By Sue Botos
Many Rocky River residents are surprised when they learn that Mayor Pam Bobst is a native of Minnesota, not born and raised in the city.
“I often get asked, ‘When did you graduate from Rocky River High?’” Bobst recalled during a recent interview announcing her intention to run for re-election. But that’s an easy assumption to make, since Bobst had been a member of City Council since 1996, serving as president from 2002 to 2006, when she became mayor.
However, it was her background in health care, including a dental hygiene degree from the University of Minnesota, a Bachelor of Arts degree in health care access/public health from Northeastern Illinois University and eventually studies for her master’s in community health education at Kent State University, that led her to seek public office.
Bobst recalled going to Washington, D.C., as part of a national coalition of nonprofit organizations while she was a graduate student. The group’s work centered on the creation of programs targeted to professionals serving children and youth.
“We were sitting in the hotel conference room, and I thought, ‘This is great.’ I recognized the importance of the work we were doing, but I thought, ‘I never get to see it happen.’ I never get to see the impact on the lives of the people (the programs) affect,” she noted.
“I knew there was a piece missing – that was the ‘hands-on’ part that you get through City Council and as mayor,” Bobst added. “I knew I wanted to be on the front lines. The residents can share their needs and desires and you, along with them, can share their accomplishments.”
Other pieces fell into place when she married her husband Tom, a North Olmsted optometrist whom she met while working and studying in Chicago. Coincidentally, the best man in their wedding was from Rocky River. After some discussion, Bobst said her husband asked her if she would like to live in the city.
Although she admits it sounds a little corny, Bobst said she knew immediately after visiting that this was where she wanted to live and raise a family. “I knew it was a special place the minute I saw it,” she remembered.
Throughout her 18 years in elected office, Bobst said she has gained an even greater appreciation for the community. “A big part of the job is community building, working with civic organizations, churches and schools,” Bobst said. That work also extends beyond the city as Bobst served on the executive board of the Cuyahoga County Mayors and Managers Association and was chair of its Nominating Committee last year. She is currently a member of the organization’s Economic Development Committee.
Bobst is also Westshore representative to the Suburban Water Council and is an alternate representative to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). She serves on numerous additional civic and community boards.
Looking back on her years as mayor, Bobst said she is most pleased with how the city withstood the financial downturn that began in 2008. “We traversed all that and still maintained city services at a level the residents deserve,” she stated.
Those financial limitations are one of the biggest changes Bobst has experienced throughout the years. “We will continue to make cuts, but we will do so surgically and strategically,” said Bobst, who praised city employees, some of whom have not had a pay raise in four years, for doing their part.
Although the city has weathered the financial storm so far without turning to residents for a tax increase, Bobst indicated that staying off the ballot may no longer be an option.
“In every likelihood we will go to the ballot. We need to find a reliable way to replace the estate tax, (address) EPA mandates and $70 to $80 million in government cuts,” she stated.
Regardless of the challenges, Bobst looks forward to the opportunity to continue her career as mayor. “This is the most fulfilling service that I can think of,” she stated.