18 May Chamber Awards 2017 Shining Star Award to Mayor Don Walters
CUYAHOGA FALLS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE – 2017 SHINING STAR AWARD
2017 Recipient – Mayor Don Walters
The Chamber of Commerce recognized Mayor Don Walters as the 2017 Shining Star Award Recipient for his vision, commitment and leadership in helping to move Cuyahoga Falls forward in the revitalization and redevelopment of the historic and charming downtown Front Street. Once a pedestrian mall will now be open to vehicular traffic late 2017. With wonderful opportunities for new and existing businesses to be part of the excitement located right on the beautiful Cuyahoga River.
Mayor Walters is a lifelong resident of the City of Cuyahoga Falls. He was first elected to Cuyahoga Falls City Council in 2001. Throughout his 12-year tenure, he took leadership roles on the Finance Committee, Public, and Industrial Improvements Committee, Public Affairs Committee, Moral Claims Commission, and Traffic Committee. The mayor continued to serve in those capacities until he became Mayor on January 1, 2014. He continues to work tirelessly to improve the quality of life for all Cuyahoga Falls residents, businesses, and visitors. The following are examples of his achievements in both business and community services. Mayor Walters works to find innovative ways to save city resources. Through labor negotiation processes, the City was able to provide reasonable wage increases to bargaining and non-bargaining employees and, for the first time in 2016, employees made contributions to their healthcare costs, received a wellness benefit, and participated in a health care committee. These programs invest in healthy employees while providing cost-savings to the city.
He is a leader in the fight against the opiate epidemic that is plaguing our region. The Opiate epidemic continues to weigh on our community, but Mayor Walters remains a pioneer on the forefront, working to educate our students about the dangers of drug abuse through the “Not Me I’m Drug Free” program in the elementary schools. The City of Cuyahoga Falls officers were the first police department in Summit County to carry the life-saving opiate-reversing drug Narcan and were also the first city in Summit County to provide residents with resources and support through the Quick Response Team. The Quick Response Team visits homes each week to equip individuals and families with information and resources that can potentially help reduce instances of overdoses. They meet with individuals and family members to provide them with an Opiate Addiction Recovery Resource Guide that details crisis services, outpatient and inpatient resources, information regarding residential treatment facilities, and recovery support services that are available.
He is working to bring neighbors together to increase communication and awareness. Last year, through a series of meetings in neighborhoods throughout the city, the Mayor announced his new Neighborhood Excellence Initiative. The goal of the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative is to inspire citizen engagement and to connect residents and businesses with services and activities designed to reinforce strong, safe and vibrant neighborhoods.
He is engaging the City’s young people in civic leadership through the Mayor’s Youth Advisory. The Youth Advisory Council is a unique collaboration between the Mayor’s office and the future leaders of Cuyahoga Falls. The purpose of the program is to encourage students to become active participants in their local government and community by working with city leaders to address issues that directly affect young people in the city.
He is working to grow tourism on the river and along the riverfront. A new boat launch was opened at River Front Park through a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The site was put in to provide kayakers with a place to enter the river to begin their journey through our renowned Class V rapids, but also to provide beginners a place to exit to avoid the more challenging waters. This phenomenal access point is another valuable tool that will aid us in putting Cuyahoga Falls on the map as a tourist destination for kayakers across the country.
From an economic development standpoint, Mayor Walters is committed to economic growth and opportunity, understanding the vital role that businesses, both big and small, play in moving the city forward. He works hard to adhere to the city’s Economic Development philosophy of retaining, creating and promoting redevelopment of the community through exceptional public and private sector relationships and maintaining a positive outlook and growth for the city.
Portage Crossings continues to perform well financially, and expansion is ongoing. Redevelopment and revitalization ventures continue along South Front Street and plans to open the Front Street pedestrian mall to vehicular traffic are well underway. The Menards project is expected to begin sometime in 2017 with completion in 2018. The redevelopment of South Front Street continues and has completely revamped the aesthetics of the area. The businesses involved are doing well in their respective locations and have restored economic viability along that corridor. The Front Street Pedestrian Mall will soon be under construction. This is a project that has been spearheaded by Mayor Walters to capitalize on the estimated $60 million in sales revenues that Cuyahoga Falls is losing to surrounding municipalities. By opening up the pedestrian mall to vehicular traffic, visibility and accessibility will finally be possible so that small businesses can grow and thrive in the heart of downtown Cuyahoga Falls. The return on investment on this unparalleled project is the creation of jobs, increased sales activity, and increased property values. This project will catapult the rebirth of downtown. The planning phase of the proposed hotel also remains underway as property owners work to finalize operator and financing agreements. Similarly, efforts to redevelop the Falls Theater are currently underway. These are Development projects that Mayor Walters has both encouraged and has been involved since their inception. Mayor Walters is committed to moving the city forward and redefining why life is better here in Cuyahoga Falls.