Dave Lieberth, Akron’s recently retired deputy mayor, chief of staff and a civic activist, has been named a consultant to the University Park Alliance.
UPA Board President David James, who is also the superintendent of Akron Public Schools, said the executive committee chose Lieberth on Thursday morning.
“Look at what he’s done with everything,” James said, referring to his work with the city.
Mayor Don Plusquellic has credited Lieberth with the success of Lock 3 and Lock 4 parks, which have become downtown attractions.
“He’s someone I think everyone feels comfortable working with. There’s a great level of trust,” James said.
Details are still being worked out, but Lieberth will work at an hourly rate and up to 30 hours a week.
“It won’t be some big contract. It’ll be limited. I think we’re only going through the end of July,” James said.
Lieberth, 65, will act as a consultant to oversee the organization’s strategy and direction and shepherd the real estate projects for UPA, a nonprofit group working on the redevelopment of 50 city blocks around the University of Akron.
Eric Anthony Johnson this month announced his surprise resignation, saying he was going to Kansas to care for his critically ill mother. Johnson’s last day is today, although he already has gone to Kansas. Lieberth will start this week, James said.
In a text message, Johnson said of Lieberth: “Dave is a great leader and has both the respect and confidence of the leadership in Akron. I have no doubt that he will do a great job.”
On Wednesday, the UPA board decided against looking for an interim director and said it would look for a consultant and have current UPA Chief of Staff Carol A. Murphy continue leading the community engagement activities of UPA while running the day-to-day operations.
James said Lieberth will not act as the interim.
“By doing this, we’re avoiding speculation about the interim director becoming the director. That isn’t where Dave is at. He’s really willing to step in and help the board get their arms around how we implement the master plan and how we move forward. We’re lucky that he agreed to help,” James said.
Lieberth said: “UPA has begun to transform the core of the city and it will continue to harness the energy of the university, the city and UPA’s member institutions to redevelop Akron in years to come. It’s a privilege to be asked to help out in this small way.”
Lieberth is no stranger to UPA. Lieberth attended UPA board meetings when the organization first merged with the University Park Development Corp. and transitioned away from the university.
“There’s not going to be a long learning curve here,” Lieberth said. “I should be able to get up to speed fairly quickly.”
Lieberth retired as Akron’s deputy mayor and chief of staff in November. He had been in that position since 2002. Before that, Lieberth was an attorney specializing in mediation. He was also a journalist and broadcaster.
He earned his bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Akron and a master’s degree from Syracuse University.
He has been deeply involved in civic groups and was the founding president of Inventure Place and co-founder of Leadership Akron.
In retirement, Lieberth opened a consulting practice in Downtown Akron and is writing a book that he said will “assist the city and Greater Akron Chamber in marketing the community internationally.”
Lieberth said he “made it very clear to the board that I’m not a candidate” for the permanent director job.