Messenger photo by John Matuszak
Reynoldsburg Mayor Bob McPherson and Superintendent Richard Ross, both leaving office Dec. 31 after 20 years, enjoy a laugh during the Chamber of Commerce’s "Dick and Bob Show" tribute and roast at Wesley Ridge Nov. 1.
They both assumed their leadership positions in Reynoldsburg 20 years ago.
They are both stepping down at the same time.
And while they might not have always agreed, Mayor Robert McPherson and Superintendent Richard Ross have always had the best interests of the community in mind, participants in the Chamber of Commerce’s "Dick and Bob Show" roast and tribute concurred.
"You leave our city and our schools better than you found them," offered Stephen Dackin, the assistant superintendent who has been selected to take over for Ross when he retires Dec. 31.
McPherson, who did not run for re-election this year, also leaves office on that date after five terms as mayor.
While offering heartfelt accolades, Dackin and others also dished up satiric commentaries on each of the officials’ quirky sides.
Ross took a lot of ribbing about his tendency to stir things up, his disdain for modern technology, and his many attempts to quit smoking.
McPherson took shots for his well-publicized run-in with the back end of a car while riding his motorcycle.
Pastor David DiYanni said he once asked McPherson how he survived serious accidents and a heart attack while in office.
"He told me he learned to survive near-death experiences from attending City Council meetings," DiYanni said.
As a gag gift, McPherson received a pair of training wheels for his motorcycle and a giant box of Band-Aids.
The pastor recalled that Ross’s favorite sayings are "I am shocked and outraged" and "What have we done for the boys and girls of Reynoldsburg today?"
Ron Strussion, the school district’s building manager and the school board president when Ross was hired, said that the new boss was given three tasks – improve academics, create financial stability and improve school-community relations.
"In my opinion, you have done all three," Strussion said.
The landscape of Reynoldsburg has been transformed over the last two decades under the management of the two men, speakers attested.
Attorney Glenn Dugger said he has worked with, against, and sometimes in between, the two men, on school and commercial construction projects.
While presenting voluminous materials on a proposal for a Limited distribution center in the city, Dugger joked that he caught McPherson giddily thumbing through a Victoria’s Secret catalogue instead of construction drawings.
Jo Ann Davidson, a former Reynoldsburg City Council member and Ohio Speaker of the House, pointed out that, when McPherson took office, the land on State Route 256 was vacant.
By working with the state on access issues, the administration was able to turn the area into a thriving retail location.
The renovations on Main Street are another McPherson success story, Davidson said.
She noted that Ross has never been afraid to try new things, and that at superintendents’ meetings he was "a little bit of a troublemaker" for supporting things most people were against but came to embrace.
Reynoldsburg has benefited from the continuity of leadership and the willingness to work together that Ross and McPherson demonstrated, Davidson said.
Both men received proclamations recognizing their service from Congressman Pat Tiberi.
When he took the job, Ross said he planned to stay three or four years, "but I grew to love the community."
McPherson moved here in 1957 and graduated from Reynoldsburg High School. Except for a stint in the military, he has lived his entire life in the city.
Ross commented that there weren’t too many times that he and the mayor didn’t see eye to eye, "but we never differed on the end goal" and understood that the city and the schools need each other to be successful.
McPherson expressed the hope that the next administration will continue that relationship.