Two years ago, Richard Waugh was working with the Heath Sertoma Youth Athletic Association to organize the baseball league's season opening.

Two years ago, Richard Waugh was working with the Heath Sertoma Youth Athletic Association to organize the baseball league's season opening.

This year, as mayor of Heath, Waugh threw the first pitch for the league's season opener.

"Last year, I watched (former Mayor) Dan Dupps throw the first pitch," Waugh said. "This year, they had a laser-engraved baseball for me to sign."

As the end of his first year in the mayor's office approaches, Waugh said, he's enjoyed the challenge of being in the mayor's office and has used some of his background to help him succeed.

"Part of the reason I have this job is because I worked so hard with Sertoma," he said.

Dupps, whose retirement in April 2007 resulted in Waugh filling his seat, said what's worked for Waugh is the level of volunteerism he has contributed to Sertoma.

"He carried on very well as a councilman and now as mayor," Dupps said. "He's tried hard, and I think he's doing very well."

Despite any training in government Waugh had received while serving on Heath City Council, the mayor's office is a completely different job, he said.

Two days prior to officially taking office, Waugh said, he was handed two grievances. On his first day in office in June 2007, he welcomed 7,000 to 10,000 people to the city for the Star Spangled Celebration.

"City government is a unique animal," he said. "You really see the fruits of your labor: It's real evident."

Learning the position was the most difficult part at first, he said, and keeping up the pace probably is the second-most difficult aspect.

"He's had an incredible learning curve, and many people are mentoring him," Heath auditor Keith Alexander said. "He's a sponge for information."

"The learning curve was much more than I expected," Waugh said. "It's much harder. There's no book that says what you need to do.

"I'm just trying to work very, very hard to do what's best for Heath," he said.

Waugh set several goals when he started as mayor, and he's been able to accomplish several of them, with some still in the works.

He had planned to improve the city's Web site and is in the process of completing that update. When finished, Waugh said, city employees will be able to update the site easily, keeping residents informed with the latest information.

"We wanted to make it a function for economic development, and it's still a work in progress," Waugh said. "We still don't have the control we're intending to have."

Waugh also hired Ginna Walker as his administrative assistant in November 2007.

"It's important to have a person who understands how you think, to do the scheduling and take care of issues," he said.

He's been working with Licking County on the retention-and-expansion program and has interviewed several Heath business owners to better understand businesses' needs.

"It's a venue for the local businesses to have direct contact with the top administrators," Waugh said.

When addressing residents' concerns or issues raised by business owners, Waugh said, he relies heavily on the city's staff.

"The key reason for our success is our staff," he said. "You have to be confident that they'll get the job done."

Waugh said he sees staffing as one of his future challenges.

"We've got five department heads who are close to retiring in five years," he said.

He said the wealth of knowledge among those five will be difficult to replace and said the city needs to start training successors now. The positions are in the city's utilities and parks, zoning, police, fire and accounting departments.

Another challenge, he said, will be in negotiations with unions to renew contracts for employees in the police, fire and other city departments.

Waugh could not say when the contracts might be ratified. He said it is one more challenge in the daily business of being mayor.

"It's been quite an experience," said Waugh, whose first term expired Dec. 31, 2009. "There's no way to prepare you for what you get exposed to or what you will be responsible for, and how important the business of the city really is. The responsibility and significance of this job are incredible."