Maumee City Council Members Pay Tribute To Mayor Richard Carr For 26 Years Of Service

Mayor Richard Carr presided over his last regular meeting of Maumee City Council on December 18, capping off 26 years of public service to his beloved hometown of Maumee. MIRROR PHOTO BY MIKE McCARTHY

BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — After 26 years of public service spanning the past 34 years, Maumee Mayor Richard Carr officially retired as the mayor of Maumee on December 31.

First elected to Maumee City Council in November of 1989, Carr served a pair of two-year terms before deciding to pursue other interests. It was not long, however, until he was summoned back into public service.

On two separate occasions, Carr was appointed to city council to finish the unexpired terms of departing council members. 

In the first instance, Carr filled the unexpired term of city council member Tim Wagener after Wagener was selected by city council to fill the unexpired term of departing mayor Steve Pauken. 

In the second instance, Carr was selected to fill the unexpired term of council member Kevin Olman when he left office.

Carr later decided to run for city council in his own right and was elected to two consecutive four-year terms. From his seat on council, he was appointed as mayor when Wagener stepped down from office in 2012. 

Carr then went on to win back-to-back mayoral elections in 2015 and 2019 by large margins. In 2015, he ran unopposed; and in 2019, he was the leading vote-getter of all candidates on the ballot while winning every precinct.

These 26 years of dedicated public service reached their culmination on December 18, when Mayor Carr presided over his last regularly scheduled meeting of Maumee City Council.

The seven city council members had worked fastidiously through the December 18 agenda until it was finally their turn to speak during the Council Comments portion of the meeting. Many of their comments were in praise of the outgoing mayor.

Council member Scott Noonan led off by saying that he has appreciated working with the mayor throughout his six years on council. 

“I have always appreciated your emphasis of fiscal responsibility,” Noonan said to the mayor. “I have always appreciated your attention to the budget and being fiscally responsible.

“I’ve always appreciated your willingness to make tough decisions. Under your leadership, we navigated the opposition to the 911 consolidation. We made that stance,” Noonan stated.

The Toledo water agreement was another tough battle cited by Noonan. “Obviously, that was a very tough situation, going out to seek other options. I have always been appreciative of your willingness to go through our due diligence to make those tough decisions,” Noonan said.

“I’ve also always appreciated your attentiveness to individuals with disabilities. You have always supported TARTA initiatives. You have always supported the Challenger League. Obviously, most recently you spearheaded, along with Dr. Burtch, the events that showcased the accessibility of the Towpath Trail in conjunction with The Ability Center,” Noonan stated.

“Lastly, I appreciate your willingness to support community events. For instance, you have always been there for opening day of Maumee Little League, as well as for many other events,” Noonan noted.

“Thank you again for your service. It has been an honor and a privilege working with you,” Noonan concluded.

Council member Margo Puffenberger addressed the mayor next, saying, “I would also like to congratulate you. I hope you enjoy more time in warmer places and some time off.”

“It has been nice working with you the past couple years and I have always appreciated how you include citizens, getting them involved in helping to make decisions,” Puffenberger said.

Council member Gabe Barrow praised the mayor’s actions during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, particularly the difficult financial decisions that he made in the aftermath of the tremendous loss of city revenue caused by the pandemic.

“Due to the city’s income nearly stopping, there were a lot of hard decisions that needed to be made due to the hotel taxes stopping and the financial impact on wages and services. The money pretty much stopped,” Barrow recounted.

“In our many meetings, Mayor Carr’s intentions were to keep everybody he could working, moving people and trying to help them to get through this. Chief Sprow was very instrumental in this because he came up with some ways in which we could keep people working through different funds that were available due to COVID,” Barrow stated.

“I have been very fortunate to have Rich be one of my mentors,” he noted.

“It is typically known by most people that Rich has worked as many hours per week for the city as most people do for their own careers. His primary goal for doing this is for the betterment of our city,” Barrow emphasized.

“During the last four years, there has been so much done with our sewer, water, roads, sidewalks and economic development,” Barrow said. “Rich realized what it takes to keep a city healthy and what does not help a city stay healthy.”

“This was the basis for our non-owner-occupied landlord tenant ordinance that was brought forward. Neighborhoods will be safer, and blight will be held to a minimum,” he added.

Barrow said that when people criticize the mayor for all the construction projects going on at the same time, Barrow’s response is: “You actually need to go and thank Rich for addressing what has been ignored and overlooked for decades.”

“Rich has been taking the criticism from a lot of people, most of whom do not understand the extent of these projects,” Barrow said. 

“The city of Maumee is one of the nicest and cleanest and safest cities that I have ever been afforded to see, and I am lucky and fortunate to live in it,” Barrow continued.

“Your city has been led by a mayor whose vision went far beyond his term. We have a mayor who led by example in character and trust, someone you would be honored to call a friend,” Barrow said.

“Rich, thank you very much for your vision for making Maumee’s future financially fit, safe and clean, and beautiful for generations to come,” Barrow concluded.

Council member Jon Fiscus addressed the mayor next and said, “We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but I have always admired your passion for the city. No one can ever deny that you love this town and that you would do anything for it, so I wish you well in your retirement.”

Council member Josh Harris said that when he first moved to Maumee over five years ago, he expressed a desire to get involved in the city, and Mayor Carr appointed him to serve on the Parks and Recreation Committee.

“I remember standing up and saying, ‘I hope I make you proud,’” Harris said to the mayor.

“A year later, I was elected to this council, and I have had an opportunity to really learn a lot, not only from you, but from many of my co-council members,” Harris said.

“I have always been able to trust in you,” Harris said to the mayor. “If I ever needed a question answered, I could call and ask.”

“I just really want to thank you for all you’ve done for this community and for helping me along the way,” Harris said.

Council member Philip Leinbach stated, “Very soon, Mayor Carr will become Citizen Carr and he will no longer be responsible for the affairs of Maumee.

“He has given many, many years of his life to serving Maumee. The role was not always easy or enjoyable, as he has admitted, but he has always been committed to doing what’s best for Maumee. 

“I have heard that from so many people,” Leinbach said. “There is no doubting how much you love this city. I want to thank you personally for faithfully, selflessly serving your community.”

Maumee City Council president and Mayor-elect Jim MacDonald then read a brief biography of Mayor Carr, acknowledging his late father, Charlie Carr, who served as fire prevention chief in the Maumee Fire Division from 1968 until his retirement in 1990.

MacDonald also fondly recalled the mayor’s late brother, Charlie Carr Jr., who was employed as an executive for The Andersons. 

For years, Charlie would dress up as Santa Claus and attend the Maumee City Council meeting that was scheduled closest to Christmas. During such yuletide visits, Charlie would employ his special gift of humor to deliver special zingers to the mayor and council members, much to the delight of all in attendance.

MacDonald also recounted Mayor Carr’s role as a member of city council when the decision was made to purchase the Maumee Indoor Theater in 2002 and begin the restoration process in 2003.

He also mentioned Carr’s swift actions during the algae bloom crisis in August of 2014.

“For about three days under your leadership, Maumee mobilized the distribution of clean, drinkable water to our residents,” MacDonald said. “The community really came together during that crisis to aid their neighbor.”

MacDonald also discussed Carr’s reactions to the Maumee River flood stage events in March of 2015 and February of 2017, as well as his leadership during the COVID-19 crisis in March of 2020.

“Your intention has always been for the betterment of Maumee,” Mac-Donald said. “You have always shown empathy to our residents, been willing to answer questions or speak to whoever would call with a concern,” he added.

“Being an elected public servant in Maumee is a selfless job for very little pay,” MacDonald noted. “The motivation to serve on council, or as mayor, really equates to wanting to make a difference because you genuinely love the community and want to make it better for future generations.

“Mayor Carr, you have served honorably in that way. Thank you for your service,” MacDonald concluded.

Maumee city administrator Dr. Patrick Burtch also paid tribute to the mayor.

“I’ve worked with Rich for almost four years now. He was one of the people who were instrumental in my hiring,” Burtch stated.

“I’ve got to tell you, Rich, I think you sometimes get a bad rap. You’re probably one of the most compassionate people I think I’ve ever met, and I tell this to everybody that I talk to,” Burtch said.

“You are probably a bit more liberal than you would ever admit, because you are socially very adept at understanding people’s feelings, and I think you are very good at that,” Burtch added.

“This marks the end of the 38th year I have been a city manager, and I’ve got to tell you, of all the elected officials that I have worked with and all the mayors, you’re right up there at the top; matter of fact, probably at the very top, just because of your compassion for people,” Burtch said.

“You and I have always been able to work together very, very well,” Burtch continued. 

“I just want to applaud you for the number of years of public service that you have had. You have been a real mentor to me, partly because you’re still older than me,” Burtch said with a smile. “It’s been really a great pleasure.”

“I am sad that you’re leaving. I understand why, but I think that you’ve been great for this community, and any community would be fortunate to have somebody who feels the way that you feel about this community. I haven’t seen that very often,” Burtch concluded.

Mayor Carr thanked everyone for the compliments and said that he wasn’t feeling particularly emotional about leaving public office.

“It’s not emotional, and I have had time to think about this,” Carr said to the audience.

Turning to Mayor-elect MacDonald, Carr said, “A large part of it, Jim, is that I know that you are succeeding me. You bring a lot of experience to the position – great qualifications and great leadership – and I know that you will continue to make decisions based upon your strong commitment to your faith.

“You will make Maumee even better than it is today, and I wish you all the luck,” Carr said. “I am glad that you are succeeding me.”

Carr then addressed the members of city council.

“Four years ago this January, I sat here and I looked at six council members in their first term. This was a lot different than it used to be. Four of you were in your first hour,” Carr noted.

“But what I have witnessed over the last couple years is that you guys have worked so hard to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible to do the best possible job, and you’ve done it,” the mayor said.

“Take a look at what you have accomplished due to your decisions,” Carr said. 

“Thirteen years ago, our city was in deep financial trouble,” the mayor stated.

“When I came in as mayor, we worked with president (Brent) Buehrer and council, and we were able to change it,” Carr said. “Instead of losing 1 to 3 million dollars a year in our A Fund, we started operating at a surplus over the last 10 years.”

“That was because council was willing to make difficult decisions. You did that and we turned it around, which enabled us to do many other projects,” Carr said.

“Maumee has its first-ever assisted living facility because of your decisions; our first-ever senior housing because of your decisions,” he added.

“Based on the decision that you made earlier this year to accept the annexation of land from Monclova Township into Maumee, we are going to give The Shops at Fallen Timbers a chance to realize success, and Mr. Burtch is already working on that,” Carr said.

“Your decisions have probably placed Maumee in a position to realize our largest population growth in decades,” Carr added.

“Regarding our economic development projects, I think the community is going to be amazed at what happens in the next six months to a year with what’s already coming in,” Carr stated.

“So, you have really put the city in a very good position,” Carr said. “Just continue to make the right decisions for the right reasons.”

“It’s not easy. You guys had to come in here and learn a very complex budget, and that budget has constraints on it by federal regulations, state statutes, our city charter.

“Every division would like as many employees and as much equipment as possible,” Carr continued. “Our residents would like every service they can get and that’s understandable, but you have to live within the budget, and that requires difficult decisions, and when you make decisions, you get criticized.

“You guys have accepted that and continue to do what is right for Maumee. I think the voters in this community showed you. Every person who currently holds office was elected and the council members ran one and two,” Carr said, referring to November’s election results.

“So, just do what’s right and the community will support you,” Carr said.

“I know that all seven people here have a strong commitment to this city and that’s why it’s going to move forward and continue to get better.”

Carr also commended Burtch for his hard work and said he wished he would have also had the opportunity to work with him in his first two terms.

Carr also praised Maumee Finance Director Jennifer Harkey and Maumee Law Director Alan Lehenbauer, as well as Maumee Municipal Court Judge Dan Hazard and Maumee prosecutor Dan Arnold.

“As I leave, I know the city is in a really good position to move forward and become even better,” Carr said.

“I want to thank the residents of Maumee for the opportunity to serve. I will forever be appreciative of the residents of Maumee for their confidence and their support. It means a lot.

“Thank you again to the residents of the city of Maumee,” Carr concluded as the audience of 36 residents rose to give him a farewell standing ovation in appreciation of his many years of public service.

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