Closser reflects on first year as mayor

By Andrea Chaffin -

London Mayor Pat Closser takes a selfie with fifth-graders at London Elementary School during a visit in June.

File photo

Pat Closser has a lot of titles these days: husband, business owner, Dad and volunteer.

Oh, and another little one — mayor. He likes to go by #MOLO on social media (mayor of London, Ohio).

Now that the first full year of going by “Dad” and “Mayor” (or MOLO) is through, he’s starting to get used to it.

“They’re both easy to get used to, but I’m still Pat,” he said, admitting that it’s “kind of weird” how folks he doesn’t recognize know his name.

Closser, 38, took over the office in January from David Eades, who served at the helm for more than 24 years.

The following few months turned into a lot of change in the city’s administration. Closser helped usher in a new safety-service director, auditor, treasurer, parks and rec director, and administrative assistant, and did away with the tax income director’s position — his first major move.

The decision to not replace the tax director upon his resignation saved the city more than $70,000 at the beginning of the year, Closser boasts.

“We all have a learning curve but a fresh start, too,” he said. “But really the hero here is my wife. Missy has done so much for me and sacrificed so I can do this position.”

Life is busy for the couple, who welcomed their first child, Maddoxx, just weeks prior to Closser taking the oath. To stay organized, Closser plans out each day from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., scheduling events, meetings, working at his carry-out business, time in the office and, of course, blocking out family time. He averages 50 commitments per month.

“We have it down to a science now,” he said. “She understands why I’m doing this: to make this town better for Maddoxx and the rest of the community.”

Some parts of the job are exactly as he expected. A former city council president and community volunteer, Closser said he “had a feel” for the workings of the job.

Others, not so much. The transition from council to administration has been a bit tougher than he expected. He can hear his critics laughing now.

“When you’re on council you try to be overly fiscally responsible, but then when you get on this side you see the things that need to be done, like, we need more money for recreation or to fix this road,” he said. “You see the other side of it.”

On the other side, he thought it would be difficult to foster communication in the community, creating a partnership of businesses, government entities and agencies. But, it turned out to be quite easy, he said.

“I didn’t feel like the relationships were there like they needed to be with the administration for us to be successful. I was nervous coming in people would be guarded or reserved, but it was very easy,” he said. “People were so inviting and wanted to work together — they understood it as a breath of fresh air.”

“The lines of communication are open and I don’t think its ever been this good,” he added.

He’s excited about the work he was able to complete in 2016. Among his greatest achievements is getting the ball rolling on a massive project to consolidate city offices in the former primary school. Closser created a committee specifically for the undertaking. The city is getting ready to send out a bid packet for the second time after the first packet was deemed too confusing.

Finding new sources of revenue has been a long-term goal. This year, he roped in several grants and donations, including $20,000 in state money to reimburse the city for the skate park, and is planning on getting more this year.

“We’re going to keep pushing that in 2017,” he said. “I’m going to go after every free dollar I can.”

Others goal in 2017 include securing funding to pave Park Avenue, completing phase two of the Access Cowling playground equipment project and some “pretty big” (but still secret) improvements at the pool.

Closser admits to have “learned a lesson” this summer when he ordered the demolition of a downtown building located between Huntington Bank and the former Stinger’s bar. He had called the structure an unsafe eyesore.

The move sparked outrage from the city’s Historic Review Board, who said members were never briefed on the project or given the opportunity to explore other options for the building.

The lesson: “Even if you think everything was handled properly, you need to make sure that it was. Now I know,” he said. “I felt we had gone through proper steps. It was unintentional.”

In general, he strives to make sure things are done correctly. Not because that’s the way things have always been done.

“Not everyone loves it,” he admits. “It’s not always that easy when you’re a younger mayor trying to change policies and people that have been around in some capacities for 30-40 years.”

Closser said he gets push-back “once or twice a month” from someone because of his age and experience.

One of those times was during his trip to Japan this fall, an experience he called “a highlight.” The Japanese officials were surprised at how young (and tall) Closser and chamber director David Kell were.

The mayor ends his report to city council each meeting with what he calls “the mayor fun fact.” Among those facts have been setting a trash can on fire during the filming of “Madison” in downtown London this summer, visiting elementary school students, performing 20 wedding ceremonies and owning more than 40 bow-ties.

It’s a lot for Pat Closser, or MOLO or Dad. Whatever you want to call him.

“My life is definitely more hectic, but it’s definitely more fulfilling,” he said. “With the position and family life, I’m still the same person.”

London Mayor Pat Closser takes a selfie with fifth-graders at London Elementary School during a visit in June. Mayor Pat Closser takes a selfie with fifth-graders at London Elementary School during a visit in June. File photo

By Andrea Chaffin

Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.

Andrea Chaffin can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.