July 23, 2016

Partly sunny

No. 1: Paydo

Editor’s note: Earlier this year, The Gazette conducted an informal survey of community and government leaders and asked them who they thought were the most influential people in Medina County. We narrowed the list down to 10 based on the number of votes each received, with No. 1 garnering the most. In the last two weeks, we featured each influential person as we counted down to No. 1.


Staff Writer

Stacks of paperwork have piled up on Ron Paydo’s desk in his Medina office. He looks at them and chuckles.

As executive vice president of FirstMerit bank, Paydo’s job is supposed to involve a lot of numbers, a lot of paperwork, and a lot of days chained to his desk.

But Paydo said he’ll acknowledge the piles of paper later. There are more important things to worry about.

“The thing I love to do the most is meet with our customers and meet with our employees. … It’s a partnership, and by working together we grow together. They become more prosperous and that’s exciting for me,” he said.

Paydo also serves as president/CEO of FirstMerit in the Medina region, which includes Medina, Ashland and Richland counties. He explained that interacting with his community is an important part of his job.

“I will tell you at the end of the day all the banks have the same products and services. We all have checking accounts, we all have loans, we all have lines of credit. The key is building good relationships with our people.”

Holding a bachelor’s degree in finance from Kent State University and a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Paydo became a management trainee with Old Phoenix Bank in Medina County in 1987. The company then was based in Medina and had 12 locations throughout the county.

“Quite frankly, my plan was to come and work with a small community bank and then move on to bigger and better things,” said Paydo, 43, crossing his arms across his chest. “But I fell in love with the people and the culture and the community and decided to stay.”

Ron Paydo, president/CEO of FirstMerit in the Medina region, believes meeting and building relationships with customers and employees is key. The executive vice president of FirstMerit bank allows his staff to use work time to volunteer with local nonprofit organizations, saying if it makes his employees better, it’s making the county better. (Shirley Ware | Photo Editor)

FirstMerit took over Old Phoenix in 1995, but Paydo said things have only changed for the better.

“It became the best of both worlds,” he said, noting FirstMerit provided the support for the branches to expand their marketing dollars and technology investments. At the same time, he said, the bank has kept its commitment to the community.

“People like doing business locally. People like doing business with people they know. And people like doing business with people who are in power to make decisions,” Paydo said. “Good or bad, it’s myself or someone else at the bank right here in Medina County who can make the decision.”

In 2001, Paydo took over as president of the region and, since then, he said he’s only seen the business grow.

But Paydo will not take much credit for that. It’s the employees that make it all happen, Paydo said, and he delegates duties to them accordingly.

“I can‘t give the employees that I work with enough credit. I couldn’t do what I do without their support,” Paydo said.

Even in the nation’s current economic state, he said things have been stable and growing. Last month, the company opened its 15th bank in Medina County at Wadsworth Crossings in Wadsworth.

In addition, Paydo said he’s seen the commercial side of the business expand.

Paydo said while FirstMerit has experienced “very nice loan growth,” the loans the bank gives out have been conservative, shielding it from being hit by the subprime lending crisis.

“Even though the economy isn’t as good as we’d like it to be, we’ve been able to grow in spite of that by picking off some of our competitors’ customers,” he said.

But it isn’t all business at FirstMerit.

Paydo allows his staff to use their time on the clock to volunteer with local nonprofit organizations.

“You know what?” he asked. “If you’ve got a work force that’s motivated, that’s powerful. If I’m making my people better, that’s making my county better.”

Paydo said he feels obligated to personally participate in making life better for everyone in Medina County. Currently, he serves as chairman of the Medina County Port Authority and treasurer of the Medina County Blue Coats. In addition, he sits on the board of the Wadsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wadsworth Salvation Army and Downtown Wadsworth.

He also is past president of Leadership Medina County and the Medina County Economic Development Corp. He previously sat on the board of United Way of Medina County and the Medina County Fund.

“I feel very blessed. I’ve got a great wife and four kids. And I’ve done well at the bank. I feel really blessed and by being involved in a lot of these nonprofits, it’s my way of giving back for a lot of my good fortune,” Paydo said.

But his involvement also can be attributed to what he sometimes calls a flaw but what many around him look at as his greatest strength.

“If you find people who really know me, they will say I can’t take ‘no’ for an answer. So when somebody says, ‘No, Ron, we can’t do that,’ I’m always quick to say, ‘Why? There’s got to be a way. Let’s talk about it.’ ”

However, that attitude has gotten him into trouble on some occasions.

“There was a time that I got to the point where I probably didn’t say ‘no’ enough and I got overextended. Probably my biggest mistake was allowing that to happen and, as a result, rather than being really good in everything I was involved in I was just good,” he said.

Paydo recalled times when on top of work and all the nonprofits, he was coaching baseball, softball and soccer for his daughters Melissa, Katherine and Elizabeth, now 15, 13, and 10, respectively, and son Matthew, now 8.

“It forces me to be there,” he said. “But I can tell you I have coached many a game in a shirt and tie because I’m walking on the field with the first pitch going.”

He spends time with the family, Paydo said, but it’s his wife of 21 years, Kathleen, that keeps the family going.

“My wife has sacrificed so much for me,” Paydo said. “Without her help and support at home and at work none of this would be possible. She’s the glue that holds our family together.”

The Paydo family lives in Wadsworth and Paydo said he takes any chance he can to spend time with the rest of the family.

“You’ll always find me doing something with the kids on the weekend, whether it’s walking the dog or just playing outside,” he said.

And his family is continually growing. Throughout their years of marriage, Paydo and Kathleen have taken in 25 foster kids. And now that their children are older, they have begun hosting international visitors. To date, they have played host to four foreign exchange students who came here through the Medina County Rotary.

It’s creating such a home in Medina County, Paydo said, that drives him to want to work for the county and make it a better and better place to live.

“I see it becoming the county that when discussion is held about business, about commerce, about where to live, I want people to say, ‘If it can only be like Medina County. They just have it all. … It’s where I want to live. It’s where I want to locate my business. It’s the pinnacle.’ ”

Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.