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Government and Politics

Dan Horrigan, Akron's next mayor, promises change is coming
The Democrat easily bests Republican Eddie Sipplen and independent Bill Melver; Siipplen is saying he'll run again in four years
This story is part of a special series.

Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
Campaign Co-Chair Marco Sommerville pins the Akron logo lapel pin as Dan Horrigan steps in line to become Akron's 62nd mayor.
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Akron voters have picked a new mayor – elected by a margin as impressive as the ones that kept Don Plusquellic in office for nearly three decades. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on what appears to be the last in the city’s year of big changes.

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It was a perfect night at Akron’s minor league ballpark – clear and warm and with just the right breeze blowing across the diamond.

But the cheering at the second-floor Duck Club wasn’t for baseball. It was for Akron’s newly elected mayor: Dan Horrigan – a staccato speaking, earnest looking and pretty much universally described nice guy who got more than 70 percent of the roughly 40,000 votes cast in yesterday’s election.

Here's the list of Akron's mayors and mayors-elect over the past six months:
  • Don Plusquellic, served 28 years before abruptly retiring this spring.
  • Garry Moneypenny, his chosen successor who resigned 10 days later amidst allegations he engaged in inappropriate touching of a city employee.
  • Jeff Fusco, left his at-large City Council seat to serve temporarily as mayor until the end of the year. Was the top vote-getter Tuesday night to return to an at-large seat on council.
  • Dan Horrigan, Former city councilman, now Summit County Clerk of Courts and mayor-elect.

“Can you keep that margin up there for awhile?" Horrigan playfully pleaded as the margin of his victory played out on the screen behind him. Then he got serious.

"Listen. It’s the results of a lot of hard work  A lot of people have said this. You earn everything in this town and  I couldn’t be prouder."

Change is coming
And though he wanted to bask in those numbers last night – and to tell his wife and the world how much he loves her and his friends and political allies how much he appreciates them -- Horrigan also acknowledged his city faces a lot of challenges: A billion sewer project, the loss of state funding and a shrinking financial reserve, a poverty rate of about 25 percent.

He said he heard about many of those problems as he campaigned in the city over the last five months..

“There were consistent issues all throughout. When they talked about sewers and they talked about the university, and they were pretty consistent from one area to the other. Housing, downtown development, neighborhood development.”

And, as he did in interviews, debates and other run-ups to the election, Horrigan promised two things.

First, though he’s succeeding a fellow Democratic mayor in a Democratic town, there will be change:

“We can look to change as something hard and something to be feared. We can look at it as something that’s difficult and uncomfortable. Or we can look at the changes already underway in Akron as an opportunity to create a new mission for ourselves and to reinvent our city. “

So is collaboration
The other thing he promised is that such change will come with collaboration from a wide swath of people.

That’s something Darletta Logan wanted to hear.

"See the races come together and work more closely together would be an ideal situation for us”

Why does she see Horrigan as the catalyst?

“ I’m not sure if he can do it personally, but I think it can be a beginning. So being that he’s a new face for us, I think it can be a way that we can jump off on a different foot He’s different and expect different things to happen.”

The hopes of others sharing the celebration with Horrigan varied. For Richard Weiner,  they’re grounded in finding high-tech solutions for low-tech problems.

-“Sewers and fixing the potholes and all that stuff. I’d really like to see extremely intelligent people take a very far view -- 15-to-20-year-view --  about how to do that and bring in the technology necessary to make it work toward the future ... instead of just fixing little things that are in front of you all the time. “

Style and challenges
And Summit County Executive Russ Pry said he looks forward to the kind of collaborative relationship he had with Horrigan in his role as Summit County clerk of courts.

“How do we maximize government efficiency? How do we continue to look at ways to continue to streamline government services? But more importantly, how do we make sure we provide those services to the people that both Dan will represent in the city of Akron and I represent in Summit County.”

But Pry acknowledged his relationship with Akron’s new top executive may differ in style, at least, because Dan Horrigan’s style varies greatly from his elected processor, the larger-than-life Don Plusqeullic.

The unknowns
Steve Brooks, a political scientist at the University of Akron who lives in the city, expects competing demands for dwindling resources will be a challenge Horrigan will have to handle.

“Where do you focus economic development? Do you focus it in the center of the city or do you work with neighborhoods? It’s never all one or the other. It’s a balance."

But City Council's role in hitting that balance is an  unknown. Brooks noted that after years of living in the shadow of Plusquellic – a majority council may be trying to assert its independence.

And one of Horrigan’s big-P political challenges is already taking shape. Eddie Sipplen, the Republican who lost yesterday, promised his supporters he’ll be back.

“We now work our other plan for the next four years. And as Gen. MacArthur said, we don’t’ go away. We’ll be back. We will be back."

To which Horrigan responded, “I’ll see you in four years.”

Meanwhile, he has to prepare to take over the reins at City Hall of Jan. 1.

Related WKSU Stories

Akron selects a new man -- and model -- for mayor
Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sipplen comes up short in Akron mayoral bid
Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Akron mayoral candidates debate insider vs. outsider virtues
Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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