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Horrigan Sets a Different Tone for Akron's Mayor

Horrigan speaking after his swearing in

  Akron officially has a new mayor, one described by everyone from his predecessors to his daughters as ready to face the challenges of a city that’s not done remaking itself. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more from this morning’s inauguration of Dan Horrigan.

On one hand, Horrigan says Monday morning will be all about the mundane: assigning parking spots and computer passwords and attending meetings and more meetings.

But his inauguration -- with a stirring rendition of "America" by a Miller South student, a color guard and his speech to hundreds of people in the audience -- set a tone for much bigger things:

"Akron is at a crossroads. And you have to ask yourself every single day:  Are we comfortable to simply manage a population decline and its impact or are we prepared to make that commitment today, right here, you and I – that we believe Akron is poised to innovate and grow?”

Horrigan was publicly sworn in before a packed ballroom at Greystone Hall, a downtown community venue with all the grandeur of the Masonic temple it once was. It’s a part of the history of the city where Horrigan grew up -- a history he’s proud of.

Akron as a work in progress
But he says it’s also a city that must continue to change.

They say stand behind your mayor. I think it's time we joined hands and walked side-by-side with our mayor.

“Cities across this great country are taking extraordinary steps to create the places and spaces that new generations are demanding and that business requires. There is no reason Akron cannot do the same.”

Among those new generations are Horrigan’s three daughters. The oldest, 18-year-old Cassidy, introduced the audience to her father in the most personal of ways.

“It’s truly an indescribable feeling to watch the man who has always pushed you to accomplish your goals accomplish his. I know he put a lot into this campaign, and to watch him get everything he worked for will forever be a memory I treasure.”

Afterwards, she said she wasn’t aware how many hundreds of people would be attending the swearing in when her dad asked her at dinner one night if she’d like to give a speech. But she said that wouldn’t have stopped her because “I can talk about my dad really easily because I’m really close with him. He’s one of my best friends he’s like my hero so it came easy to me for sure.”

Personal and professional life and service

The crowd
Credit M.L. SCHULTZE / wksu
More than 400 people were at Greystone Hall to watch the swearing in of new Mayor Dan Horrigan.

The morning was in many other ways both deeply personal and set in a context of public service.

Horrigan’s old parish priest, the Reverend James Ragnoni gave the benediction.

“They say stand behind your mayor. I think it’s time we joined hands and walked side-by-side with our mayor.” That led to a burst of applause.

And childhood friend Pat D’Andrea promised Akron has a mayor who will listen, probe and "If you’re a city employee, he won’t ask you to do anything he wouldn’t do or hasn’t already done. But he’s going to insist that you hold yourself to your highest personal standard. The people of Akron deserve nothing less and it’s going to make you a better person in the process.”

His predecessors
Many of those on the stage and in the audience talked about Horrigan’s style of collaboration – some obliquely contrasting it with that of Don Plusquellic, the man who – to praise and condemnation -- dominated Akron’s political life for nearly three decades before abruptly resigning as mayor this spring.

He didn’t attend Horrigan’s swearing in. But the well-wishers included some of Horrigan’s other predecessors. Jeff Fusco, the mayor for the last six months, literally handed over the keys to the office – with a grin. He said afterwards he feels good about the transition because Horrigan understands the contributions of others.

“That’s the backbone of our city is our employees. And they do outstanding work and they’re the ones that make the thing drive. And Dan gets that.”

Also wishing Horrigan well was state Sen. Tom Sawyer – who was mayor nearly 30 years ago and made a brief run for the office this fall.

His advice to Horrigan was simple.

“Nothing is more important than the efforts he’s going to have to make to bring a diverse city together.”

And with a speech focused on bringing together political allies and foes, aimed at long-time residents and newcomers and talking about an economically and socially inclusive Akron, Horrigan appears to be trying to do just that.

Horrigan swearing in
Horrigan, who has been Summit County clerk of courts, was sworn in by Judge Thomas Teodosio.
The inaugural speech of Mayor Dan Horrigan


M.L. Schultze is a freelance journalist. She spent 25 years at The Repository in Canton where she was managing editor for nearly a decade, then served as WKSU's news director and digital editor until her retirement.