For 26 years, Paula Davis’ job has been to keep Akron beautiful.
By all accounts, that’s exactly what she did as she led the city’s beautification agency.
“Just look around town,” said Sarah Vradenburg, a master gardener who formerly served on Keep Akron Beautiful’s beautification board. “Her legacy is available to anyone who is doing a windshield survey.”
Davis, Keep Akron Beautiful’s CEO and president, announced Wednesday that she will retire by the end of the year.
“I felt it was time to move on and let someone else with a fresh perspective move us forward,” Davis said in a news release.
Akron police Capt. Daniel Zampelli, who chairs the KAB board, said Davis, who is only the second CEO in the agency’s 33-year history, will be missed. The board has formed a search committee to find her replacement and is having a strategic plan done to look at the agency’s future. He said Davis will remain through mid-December and will help with the transition to her successor.
“They’re big shoes to fill,” Zampelli said. “The search committee has a very large job. The nice thing about it is she will be a wonderful mentor for somebody coming in.”
Zampelli said Davis will leave KAB on sound financial footing, which he attributes to her leadership, including her idea for the annual Dreamscape raffle that gives people the chance to win a $10,000 yard makeover and is the agency’s major fundraiser.
Davis, who is on vacation this week, could not be reached Wednesday. She earns about $60,000 annually.
Jacqui Flaherty, KAB’s program manager, said Davis will be missed not only on the local level, but also nationally. Davis is the past president of the Keep America Beautiful board of directors and received a national leadership award last year to recognize her years of service.
“She’s the best boss any of us have ever had,” said Flaherty, who has been with KAB for three years. “Her passion and her commitment to the agency have been amazing.”
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic said Davis’ contributions go beyond the abundant flower beds that grace many intersections.
“She facilitated the development of Akron’s Greenprint, she expanded Akron’s beautification programs, and she brought sustainability to the forefront,” he said in an email. “I appreciate her dedication and passion for Akron and its environment.”
John Valle, Akron’s director of neighborhood assistance, has worked with Davis for years in the different jobs he’s had with the city. Most recently, he coordinated with her and her staff about the My Neighborhood Our Akron program that aims to improve neighborhoods with beautification projects like painting and landscaping.
“It’s been a pleasure working with her all these years,” he said. “I’m looking forward to meeting whoever replaces her.”
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter: @swarsmithabj and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/swarsmith. Read the Beacon Journal’s political blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/ohio-politics.