I will complete my 16th and final year as the city of Hilliard's last elected "strong" mayor Dec. 31.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this community – first as a member of Hilliard City Council and then four terms as mayor.
The end of any year always is a time for introspection and retrospection. As I reflect on my public service, I feel blessed to have been able to lead this community through both challenging economic times and prosperous economic times, while, most importantly, always striving to enhance the quality-of-life amenities available to our residents.
I have been part of creating parks, facilities and safety services that have made Hilliard a great place to live, work, play and raise a family. I have helped build much-needed infrastructure and nurtured a business-friendly climate that attracts and retains employers.
And, I'm proud to say, we did all that without raising the city's income-tax rate, unlike many other central Ohio communities. We chose to concentrate on commercial development and attracting new jobs, which was responsible for more than doubling our income-tax receipts during my tenure as mayor.
None of the city's accomplishments during the past 20 years would have been possible without the dedicated, hard-working public servants who have committed themselves to making Hilliard a community of choice. I am honored to be able to call so many of these people friends, as well as colleagues.
I wish Hilliard's first city manager, Michelle Crandall, the best as she takes the helm of the city administration Jan. 1.
Having had the chance to meet her, I believe she is a capable leader who will rise to the many challenges that public leadership will provide. She is fortunate to be coming into this job with an experienced and dedicated administrative leadership team, and her experience working with Dublin City Council should help her guide Hilliard City Council through this transition in government.
It occurred to me at Thanksgiving that we do not take the opportunity often enough in life to say thank you to those who have meant so much to us along the way. I'm going to rectify that now.
Thank you to my wonderful wife, Michelle, and to my six children for their support and sacrifice of family time during the innumerable evening meetings that came with the mayor's office.
Thank you to every staff member I have worked with. Although I do not have the space here to name each of you, I would like to acknowledge two individuals: Clyde "Butch" Seidle and David Meeks. These individuals were instrumental in helping to foster a positive image of government and a willingness to work with businesses both old and new in the city of Hilliard. Their untimely passing was not only a great loss to me personally, but also to a community they loved and dedicated countless hours to improving.
Thank you to the members of City Council and Hilliard's boards and commissions who have worked alongside me during this journey. We did not agree on every issue during the years, but we did share common ground: We all wanted the best for this community, even if we saw different paths to reaching that destination.
And to the residents of this great community, I thank you for the opportunity you have given me to be part of your community. As I noted at the beginning of this letter, it has been a blessing and an honor.
Don Schonhardt is mayor of Hilliard. In November 2018, voters approved a charter amendment that changed the form of government from a strong mayor to a city manager, effective Jan. 1.