5 minute read

CITY OVERVIEW

The Strongsville Way of Life

By Ken McEntee Capping off a year when celebrations were scarce, the Lady Mustang soccer team of Strongsville High School in November traveled home from Columbus as state champions. A 3-1 win in the title game sealed an undefeated season for the team, which finished No. 1 in the United States, according to Top Drawer Soccer, the national ranking site.

“In an otherwise troubling year, it was just a moment of joy being able to look into the stands and see our fans and families after the game was over,” says Todd Church, the team’s coach. “We are really proud and happy to represent the community of Strongsville.”

Like most of the local activities and events that normally energize the vibrant Strongsville community, the soccer season was in limbo as the 2020 pandemic dragged on.

“Reflecting back, the challenges presented by the pandemic are what drove us together,” Church recalls. “After being shut down in April and May when we would normally be practicing, the girls found ways to keep themselves fit, to build new skills and prepare themselves to win once the season started. We had a lot of our distinguished alumni from previous championships on Zoom calls talking to the girls about what Strongsville soccer meant to them. All the hard work they put in during a time when a lot of people and places were shut down is where I think our championship was won. This is a special group of tremendous people who were willing to do whatever it took to win.”

Likewise, says Mayor Tom Perciak,

MUSTANG PRIDE: (top) The watertower and gazebo in the City Commons; Strongsville Lady Mustangs celebrate their 2020 National Championship (above, below).

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the pandemic brought out the best in the Strongsville community.

“There is no question that 2020 was a year of struggle, but in another way, it was heartwarming to see how neighbors and neighborhoods came together and helped each other through it, whether it was going to the grocery store for somebody, driving someone to church or helping someone get to the doctor’s office,” Perciak says. “The bottom line is that the community came together to maintain our Strongsville way of life.”

The Strongsville way of life, the mayor emphasizes, is reflected in the way residents celebrate together in fun times and support one another during bad times.

“Even though we’re a city of almost 45,000 people, we still have the feel of a small home town community of neighborhoods and parish families,” Perciak says. “The community pride says a lot about the people who live and work here. It is also apparent in our religious leaders and our wonderful civic organizations.”

The local business community, he adds, also plays a vital role in weaving the community together and funding local events and activities.

For example, the mayor says, “The business community stepped up to the plate big time in order for us to continue our annual Winter Wonderland Christmas lighting ceremony on the commons. That is a function that always brings the community together as it did this year. Even after Christmas was over, there were kids and families walking through the displays, taking pictures. One couple who were pushing twins in a stroller told me they were taking photos to use on next year’s Christmas cards.”

While growth has been conspicuous in the city’s retail zones over the past couple years, less noticeable has been major new development in the city’s four business parks, which typically provide about 55 percent of the income tax revenues that fund city services. “They are the financial glue that holds it all together, Perciak says. The occupancy rate in the four business parks was at a stellar 95 percent in 2020, according to Brent Painter,

A TIME TO CELEBRATE:

(above) The City decorates the Village Green for the holiday season with thousands of lights; Strongsville Police received lots of community support when hundreds of paper hearts decorated the entrance (below).

PHOTOS: COURTESY OF CLEVELAND METROPARKS/KYLE LANZER

the city’s director of economic development.

Meanwhile, the mayor says another type of park – the Cleveland Metroparks Mill Stream Run reservation, which nearly bisects the town from the northwest to the southwest – is the “jewel of the city.” The Metroparks make up about two-thirds of the city’s nearly 3,200 acres of green space that offer myriad recreational opportunities and a tranquil respite from the bustle of city activity. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the size of Strongsville’s green spaces exceed the size of many full cities in western Cuyahoga County.

Contrasting its ample park areas, the city’s retail districts offer plentiful shopping and dining opportunities conveniently close to home.

Sound financial management, the mayor

YEAR-ROUND DELIGHTS:

Cleveland Metroparks toboggan chutes in Mill Stream Run Reservation are open November through early March for family fun; waterfalls at Baldwin Lake in Cleveland Metroparks Mill Stream Run Reservation.

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HELPING OTHERS: The Strongsville Emergency Food Bank provides a holiday lunch to those in need and also distributes food throughout the year.

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says, continues to earn the city an AAA bond rating from Moody’s.

“Without our AAA bond rating, the city would suffer financially,” Perciak says. “It saves us huge amounts of interest. Moody’s cites our conservative financial management practices in their rating.”

Despite the economic impacts of the pandemic, Perciak says the City closed its 2020 books in a strong financial position.

“The directors of every city department put into place the necessary economies of scale and at the first of the year all of the employees who are covered by a union collective bargaining agreement received their raises and were back to work,” Perciak says. “It was the quality of our employees, from service to safety and others, that made the difference here during the past year. They have done a phenomenal job.”