By Jeff Gallatin
Former North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O’Grady has set up a rematch with the man who took his job – current Mayor Kevin Kennedy – saying the city cannot afford another four years of a Kennedy administration.
O’Grady filed his petitions with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections last week.
“My reasons for getting back into public life again are simple, I’m invested in North Olmsted,” he said. “I want my children to grow up here and I want their children to grow up here.”
O’Grady questioned Kennedy’s handling of the mayor’s post since he took office in 2010.
“Our citizens and taxpayers simply can’t afford another four years of a Kennedy administration in the city,” O’Grady said. “He’s an absentee mayor who has not acted in a fiscally responsible manner, and he will bankrupt the city.”
Kennedy said he wasn’t surprised O’Grady was running again.
“I look forward to comparing our two different administrations and their records,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been able to work with other public officials on moving the city forward.”
O’Grady initially became mayor in 2005, when he moved up from the council president’s post after Norman T. Musial resigned the chief executive’s post for family reasons. Kennedy, a businessman who previously, and unsuccessfully, had sought a state representative post, was appointed council president to succeed O’Grady.
O’Grady then won a full term in 2006, beating North Olmsted school board member and city union leader Thomas Herbster, while Kennedy won the council president’s race unopposed. In the 2009 election, Kennedy led the way in a tough four-way nonpartisan primary, with current school board President John Lasko finishing second, O’Grady taking third and businessman and recently appointed Councilman at Large Tim Smith taking fourth. Kennedy then beat Lasko in the general election. O’Grady also had lost in a five-way Democratic primary for the Westshore area congressional seat in 2008. Prior to that, O’Grady had served as council president from 2002 until becoming mayor, and had been a councilman at large from 1996 until becoming council president.
A government teacher in the North Olmsted City Schools until becoming mayor, O’Grady has been working in the Cleveland School District the last several years, most recently serving as the 12th grade principal for James F. Rhodes High School. He also was an Army officer, serving as a staff officer and in the Special Forces.
Kennedy said he is happy with his record.
“I’m pleased with what what we have accomplished and look forward to showing what else we can do, and the campaign,” he said.
Referring to Kennedy’s record, O’Grady questioned several of Kennedy’s decisions.
“The water rates have gone up 50 percent under him,” O’Grady said. “He rushed into the mayor’s court with no business plan. The mayor’s court may or may not be a good idea, but he rushed into it, and sadly, there was no council there to stop him.”
O’Grady did come before City Council and speak against it when the mayor’s court legislation was being considered last year. O’Grady also questioned the city’s purchase of a Dover Center Road house for more than $250,000 as part of its sewer system capital improvements work, saying it was not a necessary purchase and that the transaction didn’t account for the loss of taxes caused by the move.
Kennedy’s rebranding of city symbols also drew fire from O’Grady.
“Since when does red represent North Olmsted?” O’Grady asked. “What happened to green? We’ve always been a tree city and had green represent North Olmsted for at least as long as I can remember,” O’Grady said.
With today being the filing deadline for the position with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, the possibility of a nonpartisan primary for the mayor’s position exists. Ward 4 Councilman Larry Orlowski has petitions out for both the mayor’s office and the council seat he has held for nearly nine years, since being appointed to replace Dean McKay, then winning two elections. Orlowski has consistently declined comment on his plans, saying he has until June 12 (today) to make up his mind. If Orlowski files, then a primary would be required, with the top two candidates advancing to a general election.