Fran Hogg served two terms as mayor and also served on City Council from 1994 to 1995. She served as the City’s recycling coordinator prior to Council and was a member of the Master Plan Committee. Mrs. Hogg is proud of her accomplishments as mayor, which she says were a result of teamwork and cooperation. Mayor Hogg was a mayor who gave of her time and expertise in many areas from participating in employee interviews with department heads to helping the Service Department plant flowers. Her interest in helping children was always evident. She planted flowers with young people in the Juvenile Diversion program and arranged for school children to attend council meetings to learn about the city government process.
Mrs. Hogg shared with us that she is proud of the many things that happened in the City while she was mayor. The development of the Aberdeen residential area and Stonewater Golf Course, the construction of the swimming pool and new tennis and basketball courts, and an aggressive infrastructure rehabilitation and maintenance program all were completed during her administration. She was also instrumental in securing a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources that allowed the City to purchase additional land that is now a part of our Community Park.
During her administration, the City received a mandate from the EPA requiring the elimination of all septic systems in our predominantly residential community. Through the cooperative efforts of Mayor Hogg’s administration, City Council and City Engineer Steve Hovancsek, the City of Highland Heights was successful in securing a large amount of funding from Issue II, which greatly facilitated the elimination of all septic systems in the City. The City of Highland Heights was one of the first communities in Ohio to become completely compliant with the EPA unfunded mandate, with all systems being eliminated during her tenure in office.
I had the pleasure of serving on Council during Mayor Hogg’s entire administration. I recall very vividly a meeting Mayor Hogg and I had with a developer from Buffalo who was trying to purchase a large stretch of properties on Wilson Mills Road across from Mayfield High School. The developer wanted to turn some land that was zoned residential to commercial use for a large national retailer. Mayor Hogg and all of City Council vehemently opposed the proposition. At that meeting, we told the developer that we had no interest in allowing the change in zoning and Mayor Hogg insisted that we would challenge their efforts every step of the way. Thankfully, that area is still residential today largely due to Mayor Hogg’s efforts.
Now that she’s retired from city government, Mrs. Hogg works on several volunteer projects and is enjoying her role as a grandmother and traveling with her husband.
It is impossible to include all of Virginia Swanson’s accomplishments in this feature. Virginia served the City of Highland Heights as an elected official for 25 years. She represented the City in every possible elected position. She was Ward Council representative, At-Large Representative, Council President and Mayor. Her tenure on Council went from 1980 – 1987 and 1998 – 2005. She served, at one time or another, on every committee in our City’s government. In 1988, Virginia was elected as the first woman mayor of the City of Highland Heights. She held that position until 1995 when she did not seek re-election. Virginia Swanson never lost an election. She was once voted one of the most influential women in Northeast Ohio and the Sun Newspaper recently honored her as being the most influential person in the City.
During her administration, Virginia worked hard to attract businesses to the City. She was instrumental in making the Aberdeen development a reality and had a special fondness for the senior programs.
She has always been a fierce defender of the City Charter which was best displayed in 1993 when she decided to appoint a new law director. City Council at the time did not want the appointment to be made, instead siding with the former law director. As a result, Virginia won a long legal battle and her 1993 appointment of Timothy G. Paluf, who remains the City’s law director.
With her numerous accomplishments, when Virginia is asked what she is most proud of, she quickly says, “Bringing back baseball to the Park.”
Virginia Swanson has been my mentor and I can’t imagine what it will be like to not see her sitting across the table from me at the Council meetings on Tuesday nights. She was more than just an elected official, and “politician” certainly is not a fitting description. She was the epitome of a public servant. Virginia, the City of Highland Heights thanks you and will be forever in your debt for all your years of service!
The third time was the charm for Tom in his effort to serve on City Council. Following two spirited campaigns in 1969 and 1971, Tom was first elected to represent the residents of Ward 4 in November of 1973 and re-elected in 1975 and 1977. He served as president of Council during his first term. In addition, he served on the Legislative, Safety/Service and Finance Committee(s) as well as Council representative to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Tom was elected mayor in 1979 and re-elected in 1981. Following a Charter change providing a four-year term for the Office of Mayor, Tom was elected to a four year term in 1983. In addition to his service as mayor of our City, Tom was elected to and served as a member of the Regional Income Tax Agency Board of Directors.
Former Mayor Hughes, sharing thoughts with me regarding his 14 years of public service, recalls that the 70’s and 80’s were exciting, prosperous and growing years for the City of Highland Heights—a challenging time during which the community matured and became one of the most desirable residential cities in northern Ohio. Tom, crediting those that preceded him in office for their efforts in forming our Charter, strong building and zoning regulations, first class municipal services and our community park, pool and recreation programs, said “those are the people that built the foundation that makes Highland Heights what it is today. They made my job as mayor a little easier and enjoyable.”
Reflecting on some of his accomplishments, Mayor Hughes told me he is most proud of our Municipal Center Complex that was completed in 1983. He expressed thanks to the voters that approved the income tax increase that provided funds for the project. “With the support of Council, I implemented a thorough, affordable plan to retire the debt generated by the Municipal Center Project, reducing interest expense and making more funds available to meet the increasing demands of a growing City. I consider the Municipal Complex the legacy of my mayoral service.”
When Tom and I talked about the residential developments and Stonewater Golf Club located in the northern area of the City, Tom told me that every time he drives down Bishop or Miner Roads, he is pleasantly reminded of his efforts and those of the “Keep It Green Committee” in maintaining our single family residential zoning plan for that area. “That is a legacy shared by all of the residents of Highland Heights,” he said.
For the last several years Tom has worked in the Ballot Department
at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. With the planned implementation
of electronic “touch screen” voting in the May primary election,
Tom tells me he doesn’t have much time to think about retirement.
He and his wife Barbara have two married children—son, Geoff and daughter, Holly (Long) and two grandchildren, Justin and Abigail Long. They spend many enjoyable hours with their grandchildren.
“I still keep my eyes and ears focused on our community, a community that gave me much to be proud of and the honor and privilege to serve as a councilman and as mayor!”
Former Mayor Roy Mayes had heard that I was doing features of past mayors and that I was looking for information about him. On January 5, Mr. Mayes called me from his home in Winterhaven, Florida and we spoke for over an hour. Following is some of the information I learned during our conversation.
Roy Mayes served as mayor from 1976 through 1979. Prior to being elected mayor, he served on City Council and was Council president during Mayor Frank Krainz’s administration. Mr. Mayes grew up in Tennessee near the Cumberland Plateau. When he moved to Cleveland, he worked for Fisher Body for 33 years as a foreman. He has two children and four grandchildren and retired to Florida a few years after his term as mayor.
Under Mayor Mayes’ leadership, a time capsule was buried in the City of Highland Heights Community Park on July 4, 1976. It is located under a large boulder on the opposite side of the road from the playground. It was placed in observance of our Nation’s bicentennial. The time capsule is to be opened upon the celebration of our Nation’s tercentenary (300th anniversary) on July 4, 2076. Each year, up to and including the year 2076, the clerk of council will read a reminder statement at the Council meeting held in the month of June.
During our conversation, Mr. Mayes did most of the talking but I was able to ask him two questions, “What are you most proud of?” and “How would you like the residents of Highland Heights to remember you?”
Mr. Mayes is most proud of the two times he and Council were able to lower taxes. He also claims to have left a $300,000 surplus in the general fund which was up from $40,000 when he took office. His mentor was Frank Krainz whom he described as a “very honest mayor and man.”
Mr. Mayes calls himself a “hands on” guy and once stayed up all night at the Community Park to try and catch some youths who were vandalizing equipment at the park. He would like to be remembered as a person who “fought for the rights of the people.”
Former Mayor Frank Krainz served in the Navy during World War II as a radar man and retired from Gould, Inc. at the age of 55. Before being elected mayor in 1974, he had been a councilman for two years.
Mayor Krainz was well known for his colorful dialogue on the Council floor. He was never afraid to speak his mind, which was both his trademark and part of the reason for his many successes. Former Mayor Roy Mayes once referred to Mayor Krainz as one of the most honest people he ever met.
During his term as Mayor, the new Police Headquarters was built and a fire engine was purchased. Mayor Krainz also initiated a street resurfacing program and street lights were put on Miner and Bishop Roads during his time as mayor.
Mr. Brennan was a Harvard graduate who moved to the Cleveland area in the late 1940’s. He was an executive for the Lamp Division of General Electric for many years. Mr. Brennan served on Highland Heights City Council from 1962 to 1963 and served as mayor for 10 years from 1964 to 1973.
During Mr. Brennan’s administration, the City went through many transitions, including the development of the Alpha Drive industrial development with their anchor tenant Picker X-Ray (now Philips). The business park was strategically planned to be adjacent to Interstate 271, which was somewhat removed from the residential area of the City.
The development of the Community Park also happened during Mr.
Brennan’s administration. The City originally purchased 40 acres
of land and built a state of the art swimming pool and seven
While Mr. Brennan was mayor, Highland Heights became a City on January 1, 1967. He was instrumental in appointing a Charter Commission, which was responsible for drafting our City Charter. Our Charter is based on the traditional mayor and council form of government. Many of our zoning and residential codes were rewritten during Mr. Brennan’s administration.
Bill Brennan was a very forward-thinking man and much of the planning of our community can be attributed to him. Former Mayor William Brennan passed away on October 17, 2003.
Robert Barris took office during a transition period in Highland Heights’ history when Highland Heights was changing from a farm community to a suburban community. Many things were accomplished during Robert Barris’ term. The first brand new, full size, fire engine pumper for the Fire Department was purchased which helped keep the homeowners insurance rates at a minimum. The community also built its first Service Building to house service equipment and the first full time service director was hired. The first fleet of snow plows and salt spreaders was also purchased. With staffing at a minimum, Mayor Barris often worked the equipment if needed because of storms and the time demands of the other men working.
During Mayor Barris’ term in office, various drainage districts were created. The first major tree planting program was introduced and the initial street lighting program was started. Two large housing developments were constructed on the north side of Wilson Mills in the Kenbridge-Radford areas. The first sidewalks in Highland Heights were put in at that time in those areas along with sidewalks on other main streets. The first sanitary sewers were installed during his administration. The first organized baseball program, day nursery school with a registered nurse, a swimming program as well as a winter ice skating program on the outdoor City-constructed ice rink were also established during this time.
As we look at our City now, who could imagine our housing developments without sidewalks, without roads that were properly paved, without a Community Park, without safety and service forces available 24 hours each day, seven days a week? Who could imagine seeing their mayor driving a snow plow? For some reason, I just can’t picture myself or former Mayors Hogg, Swanson and Hughes behind the wheel of one of those trucks. Times surely were different then. Many of these “firsts” happened largely through the efforts and vision of Mayor Barris. In Mayor Barris’ two terms in office, Highland Heights really went from being a rural community to a suburban community.
During Mayor Sheahan’s term, Wilson Mills Road became a four-lane highway which was a major factor in the growth of the City of Highland Heights. Other civic accomplishments during Mayor Sheahan’s term were the extension of water lines to all streets and the formation of an auxiliary police force that provided around the clock police protection in Highland Heights for the first time. Mr. Sheahan had served two terms on Council before he was elected mayor in 1954. And in 1965, he was again elected to Council.
Mayor Sheahan was a very popular man and was liked by many. For years, the piece of land on Bishop Road just south of Swagelok (and currently owned by Swagelok) was affectionately known as Sheahan Park. This land was the home of the annual Home Days event as well as the site of baseball and football games, even though the land at the time was owned by the County.
Mr. Sheahan was an honorary life member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles and belonged to St. Paschal Baylon Church and the Highland Heights Card Club. He enjoyed fishing and hiking and was an honorary member of the Cleveland Hiking Club.
Bud Ley ran for mayor of our City as a write-in candidate against the incumbent, Myron Willis, and won the election handily. Mayor Ley was a very strict man who had a deep passion for his City. He had two main goals, preserving the City’s beauty and keeping it a family community. He did this with strict enforcement of zoning codes. One of the first changes he made was to put a stop to issuing permits for gas and oil drilling after a bad fire at an oil well on Ford Road.
Many firsts can be attributed to Mayor Ley’s administration. Among them were:
- The creation of the first permanent Police Department and the arrangement for two radios to be used to solicit help from neighboring communities. He once bought a police car for $5.
- The Fire Department was organized under his administration along with the purchase of a new fire truck and other equipment. He was a member of the Volunteer Fire Department and even drove the truck to the fire at the Mayfield Methodist Church.
- He arranged for the purchase of a rubbish truck and snow plow through gasoline tax revenue that would have otherwise been returned to the State Treasury.
- He produced a franchise from the East Ohio Gas Company which allowed natural gas to be supplied to the City.
- He was instrumental in bringing city water to the area.
- He started Home Days and helped organize a Kitchen Band which you will hear more about if you read the feature on the Strumbly Family later in the newsletter.
Mayor Ley held Mayor’s Court and strictly enforced the ordinances in the City while sitting on the bench. He was famous for his ruling against people who were caught throwing rubbish along the side of the road. When caught, the offender was sentenced to pick up rubbish for an entire block which was a long way in those days.
One time a judge from Cleveland was caught throwing rubbish on the road and was sentenced to the usual fine. When the judge told Bud that one of his employees would fulfill his sentence, Mayor Ley insisted the judge show up himself. Juveniles were to appear in Court with their parents and were given the choice of going to Juvenile Court downtown, washing police cars and fire trucks or cleaning City Hall.
Mayor Ley’s many accomplishments demonstrate what a very innovative and forward-thinking man he was. Through his passion for the City and his ability to get things done, the Village of Highland Heights was soon to become an incorporated city.
Information on Clemens Ley was taken from the History of Highland Heights as well as some heartfelt stories shared by his son, Weert. Weert owns and operates the lawn mower repair shop on Highland Road which was started by his father in 1952.
1940-1947 Myron Willis
Myron Willis was the second mayor of Highland Heights and also served a total of 12 years, longer than any other mayor in the history of our City. Former Mayor Willis was appointed to the first Council of Highland Heights as president pro-temp. Mayor Willis inaugurated a paving program and worked to establish a Planning Committee on a county-wide scale. Mayor Willis served his first term as mayor in 1926 and 1927. Before being elected mayor, he also served as the village treasurer and was a member of the Planning Commission.
Many improvements were made in Highland Heights during his term in office including the establishment of a traffic code, installation of the first street lights, formation of a volunteer fire department, establishment of a rubbish collection program and a house numbering program. One of the most vital reforms during Mayor Willis tenure was to put into operation the proper electric, building, sanitary and plumbing codes.
The fifth person to be elected Mayor of Highland Heights, Mayor Schneider was born in Germany in 1875. He moved to the Cleveland area at the turn of the century and worked as a bookkeeper for the American Fork and Hoe Co. His family raised sheep and grew many vegetables on his property in Highland Heights. Mayor Schneider also volunteered his services in the Spanish American War.
During Mayor Schneider’s term, together with City Council, he entered into an agreement to purchase the old Highland Road School to be used as a Village Hall. The site was the home of City Hall until the construction of the current Municipal Complex in 1984. Mr. Schneider’s administration was also responsible for the dedication of Ridgebury Blvd. as a City street.
Mayor Rau was the fourth person to hold the office of mayor of Highland Heights. Like many of the early mayors, not much is known about his administration but thanks to the History of Highland Heights, published in 1976, we know the following:
George Rau was the son of a Pennsylvania legislator and was a man of many talents. He was co-owner of the Ferro Steel Products Company in Cleveland for several years and later was a partner in Rau and Rau Associates, which was an engineering and architectural firm. Mr. Rau was an accomplished painter and had three children, Howard, Marion and Frances.
During his tenure as mayor, he instructed the Village Engineer to construct a street layout of the Village for City Council's approval. This plan hung on the wall of the old City Hall for many years. If this original plan had been used, the City would have a drastically different appearance. Bishop Road and Wilson Mills would have a circle with all streets leading to the circle, similar to Fairmount and Shaker circles.
Mayor William Cozens lived on Bishop Road. He was a carpenter by trade and had a small fruit farm.
Not much is known about Mayor Cozens’ tenure in office; however, the following was taken from excerpts of The History of Highland Heights, a book that was published as a result of our community being declared a “Bicentennial City” in 1976:
- People of Highland Heights were authorized to call the Lyndhurst Fire Department in case of fire.
- The City engineer created a planning map of Highland Road from the west end to the east end widening it to an 80’ road.
- A safe file for the village books and papers was obtained.
- A Ford touring car was purchased for the Village Police Department.
- Mayor Cozens appointed two councilmen, Fisher and Straight, to start investigating land sites for a town hall.
All these events may seem trivial to us now, but for a small city with minimal funding, these were all significant accomplishments.
Ralph Williams was the community's first Mayor. He was wed to Luella Jones in 1908. As a farmer, Ralph raised crops of corn, oats, wheat and potatoes while tending livestock including sheep, pigs and horses. Often the only transportation available during the winter in those days was horse and sleigh. Ralph was a popular figure in the community due to an excellent sense of humor and a willingness to help his neighbors. He had a deep interest in the community and actively contributed to it. He and his family saw many changes take place as the community grew.
When Mayor Williams took office, Highland Heights was a farming community. He accomplished many things including creating the office of inspector and regulating the construction of buildings within the Village of Highland Heights. For more than a decade, Mayor Williams was a member of the Mayfield School District Board as representative of the Highland Heights Schools. He was a charter member of Mayfield Grande and for many years, he was a trustee of Mayfield Methodist Church.
Mayor Williams was a pioneer of sorts; not only in his lifestyle but also in the vision he had for his hometown. He was primarily responsible for turning his little farm town into a community with its own character and vision. I'm sure I speak for all the mayors who followed him in expressing my gratitude for his leadership and service to the town he loved.