By Jeff Gallatin
One Westshore city’s gain is another’s loss with Bay Village Mayor Debbie Sutherland’s announcement she is bringing current North Olmsted safety/service Director Scott Thomas onto her staff in early December as assistant service director.
Thomas, a decorated police officer and former chief of detectives in Medina, joined North Olmsted in 2011 as the safety/service director, replacing Chase Ritenauer, who went on to become mayor of Lorain, his hometown. Thomas will start his new job Dec. 2.
Sutherland said hiring Thomas is a good fit at the right time for both parties.
“I’ve always admired how Scott Thomas does his job,” Sutherland said. “He’s thoughtful, intelligent and creative. He’s very good with people, has a strong track record in service and we need someone who can use all those qualities when working with the staff out at the garage, where we have some good talent. And in these tight budget times we need someone like Scott who is innovative and good at getting the most of the people and resources at hand.”
Sutherland said Thomas will be taking Jim Sears’ place in the assistant director’s role.
“Jim very graciously came out of retirement to help us and said he would stay a year. Well, that year is coming to a close, and we needed to get someone in place,” she said.
Thomas said it’s a case of a good opportunity coming at the right time.
“I respect Mayor Sutherland and what she has accomplished,” he said. “I’ve had several deaths and other health-related issues in my family in recent years, so I’ve been looking for a good way to still have a challenging job, but find a way to lessen the pressure a little bit. I’ll be able to do that by focusing on the service job, which is something I’ve found that I really enjoy doing.”
Thomas said the change doesn’t come without regrets.
“I’ve worn a badge for 32 and a half years, and this means I will be taking it off. That’s not something I do easily, because it means a lot to me,” he said. “And we have a top staff here in North Olmsted with fine people, who I appreciate and will miss.”
At the Nov. 19 North Olmsted City Council meeting, Thomas thanked Mayor Kevin Kennedy for giving him the opportunity to come to North Olmsted as a director, while noting he had become a friend. He also thanked council.
Council members praised Thomas and his work ethic.
“Scott, we will miss you,” Ward 3 Councilman Paul Schumann said. “You always made me look good with people with what you did.”
Kennedy said he understands Thomas’ decision and appreciates what he did for North Olmsted.
“Scott’s been a fine administrator here and put together a lot of good programs and work for the city during his time here,” Kennedy said. “He’s worked well with people in the city and the community, and we’ll certainly miss that. But this is a good way for him to take care of himself and his family, so I respect that. I’ll look forward to working with him on regional issues and projects.”
Kennedy said he will start the process of replacing Thomas as quickly as possible.
“We always have a list of potential good people to hire and we’ll start by reviewing that list,” he said.
Kennedy said there could be both internal and external candidates to replace Thomas.
Early in his term, Kennedy got voter approval for a charter amendment that allowed mayors to change their administrative directors with the consent of City Council, which allowed him to merge the safety and service directors’ jobs into one.
“I’m not going to hire two people to replace Scott,” Kennedy said. “We’ll find the best fit for the job.”
Kennedy did not have a specific timetable for acting, but said he would like to replace Thomas as quickly as possible.