It was probably one of the most anticipated arrivals in quite some time at Akron-Canton Airport.
Politicians and supporters were on hand to greet President Barack Obama on the tarmac as Air Force One landed at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Obama shook hands and spoke briefly with those gathered at the foot of the rolling stairway.
Canton Mayor William Healy II told the president that his city’s unemployment rate has dropped in the last 18 months.
“I also told him that we wouldn’t have made it through the recession without his stimulus plan and the [funding] that helped pay for police and firemen and roads and bridges,” Healy said. “That helped us survive during the worst of times and I thanked him for that.”
Healy said he also reminded the president that Obama’s last stop in the 2008 campaign before the election was in Canton.
“He said he was going to try to repeat that this year because he thinks it’s good luck,” Healy said. “So he’s definitely coming back to Canton and we’ll probably be right at the end if not before, so we’re excited about that.”
Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry said she thanked the president for his health-care reform.
“I thanked him for the health-care initiative because I’m a registered nurse, also,” she said. “I wanted to thank him for his efforts to allow all Americans to have health care.”
Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville said he explained why Mayor Don Plusquellic was unable to greet Obama at the airport because of leg surgery.
“First of all, I told him the mayor was having surgery and he couldn’t be here and sent his regards,” Sommerville said.
“He told me to make sure I let the mayor know that he’s hoping the best for him. Also I let him know that this is the home of LeBron James. He said he already knew that. LeBron’s a good friend of his. LeBron looks out for him.”
Plusquellic later attended the president’s appearance at the John S. Knight Center in a wheelchair.
Sommerville said he also thanked Obama for his leadership.
“I wanted to let him know that we’re praying for him. He said he believes in prayer and please keep praying for him,” Sommerville said.
Other official greeters included Rita Hosch, Cindy Wahl, Gabrielle Jackson, Imam Raoof Ali Muhammad and John Welker.
“I told the president that we’re working hard to get him re-elected, making phone calls and knocking on doors every weekend,” said Jackson, an Akron volunteer with Organizing for America.
The president arrived about 25 minutes ahead of schedule.
The Boeing 757 landed on Runway 5, said Kristie Van Auken, airport senior vice president.
The pilot “painted it on,” she said, using the slang that describes a smooth landing.
Every U.S. president since Gerald Ford has landed at the airport at least once during his term, Van Auken said.
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.