October 21, 2014

Medina
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Exiting Brunswick city manager reflects on tenure

As City Manager Jim Lukas serves his final days in office this week, he reflected on his 2½ years in Brunswick.

“When I came to Brunswick, it was my hope that I would remain here much longer,” he told City Council on Monday night.

Lukas has taken a job in Sharonville, a suburb of Cincinnati. Before moving to Cleveland, Lukas worked for the city of Franklin, southwest of Dayton. He plans to return to the Cincinnati area to rejoin his wife, who returned to the Cincinnati area for a job.

Brunswick Mayor Gary Werner, left, presented outgoing City Manager Jim Lukas with a plaque commemorating his service at Monday's Brunswick City Council meeting. Lukas has taken a job in Sharonville, Ohio and his last day in office is Friday. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY LOREN GENSON)

“He wants to be closer to where his wife is. I think that makes a lot of sense,” Brunswick Mayor Gary Werner said in his farewell remarks to Lukas.

Werner praised Lukas as an “excellent official.”

Council appointed Lukas city manger in February 2011.

Lukas and Council members worked together with city Finance Director Todd Fischer to try to find new ways to handle the city’s debt without cutting services to residents.

“I am proud of what the city has been able to accomplish during my tenure,” Lukas said.

He said he especially was proud of the work administrators and Council members were able to accomplish by lowering the city’s debt by about $870,000 during the 2½ years Lukas was in office.

“Financial policies are now in place, such as the city’s first-ever fund balance reserve policy,” he said.

That policy, adopted by Council in 2012, set aside $2.5 million in a cash reserve fund.

Lukas also said he was proud that the city was taking on road repairs, including a $243,590 concrete repair program approved for this summer. He credited the hard work of Fischer, other administrators and Council members.

Most recently, Lukas and Fischer received word that state and federal officials have agreed to remove a debt obligation they entered into in the 1980s concerning repairs on Boston Road. The repairs were estimated to cost the city around $2.6 million, based on three-year-old estimates. The overall project cost was estimated at around $25 million.

Fischer said Lukas and City Engineer Ryan Cummins teamed up to work with the Ohio Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study that showed widening Boston Road, proposed in the 1980s, no longer was necessary.

“We were able to prove that the need from 20 years ago is no longer a need today,” Fischer said.

The city still has to work with state and federal officials to repair North Carpenter Road. And, eventually, the city will have to find a way to resurface its side of Boston Road, which shares a border with the city of Strongsville.

Fischer said he credits Lukas for his ability to work with others to help get the city back on stronger financial footing. Since taking office in 2010, Fischer, who worked for the state auditor’s office, said the recovery in Brunswick is probably one of the strongest in the state.

“When you look at the financial turnaround of the city, I call it one of the biggest municipal government turnarounds in the state of Ohio,” Fischer said. “Jim was a pertinent part of that whole thing — where we were and where we’ve come to.”

While Council members begin the search for a new city manager, they have appointed Police Chief Carl DeForest to serve as interim city manager. DeForest also will continue to serve as police chief.

Lukas said he’ll be available should Council members or city employees have questions. He said he often meets with and sees city managers of other communities and said he’ll always be available to the city as a resource if officials have any questions.

“I still contact my last city,” Lukas said. “I told all the Council members not to hesitate to call me.”

On Monday night, Lukas was presented with a plaque honoring his service to the community. He was treated to a standing ovation and many thanks from his fellow Rotary Club members in attendance at the meeting.

“Brunswick is a wonderful community,” he said. “I will treasure the memories and friendships I have made here.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.