Don Walters ran a vigorous campaign in Cuyahoga Falls, offering a picture of where he wanted to take the city and throwing sharp punches at his opponent. It is the kind of race that wins elections, something Don Robart knows well, long having shown a passion for the city and a willingness to play rough. Now Walters has accomplished what popular Democrats Wayne Jones and Eric Czetli could not. He has ended Robart’s tenure as mayor at 28 years.
Walters deserves much credit for the victory. He talked about paying more attention to neighborhoods, about being more responsive, about bringing new momentum to economic development. All are important for a city that is aging, its landscape changing in several ways. Soon, the talk must turn into action, and that will be a test for the veteran City Council member, his campaign often vague about how, precisely, he would deliver.
This editorial page has dished its share of criticism toward Robart in the past. Watching this campaign, the thought has been that the incumbent deserved better. One line of attack (fueled by the Ohio Democratic Party) labeled Robart a “tea party darling.” No question, the mayor has played to the tea party crowd, even said some nutty things. Yet his decision-making in office much more often than not has been practical-minded, attending to city services, making necessary budget compromises, looking for economic opportunities.
On that last count, Robart, and the City Council, finally did something about the troubled State Road shopping area. The Portage Crossing project has had setbacks and complications, the site long seen as a big challenge for private developers and public officials. Yet it has moved forward, the prospects representing an improvement, something Walters and his allies pushed aside as they blistered Robart for the struggles.
In a short time, Walters will own the task of making the project work. He has accomplished no small feat in defeating such a well-established incumbent, even accounting for Robart fatigue, surely a factor. At the same time, the real victory will be lifting the city the next four years, or advancing on the promises to Falls residents.