By Kevin Kelley
(Editor’s note: Westlake Ward 1 Councilman Ed Hack is one of two members of the legislative body who did not seek re-election this year. The other, Ward 2 Councilman Jim Connole, will be featured in a future edition of West Life.)
During his first year on Westlake City Council, Ed Hack was the legislative body’s representative on the city’s planning commission. In attendance at his first meeting was a large crowd of outspoken residents opposed to the proposed expansion of a nearby business.
Hack recalled that he was overwhelmed by the vocal crowd. But looking back, Hack said that type of resident involvement makes government work better.
“Early on, I was not receptive to it,” he said.
Thursday’s council meeting will be the last one at which Hack represents Ward 1.
“I thought after 14 years it was enough,” explained Hack, who decided against seeking re-election. He will be succeeded by Lynda Appel, who topped Shamus Cusick for the seat in the Nov. 5 election.
Hack and his wife, Susan, have four children and six grandchildren, all of whom live out of town. They also have a winter property in Florida. If they want to travel, they’ll no longer have to plan around the regular and numerous committee meeting of council.
The Hacks will continue to live in Westlake. The outgoing councilman will continue at his law practice, which focuses on estate planning and probate matters.
“My practice is busier than ever,” Hack told West Life. “I’m just taking one thing off my plate – the council meetings.”
Hack grew up in Fairview Park, attending St. Angela Merici School. He considered a vocation to the priesthood during his high school years, during which he attended Borromeo Seminary. After graduating from John Carroll University, Hack got his law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
When Hack and his wife moved to Westlake in 1984, she thought anything west of Clague Road was the prairie, he recalled. When approached about running for the Ward 1 seat, Hack had not been directly active in city government or politics, but had served as an adviser when friends sought election as judges.
The zoning decision that led to the construction of Crocker Park, which Hack supported, sharply divided council, Hack recalled, and members later had to work hard to repair the divisions. Some members had been concerned the development would expand urban sprawl in Westlake, he said.
Challenges to Westlake city government include the issue of who the suburb’s water supplier should be, as well as the need to foster a relationship with the Westlake City Schools that is “beneficial and appropriate,” Hack said. Council also needs to complete an analysis to determine fair wages for city employees, he said.
Another challenge is to define regionalism for Westlake and explain to residents why it’s good for the suburb to take part in some regional projects and not others. Hack’s view is that each municipality should generally be self-sustainable and be able to attract businesses and residents on its own.
“I don’t think bigger is better,” the Republican said, adding that each community should make deliberate choices on what regional projects it participates in.
In 2011, Hack was behind legislation that discourages the city from hiring new employees who “double-dip,” that is, collect a pension as a retired public employee while simultaneously working at a second public-sector job. Last year, he was the lone vote against property tax abatement for Hyland Software. Hack believes the city should limit the amount of tax abatement it offers to businesses.
Hack said one mistake he made on council was not being a more independent voice early on.
“I wish I would have been more of a questioner in the beginning,” he told West Life. He said he’d advise Appel and Nick Nunnari, incoming Ward 2 councilman, to not be silent or hesitant to ask questions.