Grandview Heights Mayor Ray DeGraw has made official what many suspected -- his fourth term, which ends Dec. 31, will be his last.
DeGraw announced July 2 in his weekly blog that he will not run for reelection after serving 16 years as mayor and the previous 19 years on city council, planning commission and other city commissions.
In January, City Council President Greta Kearns and council member Steve Reynolds announced they were running for mayor in the November election.
At the time, DeGraw said, he was not ready to announce his plans.
"I've known for a while that this would be my last year, and both of the mayoral candidates and some people around the city knew," DeGraw said.
One of the reasons he held off an announcement was to delay his lame-duck status, he said.
"There's still a lot of things I want to accomplish before I leave office," DeGraw said, adding the time is right for a new mayor. "We are probably going to have a number of people in the city retiring at the end of the year, and the new mayor should have the chance to make the appointments to fill those roles."
The job of mayor has "changed drastically over the last several years," DeGraw said. "It's become more and more involved, more complicated and there are more moving parts. Because of the internet and social media, we're having to accomplish things a lot quicker than we used to."
Besides being mayor, DeGraw has continued to work as a commercial real-estate property manager and broker.
"It's time for a new direction in my life. It's getting harder to do both of those jobs, and I want to have more time to spend with family," he said. "A lot of family events and family time have had to be rescheduled or put aside because of city business.
"I've only been able to serve as mayor because of the patience and support of my wife, Linda, my children and family."
DeGraw was appointed in August 1983 to the city's board of zoning appeals and has served in various city roles since then.
He first was elected to city council in 1987 and served through 1995.
After a stint on the planning commission, he again ran for council and won in 1999.
DeGraw defeated then-incumbent mayor Colleen Sexton in 2003, won election to a second term in 2007, defeated city council member Steve Von Jasinski in 2011 and ran unopposed in 2015.
When he took office, DeGraw said, the city was facing the loss of its top employer, Penn Traffic. The city also was hit by the recession in 2008.
"I've had the opportunity to have a front-row seat to see our community get through those tough times," he said. "We've gone from losing our biggest employer and going through a period of economic distress to achieving financial stability and receiving a AAA financial rating from the credit-rating organizations."
Those achievements occurred during his tenure as mayor, DeGraw said. because of the work of city administrators and staff and the sound fiscal policy set by city council.
The city's new service department building will open in the fall, he said, and the goal is to have an architect hired as the city looks to begin planning to build new municipal facilities on at Goodale Boulevard and Grandview Avenue.
The city's updated community plan and spaces and places plan are expected to be adopted by city council before his term ends, DeGraw said.
Fire Chief Steve Shaner said he was eligible under the state's retirement system to retire last month, but he will stay on until the new mayor chooses his replacement. City Council on July 1 approved rehiring him.
"I know some other people will be leaving, so it just made sense to stay on through the transition," said Shaner, who joined the fire department in 1988 and became chief in August 2009.
"I've enjoyed working in the fire service," he said. "It's probably one of the few jobs out there that is different each day, and I've enjoyed coming to work every day. It's been a very fulfilling career."
The improvement of city finances over the last decade has "allowed us to improve our service delivery and hire good people for our department," Shaner said.
During his tenure, about half the department's fire equipment has been replaced and about half the firefighters now on staff have been hired, he said.
Updates to the city's fire code and the set of best practices the fire department uses for its operations have been updated, Shaner said.
"Those updates have taken a lot of time and effort to get completed, and it's something I'm pleased we've been able to accomplish," he said.