David Lieberth counts among his most memorable events the day three decades ago when Paul Poorman, then the editor of this newspaper, telephoned him. Poorman invited Lieberth to participate in the founding of Leadership Akron. The choice was inspired, given all that Lieberth since has achieved. Few people in town have reflected more fully the purpose of the organization, his engagement in civic causes extraordinary and so, too, his rare combination, armed with big ideas and a capacity to get things done.
Lieberth has been a journalist, a practicing attorney, a master of ceremonies, board member of many nonprofit organizations and architect of Imagine Akron: 2025, a bold and practical effort to map the city’s future. Yet he has been his most productive the past decade, serving as the chief of staff for Mayor Don Plusquellic, his final day at his City Hall office coming Friday.
To suggest that Lieberth played many roles for the city hardly does justice to his busy portfolio. What has been most striking is the new energy and life he brought to downtown. He understands keenly the indispensable role of the city center and the element of a work ever in progress.
A new ballpark or convention center may add vitality. Soon, the question arrives: What next? Look around, and you see what Lieberth has delivered — in the form of such things as the Lock 3 and Lock 4 parks, Actors’ Summit theater in Greystone Hall, even beach volleyball. He hasn’t done all of this on his own, or without bruising some feelings and pushing a few deadlines. Yet hard to deny is his presence as the driver, alert to the stakes for the city and the need to get the details right.
Lieberth long has had an eye for history, Akron’s past, to be exact, and what it reveals about the city’s potential. He knows the importance of the narrative, the chapter one generation writes and others later will relay. In a way, that is the essence of Leadership Akron, men and women stepping forward to shape the story of the city. Few of late have made a larger contribution to doing so than David Lieberth.