Gary Leasure thought he had left politics and public service behind when he moved to Grove City in 1978 to open Ace Truck Body Inc.

He already had served eight years as a city council member and as mayor in his hometown of Zanesville.

He was the youngest person to be elected to council when he ran in 1970 and won at age 28. He served as the city's mayor, an ex-officio position selected from among the council members, in 1971-72. He left the council in 1978.

"It was pretty intense. Not everyone liked the idea of someone so young serving on council," said Leasure, 76.

But he liked serving, he said, and later he found ways to give back to his new hometown of Grove City.

After years of being involved in other capacities, Leasure resigned earlier this month after serving eight years on the Grove City Planning Commission.

His resume of public service in Grove City includes leading a successful 8.9-mill school operating-levy campaign in 1994, serving 12 years on the South-Western City School District's school board, and stints with the Grove City Chamber of Commerce board of directors, the Westland Area Business Association, the South-Western City Schools Educational Foundation and Success Beyond the Classroom.

"I guess I'm just one of those people who like to get involved in their community," Leasure said. "I think it's important to give something back."

When he ran for city council in Zanesville "my slogan was 'expect change,' " he said.

"My attitude was I'm going to try to do what I think is best for everybody and if you don't approve of what I do, vote me out," Leasure said. "That's the way you have to approach public office."

His return to public service came in 1994, when Leasure was tapped to lead a levy campaign for the South-Western school district.

Previous attempts to pass a levy had failed, and the district had announced that if a proposed levy failed in August 1994, all extracurricular activities in the schools would be canceled.

That possibility was unthinkable, Leasure said, so he agreed to serve.

"It's important for students to learn from the textbooks in class, but extracurricular activities, like band and football, are important, too," he said.

There are life lessons learned from those activities that can't be gained in a classroom, Leasure said.

"We pulled out all the stops" in conducting what was called a campaign for "blue-ribbon schools for blue-ribbon kids," he said. "We had mothers out at 2 a.m. tying blue ribbons to trees and everything else they could find.

"We held overnight vigils in the Grove City, Westland and Franklin Heights area, and some people didn't like it that we were using the kids to help promote the levy," Leasure said. "But it was their future at stake."

When the levy passed, "it just brought tears to your eyes," he said.

The following year, Leasure was asked to run for the school board, and after winning, he served three terms, including three years as its president.

One of the biggest challenges during his tenure was a redistricting effort that occurred as Central Crossing High School was being established, Leasure said.

"We had to split up the district, mainly the Grove City area, for the new high school," he said. "People had gone to Grove City High School and wanted their children to go to school there."

During his time on the planning commission, Leasure said he is proud to have been part of the review process that has set the stage for the redevelopment of the Beulah Park area.

"There's still a ways to go with that, but it's going to have such a great impact on the community," he said.

Grove City has grown over the past four decades, and Leasure said he expects that to continue.

"When I moved here, our population was about 13,000, and now we have about 43,000 people living here," he said. "I think we're going to continue to see our city grow.

"The new Mount Carmel and OhioHealth hospitals are going to help spur a lot of that growth. I imagine a lot of the people who come to work for them will be moving into the Grove City area," he said.

Grove City was fortunate that Leasure moved into the community 40 years ago, Mayor Richard "Ike" Stage said.

"Gary Leasure is the epitome of what you would want in a public servant," he said. "He has served the city of Grove City in an outstanding way on the planning commission, and he's also served the school district and the business community through the Westland Area Business Association.

"He will be missed on the planning commission and I hope he will stay engaged in the community," Stage said.

Leasure said he intends to do that.

"I won't be involved as directly, but I'll still be taking part in my community," he said. "I wish more people, especially young people, would get involved and try to help make things better."