Solon and you have every nationality, race, religion, gender, profession. There's a variation between socioeconomic status. You have everything here.
It's a great place to raise a family, an extremely involved community, and on top of all that you have great schools, great city services, the list goes on and on.
Really it comes down to the diversity of the people, and that this is a strong, involved, family oriented community.
Solon Patch: This was your first year as mayor. What did you learn being mayor that was different than being on council? What did you learn about yourself?
Drucker: You think when you are on council you really know what this job is about. You don't. It's completely different. Mayor is an administrative job, while council is legislative.
One of the things I learned about myself is I'm extremely patient and understanding, because of all the conflicts you face day in and day out in this position. You have to learn to – it's about being really accepting of all the personalities and the different people you are dealing with. And I've been extremely pleased with the first year and how it's gone.
I would describe myself as being much more patient, accepting and understanding than when I started.
Solon Patch: What are some of your accomplishments in 2010?
Drucker: I cut $2.3 million out of the budget without cutting any city services. I truly believe in running as lean an operation as possible, and especially with the economic times, we need to be responsible that we don't spend it because it's somebody else's money. You have to act like it's your own and handle it as if it's your own pocketbook.
Solon Patch: What about things you wish had gone better?
Drucker: Probably the one thing Solon is lacking and what I would find as the most disappointing realization this year is the retail areas in Solon. That is our one weak spot.
The shopping center owners have proven to be rather difficult to work with. I don't quite understand why shopping center owners are not interested in upgrading and redeveloping to bring their antiquated shopping centers into 2010.
The difficulty is that banks aren't lending, and right now it's difficult economic times. But for businesses to come in and restaurants to move in, they want a new place. They don't want to move into a 1970s-built shopping center.
Drucker: We were ordered by the judge that we had to rezone the property. But we voted it down. I think it's offensive that when you have the residents, the administration and the council all against a rezoning, it bothers me that somebody comes and says you have to rezone it anyway.
We'll have to wait and see. Right now the ball is in the court of the owners of Parkstone. Now the judge could, according to his order, rezone it. Then the city could respond, but we have to wait and see what Parkstone is going to do first.
Solon Patch: You recently decided to appoint Former Ward 5 Councilman Lon Stolarsky as the new city prosecutor. Why do you think he is a good person for this job?
Drucker: He is an excellent attorney. He is extremely thorough and competent. I saw that when he was on council. Before I became mayor I was chief probation officer at Bedford Municipal Court, so I saw all these prosecutors in action, so I know who is on time, who is prepared, who is thorough, who takes time with the defendants or the victims. I saw who are great prosecutors and who aren't. And Lon Stolarsky was definitely one of the great ones. ...
I want someone who is going to go and be thorough as a prosecutor. With Lon having been on council, he understands the city, understands the residents and knows how to handle people. He's an absolute gentleman even in controversial settings. I think he's going to represent the city well.
Solon Patch: Do you feel confident in the way you handled the appointment?
Drucker: Absolutely. I went to the highest possible authority [the Ohio Ethics Commission] to say: Am I allowed to do this? Regardless of what one or two residents may feel, I'm going to follow the advice of the ethics commission.
Solon Patch: What's going on for 2011? Any highlights?
Drucker: One great thing I see coming forward is something called the City of Tolerance. There's a resident here named Justin Bachman. He's a 13-year-old and he has Tourette's syndrome. There was an incident this past year. He was in cross country, the meet was going to start, the referees or whatever they call them in cross country are giving the instructions. Well, he has tics. They are telling him to shut up, he tells them he has Tourette's, they are telling him to shut up again. This was in Boardman, Ohio.
His teammates came to his defense. Justin came to see me and we put our heads together to think about what we can do, not just for someone who has Tourette's, but any disability. He said he would like to come up some kind of idea, a fair or a symposium, to have a speaker on tolerance so people become educated and become aware of disabilities and people who are different than you. People then become more tolerant and accepting. So on March 13 we are going to hold the City of Tolerance at the community center. I think that's a great thing. That's what Solon is about. ...
I'm going to continue with some reorganization plans. We are having lots of changes in the police department, so I'll be working with a new police chief.
Solon Patch: Anything else you want to tell the people of Solon?
Drucker: Even after a long and challenging year, I am extremely proud to be the mayor of this city. I love this city, I love what I do and I think we have made extreme and positive steps for the right reasons. I will continue to lead this city in an honest and open manner as I have from day one.
I have an open-door policy. Anyone is allowed to come in here, whether it's a resident, a business owner, an employee, the schools, anybody. I'm very big on open communication. I think we're extremely fortunate to be able to live in a great city like Solon and I'm going to continue moving the city forward.