By Kevin Kelley
“It’s an interesting ride, being on council,” Jim Connole said toward the end of the Dec. 19 Westlake City Council meeting, his last representing Ward 2 on the legislative body.
A few moments earlier, council President Mike Killeen paid tribute to Connole and Ward 1 Councilman Ed Hack, both of whom are exiting council after deciding not to seek re-election in 2013. Killeen, who has been on council for more than three decades, said Connole and Hack were two of the finest council members he’s ever served with.
A graduate of Lakewood High School and Baldwin-Wallace College, Connole first became involved in city government in 1985 when he joined the board of zoning appeals. Elected to the Westlake City Schools Board of Education in 1989, Connole said the hiring of Jim Costanza, the previous superintendent, and the passage of a 1996 capital issue for renovations and additions to schools were some highlights from his tenure there.
In 2001, Connole was appointed to fill a vacancy on council. The highlight of his work on that body, he said, is his work on Crocker Park, the construction of which he supported.
“Seeing Crocker Park going from weeds to where they are now is probably one of the best accomplishments I’ve been a part of,” Connole told West Life.
In the early part of the last decade, nearly all the residents of nearby Savannah Parkway and the surrounding development were against building Crocker Park.
“They were worried about their quality of life,” Connole recalled. “They had nothing to judge it by because there was nothing like Crocker Park then.”
Connole said work by the city’s planning department and planning commission to detail specific guidelines helped assuage residents’ concerns.
Still, it was a divisive issue among council members, who were split 4-3. Ward 5 Councilman Ken Brady mentioned the debates on Crocker Park when saluting Connole on his departure from council Dec. 19.
“We all got through it,” Brady said of the Crocker Park debates, “and we’re all still good friends.”
Westlake was fortunate in recent decades to have vacant land available for development and managed that development properly, Connole said. While Westlake has been flying high in recent years compared to other communities, Connole warned that the suburb will not be without challenges in the years to come.
“As we mature, some of our biggest challenges will be ahead of us,” he told West Life.
Keeping up the city’s housing stock as it ages will inevitably become an issue, he said. Another challenge he sees is getting young people involved in government.
“We seem to count on the same people over and over again,” he said.
In the early part of 2013, Connole flirted with a run for the council president post. But health concerns that later turned out to be unwarranted led him to decide against it. Connole told West Life he had no regrets about not running.
Connole, who served a four-year electrical apprenticeship early in his adult life, now serves as president of U.S. Communications and Electric, a technology company. His wife, Patricia, is its founder and CEO. The two had worked together at an earlier company, Connole said, but their romance came later. The two married in 2010.
Asked what advice he would give Nick Nunnari, his successor in representing Ward 2, Connole said, “Keep your mind open and always vote with your heart.”