A city leader who fellow officials credited with helping to guide Upper Arlington through economic turmoil and praised for dedication to his convictions will step away from public service in 2014.
After eight years in public office, former mayor and Upper Arlington City Council President Frank Ciotola attended his final regular council meeting Dec. 9.
Due to term limits -- which prevent Upper Arlington council members from serving more than two consecutive four-year terms -- Ciotola was unable to run for re-election last November.
He is currently serving as council's vice president; he now will step away from a post he's held since being elected in 2005.
Ciotola said Dec. 5 the prospect of leaving public office is "bittersweet" because he's enjoyed serving his community, but believes the current council and city staff are well qualified to address the issues at hand.
"We have a lot of qualified folks in the city that can step up and take a term," he said. "I feel happy with my experience and what has been accomplished on council in my eight years.
"I have absolutely no regrets. I think a lot of good things have happened in the past eight years that I have been able to be a part of."
Now 50, Ciotola said he's "pretty much lived in Arlington since the ninth grade."
He owned and operated DaVinci Ristorante locally for 25 years, and he and his wife, Carrie, have raised their two daughters, Alisa and Giuliana, in the city.
Although he bestowed much of the credit for Upper Arlington's successes during his tenure on fellow council members and city employees, he said he leaves office satisfied with his contributions toward revitalizing the Kingsdale Center -- which for many years languished due to vacancies and now brims with a variety of businesses.
That project, coupled with economic development in the Lane Avenue corridor and a mixed-use project expected to generate more than $700,000 in new taxes, will help the city face the loss of the Ohio estate tax and declines in local government funding, he said.
Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton agreed, saying Ciotola served the city during a "critical" time in its history.
"We suffered the second-worst economic downturn in 100 years, yet the city remained financially strong and maintained our outstanding bond ratings," Staton said. "The Kingsdale and Lane Avenue mixed-use project were implemented to strengthen the UA economy.
"Frank certainly deserves his fair share of the credit for guiding the city through some tough waters. He should take great satisfaction in his contributions to the well-being of the city."
As much or more than revenue-generating projects, Ciotola said he's pleased with the work he did to help Upper Arlington land Staton, who he said is a "very, very good city manager selection for our city."
He added that he'll look back fondly on fostering cohesion on council.
"One thing I feel I contributed to or was part of that I'm proud of is that when I joined council, it was a much more divided group," Ciotola said. "I think I'm leaving and there's a very good council. I'd like to think I was part of that.
"We now have seven committed individuals who think and vote as individuals, and not in cliques or blocks."
Current Upper Arlington Mayor and Council President Don Leach, who joined council at the same time as Ciotola, said the outgoing councilman provided unique perspectives because he was a former small businessman and is a current financial adviser.
He added that Ciotola wasn't scared of criticism, and based policymaking decisions on what made sense for the community, rather than popular -- or vocal -- opinion.
"I very much enjoyed serving with him," Leach said. "He doesn't hesitate to act on what he believes is in the best interests of Upper Arlington.
"That's not always easy to do, especially when your friends have different opinions. He's a man of his word and he's a man of conviction."
Leach went on to say Ciotola's insights and expertise were assets as the city undertook a complete review of its master plan and sought answers for dwindling revenues and rising city expenses.
"His perspectives and background have been invaluable as we have faced the financial challenges that are coming to a head now as the result of the loss of state financial support," Leach said.
Ciotola said he'll stay busy with his day job as a financial adviser for Everhart Advisors.
Last June, he also was appointed to a three-year term as Ohio Gov. John Kasich's investment designee to the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees.
Therefore, he has no plans to re-enter local politics in the foreseeable future.
"I want to thank (my family) for their support through the whole thing -- everything from knocking on doors during campaigns to supporting me through my time on council," he said. "I also think that in addition to the city manager, we have a very good staff at the city and we're very fortunate to have a lot of good people working for our residents.
"I've been very honored to be elected by the residents, and I have had the ability to serve what is undoubtedly one of the great communities in Ohio, if not the country."