As he prepared to retire at the end of November, Tracy Hatmaker recalled several pivotal projects he was involved with during his tenure as Prairie Township's administrator.

The list includes construction of a community center and a new sports complex, creation of a joint economic development zone and making improvements to blighted areas.

And he noticed a trend: "When talking about the last 15 years, I end up talking a lot about the future. It's a building process."

Hatmaker, 60, retired Nov. 30. His successor, Robert Peters, currently economic development director for the city of Streetsboro, Ohio, will take over Jan. 7. Trustees and department heads will help things run until then.

Hatmaker started working in Prairie Township in October 2003 but said things started to really change about 2005 when trustees began setting "an agenda that the township followed for years. It kind of laid out the path."

Faced with dwindling state funding, the township implemented a Joint Economic Development Zone -- among the biggest accomplishments in his tenure as township administrator.

Approved by voters in 2011, the JEDZ imposed a 2.5 percent earnings tax on individuals working at businesses in the zone, which spans the commercial areas along West Broad Street between Interstate 270 and Hilliard-Rome Road.

"That was a big turning point. It was based on promises to do certain things and at least the first round of those promises have been put in place," Hatmaker said.

Trustees honored Hatmaker with a proclamation at his last meeting with them in November and hosted an open-house reception on his last day, Nov. 30.

They credited his role in getting blighted buildings demolished -- including a HomeTown Inn, the Metro West apartments and "various single-family homes" -- as helping revitalize the township.

"Tracy helped spur a growing business corridor and was instrumental in the construction of the community center," trustees Chairman Steve Kennedy said. "His leadership in Prairie Township will have a lasting, positive impact on the township."

During his tenure, Hatmaker helped draft the Big Darby Accord and served on the county's 911 planning commission and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.

"The potential in Prairie Township is about recognizing what's already here and building on it," he said.

One key accomplishment, he said, is a partnership among the township and community organizations such as Homes on The Hill and Rebuilding Together, which have invested in remodeling older homes and helping build new, affordable homes.

In addition, the Prairie Community Improvement Corp. continues to look for ways to work with the private sector on projects along West Broad Street.

"Investment in residential and nonresidential areas must be done together," he said.

"I think that what our recreation department has been doing with the community events and the sports complex, I think a sense of belonging and community will be coming back to the area."

The first phase of a 111-acre sports complex on Galloway Road is set to open next year. A 38,000-square-foot community center at 5955 W. Broad St., opened in 2015.

Over the years, Hatmaker served as a great sounding board, fire Chief Chris Snyder said.

"When you're in a leadership position and you're responsible for the number of employees that we are, it's a big responsibility," Snyder said. "He is so supportive of us and has really served Prairie Township in a high regard.

"When you look at what he's done in the township over the time he's been here, it's pretty amazing to see what it has become under his guidance."

Hatmaker's advice to his successor?

"Have a vision and be open to the opportunities as they come up."

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