As Brad McCloud ends his first year as mayor, the 1979 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School says he is happy being in office and pleased with what he has accomplished so far.

As Brad McCloud ends his first year as mayor, the 1979 graduate of Reynoldsburg High School says he is happy being in office and pleased with what he has accomplished so far.

McCloud said he said was a 20-year-old college student when he thought running for council or being mayor was something he really wanted to do.

An attorney, McCloud served as president of Reynoldsburg City Council between 1992 and 2003, volunteered on the city's charter review commission and the board of zoning and the building appeals before being elected as a full-time mayor in 2007.

"It's what I wanted and signed up to do, and I believe I have brought the right experience and skill set for the job," he said.

One thing he wanted to focus on, he said, was to bring back more of a sense of community to Reynoldsburg. McCloud said three things contributed to that goal in 2008: the return of a July 4 fireworks display that was absent in 2007, the start of a summertime movie night event, and establishing a farmers market. All turned out to be huge successes.

"At our first farmers market, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 people show up to buy vegetables," McCloud said. "It's an opportunity for neighbors and citizens to get out and visit and run into people they hadn't seen in a while; I heard a lot of that.

"It brought the community together and it was important that it was in the center of town in Huber Park and we had a lot of comments on that."

McCloud said when he campaigned to be mayor, the issue that produced the most comment from residents was the cancellation of the city's July 4 fireworks in 2007 because of budget constraints.

A citizens group was organized to help raise money for a July 4 program, and once elected, McCloud initiated setting aside $25,000 in the city's budget for the fireworks show.

Other 2008 accomplishments include increasing the number of reserve police officers from four to six, hiring an in-house engineer (Jim Miller), initiating mandatory ethics training for the city staff and stepping up code compliance enforcement throughout Reynoldsburg, he said.

"Having an in-house engineer ensures the city can get the most bang for the buck from a quality control and planning standpoint," McCloud said.

He also initiated a policy for city-issued cell phones, which are closely monitored to make sure calls are business-related. Any calls that are not business-related are paid for by employees, he said.

The push for better code enforcement resulted in 1,663 written violation notices being issued this year, compared to 1,311 in 2007.

"Code compliance has improved and we have reached out to apartment owners and resident managers, such as at Eastgreen on the Commons and Century City, and talked about how improvements can be made and my expectations," McCloud said.

He said property owners have been diligent about cleaning up their places and evicting trouble-makers.

Looking ahead to 2009, McCloud said he has organized a Brice/Livingston Task Force specifically assigned to identify weaknesses and potential redevelopment opportunities in that area.

"This will include identifying businesses, alcohol establishments, gang presence, litter issues and lack of recreational opportunities," he said. "There is a lot of crime and alcohol establishments there, and let's face it, the west side of Brice Road is in Columbus, and we can't do a lot about that, but they cross the street and they're in Reynoldsburg."

In addition to McCloud himself, task force members include city development director Lucas Haire, safety-service director Pam Boratyn, parks and recreation director Jason Shamblin, Reynoldsburg Police Chief Dave Suciu, Councilwoman Leslie Kelly and city planning administrator Aaron Domini.

"Urban sprawl is a one-way street and it's moving east," McCloud said. "It was once at James Road, and now it's at Hamilton Road and Hamilton is moving east to Brice Road.

"And if anybody thinks that all the problems are going to stay right there at Brice and Livingston and not move any farther east, they're dreaming," he said. "We have to address these issues or it will be the death of us."

McCloud said some of these issues will be discussed in a roundtable meeting sometime in January with the Columbus Apartment Association.

He said the meeting will include discussion of the city's expectations and how Reynoldsburg can help apartment managers access resources on how to deal with problem tenants.

In terms of the city's budget for 2009, auditor Richard Harris notified the mayor earlier this month that there will be 27 pay periods next year instead of the usual 26. That extra pay period will cause expenditures to increase by $400,000.

As a result, McCloud and Harris worked out an interim budget for the first quarter of the new year and will be configuring a final 2009 budget proposal for approval by April.

McCloud said annual raises for city employees will be withheld until the final budget is approved in April. Once that happens, those raises will be retroactively awarded back to Jan. 1, he said.

"Until we know exactly what our picture is, we thought it probably wasn't very wise to give raises in the meantime," McCloud said. "The biggest hit is the $400,000 hit on the extra pay, and that in a nutshell is the biggest issue."

Organizers of the city's signature event, the Reynoldsburg Tomato Festival, announced in November they could not plan the event for 2009 because of budget issues. McCloud said he wants to find a way to keep the event going, possibly by helping bring together other local groups to organize and sponsor it.

"We're (the city) not in the festival business. It's not what we do and it's not what we should do," he said. "Obviously, we will offer the grounds and there will be some oversight with police and that kind of thing.

"I think it's important, because the Tomato Festival is synonymous with the city. When people hear Reynoldsburg they think, 'Tomato Festival.'"

McCloud said he is looking into the possibility of establishing a "community garden" space where residents could rent plots to use for growing vegetables.

He said one site for consideration is near the Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, but nothing has been worked out yet and the project may not happen until 2010.