Kathy Antoniotti

SPRINGFIELD TWP.: Robert “Bruce” Killian rarely uses the word “I”. No matter the topic, Killian is adamant that whatever he has accomplished in his 22 years of public service has been a concerted effort, either with fellow trustees or with his wife of 32 years, Mary Ann.

“Generally, it [indicates] my wife and I,” he said. “But when I speak as a trustee, I generally say ‘we’ because it is a three-member board. When you say ‘I,’ you don’t accomplish anything.”

Asked if he considers himself a humble man, he responds with a chuckle.

“We try to be,” he said.

Killian, 62, said he considers himself a conservative — if it means “being fiscally responsible and staying within the law.”

He did not seek re-election this month to a seat he has held since 1992 (except for a short stint as township clerk in 2007-08). He will retire Saturday and give up his trustee position.

A meeting to select the person who will fill Killian’s unexpired term has been scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Monday.

A public reception will be held in honor of Killian’s years of service from 2 to 4 p.m. Dec. 12 at the township hall, 2459 Canfield Road, for residents to say goodbye and wish him well.

Killian said he plans to take a break from public service.

“When people ask what we are going to do, we say we are going to travel a bit and see this wonderful country. Next spring we hope to head out west. Mary Ann has always wanted to see the Grand Canyon,” he said.

Fellow Trustee Dean Young said Killian will be missed for his lifelong commitment to the community and the institutional knowledge he brought to the job.

“During my time on the board, I relied on Bruce as historian of prior board actions and policies. That has been very helpful in making present decisions.” Young said. “He may think he’s leaving but I consider him as close as the cellphone for future help.”

Roots run deep

Killian’s parents and grandparents were farmers, moving from Holmes County to Springfield in the early 1920s. He and his five brothers grew up doing farm work.

He and Mary Ann, who was raised in the Sawyerwood neighborhood of Springfield, are as homegrown as the crops raised on his grandfather’s 90-acre farm on the road that bears his family’s name.

The couple met at an East Akron grocery store where they both worked while he attended the University of Akron studying business management. He eventually bought the store.

“Oddly enough, the last test I took at Akron U was the day I took over the store I was working at. That was in 1974,” he said.

The couple sold the store in December 1991, just before he became a trustee.

Killian dropped the seat in 2007 to run for township clerk. Reversing gears, he was re-elected as a trustee two years later.

Springfield’s finances are never far from his mind. He voluntarily helps with the township’s payroll each week, Young said.

“In the last four years, he has given many hours unpaid. ... His contribution there has been invaluable,” he said.

Fiscal Officer Joy Dies said the township’s finance office will miss Killian.

“I consider Bruce to be not only a friend, but a valuable resource. His knowledge of township law and funding is unsurpassed.”

Job accomplishments

The year Killian first took office, the board had to find funding for the police department that had formed in 1969, Killian said. After losing their tax base with business closings and annexations, trustees needed to shore up finances before layoffs were necessary.

Little by little, the township began to improve, he said.

In the late 1990s, many residents felt as if the township had won the lottery when it received almost $3 million in inheritance taxes. Although there were several suggestions for using the windfall, trustees chose to invest it, which enabled them to pay cash to build the current town administration building and police department.

“There was a lot of pressure [from] people who wanted everything. ‘Give us free taxes until the money runs out.’ It was across the board. We knew the needs. We were crying for space,” Killian said.

Today, there is a lot of talk about building parks for recreation, he said, but 20 years ago, the issue was providing the township with safety services, especially moving to full-time paramedic service in the fire department.

“When we started, we were still working on safety — police and fire. And those are now a given. [Now] people kind of disregard that; they just expect to have it,” Killian said.

Another accomplishment, he said, was brokering a Joint Economic Development District agreement with the city of Akron that created stability for the township without the worry of losing more revenue base.

The Springfield Township Area Chamber of Commerce has trustees to thank for helping its founding in 2008. Chamber President Jerry Michael singled out Killian for helping with the widely popular Rock the Dock Festival each year.

“We wouldn’t really have gotten it off the ground without his help. Bruce really helps out on the financial end of the it,” Michael said.

Travel plans

Killian and his wife plan to explore the byways of America and recently purchased a travel trailer. The couple, members of Nativity of the Lord Jesus Catholic Church since it was formed in 1977, will camp along with their 9 year-old rescued yellow Labrador retriever, Woody Hayes.

Killian said he has no desire to seek another political office. He said he hopes he has helped as many residents as possible through the years.

“I looked at a picture of the day when I started in ’91. No. 1: I had hair. No. 2: It was jet black. This job will age you. You are responsible for close to 100 employees and the health, safety and welfare of about 15,000 people, and we take that very seriously,” he said.

Wherever the next road leads, Killian said he always will return to the land his family has farmed for almost a century.

“We will still keep farming. [I’ll be] playing in the dirt until I die,” he said.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.