Former Medina Mayor Jane Leaver died at the Cleveland Clinic late Tuesday night after a four-year battle with lung cancer.
She was 49 years old.
Leaver was the first and only woman to serve as the city’ mayor, from 2002 to 2009. She was the Ward 1 member of Council in 1998.
“We couldn’t be more proud of Jane’s long courageous battle with lung cancer,” her family said in a statement released by Cindy Fuller, former Council president and longtime friend of Leaver’s.
“She was one of the strongest people we have ever known and what she would want as a result of this would be to strongly encourage everyone to trust your gut if you think something is wrong and get tested.
“In the words of Jane, ‘I fought the battle with the help of my faith, friends and the caregivers at the Cleveland Clinic.’ ”
As mayor, Leaver was instrumental in helping the city overcome a budget shortfall and passed income tax reform in 2003, which set aside a specific percentage to be used for infrastructure improvements.
She told The Gazette in 2008 that laying off 70 city employees in 2001 because of the deficit was one of the hardest decisions of her life.
“I would not have wished the first two years of my term on anybody,” she said. “Talk about a crash course in financial survival.”
She responded by putting the tax increase on the ballot in 2002, but the initiative failed. She succeeded in 2003. In 2008, she announced that she would not seek re-election in order to spend more time with her husband, Jim, and two daughters, Jordyn and Jamie.
“I would like to leave office and the one thing that people remember me as is one of the hardest-working people they ever met and that I left the city in sound financial condition,” Leaver told The Gazette in 2008. “That will be a very successful eight years in office by my definition.”
Mayor Dennis Hanwell said the team Leaver put together as mayor was influential when he had to make the decision to leave the relative job security of being police chief to make his successful run for mayor in 2009.
“I wanted to maintain that same management team,” he said. “She was very detail oriented and methodical and had the ability to think things through — not only the decision, but the implications — and did a good job of relying on the staff she put together to come to the best solutions for the city.”
Hanwell said former colleagues will remember Leaver as a hardworking and dedicated mayor.
“Mayor Leaver was an exceptional and well-respected leader. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Mayor Jane Leaver,” Hanwell said.
Councilman Bill Lamb, at-large, said the city is mourning the loss.
“It’s a shame because she died so young,” he said.
Council President John Coyne, who took Leaver’s place as Ward 1 councilman when she resigned, said his thoughts and prayers are with the Leaver family because he recently lost his mother and grandfather.
“As mayor, she had the best interest of the city always at the forefront of her decisions,” he said. “She loved the city of Medina and wanted to make it the best it could be.”
Leaver was a resident of Medina County since she was 10 years old. She graduated from Cloverleaf High School in 1983 and the University of Akron in 1987 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Contact reporter Andrew Davis at (330) 721-4050 or email@example.com.