LORAIN — Mayor Chase Ritenauer finished his last day as the city’s public servant Friday.
Following a news conference Friday morning, during which Police Chief Cel Rivera announced his retirement, Ritenauer reiterated it is bittersweet to leave his city behind.
“There’s always things you wish you would’ve been able to do that there’s just no time to end where you’re going to get everything done that you wanted to,” he said. “But I think I’m going to pass off a city that is fiscally much healthier than I found it, economically much healthier, a safer city than I found it and that’s what anybody who runs for office can hope to do.”
He said his tenure was one of transition, working to recover from a city under fiscal watch to tackling the Stoveworks demolition and downtown investment. He said he couldn’t be happier with what his administration and Council has been able to accomplish in the past 7 1/2 years.
Handing off a city better off than when he took office, he said sometimes an administrator doesn’t control the cards they’re dealt in office.
“My predecessor (Anthony Krasienko) didn’t control that he had to deal with the Great Recession. The disagreements I may have had with him, I didn’t envy him. He didn’t create it, it was just the reality of the times. And the reality of when I came into office was that Lorain was still recovering, and you could argue in some ways it is still recovering.”
A defining moment
Ritenauer’s term, he said, was defined by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The storm wreaked havoc across the city and county, knocking out power for days and shuttering Lorain’s City Hall for fear of high winds busting windows.
Looking back, he said the mad dash in the storm’s wake to restore power and handle a crisis at St. Anthony’s of Padua when its roof blew off — then pass a 0.5 percent income tax levy a week later — summed up everything the city has done since then.
“Passing it meant fixing roads, fixing infrastructure, getting out of fiscal watch, keeping safety forces employed, investing in the things we needed to invest in so that outside money, private developers would look at Lorain,” he said. “And as I stare out (my office) window right now, I see Rockin’ on the River setting up, I see work being done at the hotel — none of that happens if we didn’t get that done in 2012.”
He said beyond that, he will miss many of the people he has worked with and met as a public official — but one thing he won’t miss is the scrutiny and abundance of events and appearances required. He said he’s looking forward to having weekends with his family back, although he joked his wife might not want him in the house that much.
He grew up in the International City, and said he never specifically looked to leave it, but always has remained open to change. He, wife Lisa and baby daughter Quinn will move to Illinois as Ritenauer starts a new chapter of his life in the private sector with Republic Services. He said the education he’s received from the city — with all it’s ups and downs — has been invaluable.
“A lot of it for me is I’m at the point in my life, my family’s life, my career, where I want to be able to say I tried everything,” he said. “My wife calls it ‘growing and stretching,’ and I think as a person, you need to do that. This is a short life and I look back at the 7 1/2 years and how they’ve flown by and just the changes for me personally and professionally, and it really came down to this is something I’ve always wanted to try, and here’s the opportunity – kind of the same impotence that pushed me to run for mayor.”
The Lorain City Central Democratic Committee will vote to appoint a new mayor to fill Riteanuer’s unexpired term 4 p.m. June 9 at Lorain Palace Theater. In the meantime, Council President Joel Arredondo will serve in the position.
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