Their partnership in helping to lead Grandview Heights might be over, but anyone who spends time with Ray DeGraw and Patrik Bowman can tell their decades-long friendship will endure.

During a joint interview about the 16 years they served as Grandview's mayor and director of administration/economic development, respectively, the pair frequently cracked jokes and laughed.

But they also reflected earnestly about the challenging times the city faced and overcame during their tenure.

DeGraw chose not to run in November for a fifth term as mayor after serving a combined 36 years in the position and on City Council, planning commission and the board of zoning appeals.

Bowman retired Dec. 31 after a 42-year career in both the public and private sector, including a 10-year stint as planning director for the city of Dublin and five years with the city of Columbus.

The pair met as they were both working toward master's degrees in a city- and regional-planning program at Ohio State University from 1975 to 1977.

"We've known each other and worked together for a long time," DeGraw said. "We clicked right away."

"We've lasted longer than a lot of marriages," Bowman said, spurring a laugh from DeGraw.

In seriousness, DeGraw said he and Bowman worked well together as a team "because we balance each other out in experience and background and temperament -- and we worked together as friends."

"We never let any disagreements get in the way of that friendship," Bowman said.

After DeGraw took office as mayor in January 2004, bringing in Bowman as director of administration, the city faced a potential economic disaster, with the Big Bear warehouse on Goodale Boulevard closing after the collapse of parent company Penn Traffic.

"We were in a financial crisis. We made adjustments to staffing and budget," DeGraw said. "We did everything we could to look at how efficiently we could operate as a city."

In addition, Grandview, like many communities, suffered through the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

At one point, the city had only about 17 days worth of cash reserves on hand, DeGraw said.

The redevelopment of the Big Bear property and surrounding land on the city's southeast side was Grandview's opportunity to rebound, Bowman said.

"We really had one chance to get it done and get it done right," he said.

"The goal was to hold the land together with a vision of a redevelopment with a mix of uses and density," DeGraw said. "That was the only way to make sure the school district and the city could benefit in a big way. That wouldn't have happened if the parcels were developed separately by multiple owners."

"We were able to succeed as a city because we had a plan in place," Bowman said.

"We worked with the planning commission to create a vision for what we called the Grandview Commerce District," Bowman said. "That plan served as the focus of our economic-development strategy for that part of town."

The strategy included three prongs, he said.

"First, we wanted to maximize the revalue of the properties in the development area and maximize the employment density," Bowman said.

Nationwide Insurance's announcement in 2014 that it would relocate its main offices and more than 3,000 employees to what came to be called Grandview Yard changed the original plan and met the city's employment density goal, Bowman said.

The third prong was to make sure a development as huge as the 100-acre Yard would not disrupt the small-town feel of the Grandview community, he said.

"We were fortunate that (Nationwide Realty Investors) believed in our plan and stepped forward," Bowman said. "You need the right developer to make something like this work."

Few, if any, other developers would have been able to proceed with a project as massive as the Yard during the recession years, DeGraw said.

The location of the Yard has helped minimize the impact the development has had on the rest of the community, Bowman said.

"The important thing was we had the support of the community for our vision," DeGraw said, "and we've been able to work with talented, dedicated members of council and the planning commission to develop that vision."

In 2010, voters approved tax levies for the city, schools and library, he said.

"That was crucial. Having our residents step up and support each of us was a lifesaver," DeGraw said. "It showed they understood our situation and were willing to support us."

The success at Grandview Yard has led to other development opportunities, including Wagenbrenner's Grandview Crossing project on Dublin Road and the proposed project south of Goodale that would extend the footprint of the Yard, he said.

Grandview has been able to reach financial stability, DeGraw said, allowing it to address needed infrastructure work, improve city parks and build a new municipal pool, construct a new public-works complex and begin planning to build a new municipal complex, including a fire station, at the southeast corner of Goodale and Grandview Avenue.

Even before the Yard, redevelopment projects at 855 Grandview Ave. and at 1398-1400 and 777 Goodale Blvd., some of which were set in place before Bowman became director of administration, helped set the stage for the larger project, Bowman said.

"We had a plan in place that said we were open for business," he said.

DeGraw said he left office with a great deal of satisfaction.

"I think we're leaving the city in a good place to hand it off to the next mayor (Greta Kearns) and the team she will put in place," he said.

"We've been fortunate to be able to work with so many talented and dedicated people on staff, on City Council and on our various boards and commissions," DeGraw said. "They were key to any success we've had as a city."

What he has enjoyed most about serving as mayor is fostering partnerships with developers and other governmental entities, including the village of Marble Cliff, Grandview Heights Schools and Clinton Township, he said.

"It's always been the planning aspect of the job that I like," Bowman said. "I really enjoy working with others to come up with and execute a plan."

DeGraw and his wife, Linda, will remain in the community. DeGraw said intends to focus on his career as a commercial real-estate property manager and broker.

Bowman said he and his wife, Melissa, plan to spend a lot of time traveling over the next several months.

"We haven't really decided where we will be going. There's a lot of places I'd like to see," he said.

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