As Dan Horrigan begins his first term as mayor of the city of Akron, he’s got some ideas about how to make it a better place for residents, businesses and visitors. But he plans to take a measured and collaborative approach to achieve his goals.
“If you want to implement your vision and your style, you need to empower employees from the ground up to get their ideas and get their input,” Horrigan says. “You can’t just throw out every process you have and say we’re starting over because the city would just grind to a halt. It’s not about what’s going on in the next four years. It’s about the next 10 and 20 years.”
Horrigan is a graduate of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School and Kent State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. He followed that up with an education degree from the University of Akron.
He spent a decade teaching, first at St. V and then at Stow High School before making the move into politics in 1998. Horrigan had an opportunity to give back to the North Hill community that had supported four generations of his family and he couldn’t pass it up. He won election to Akron City Council’s Ward 1 in 1999 and chaired the Public Utilities Committee.
His leadership proved critical in constructing a $21 million retention basin to help solve a sewage problem and took steps to make the Highland Square neighborhood a better place.
His career progressed and in 2007, he became Summit County Clerk of Courts. Running for mayor had been on his mind for a few years, but it wasn’t a lifelong ambition.
“I just wanted to raise awareness of where the city is going, what my vision is and how we can be more collaborative as a city,” Horrigan says. “People go through mottos and say, ‘We shall strive to do this or that.’ I think you only need two words: ‘We care.’
“We care about the service we offer. We care about the residents we serve. I think that can encompass just about everything you do. It’s about them. It’s not a political agenda. It’s not a partisan agenda. One of our strongest charges is to be as efficient as possible. If you’re efficient, you can do more.”
Be a regional leader
Horrigan says he met many, many people on the campaign trail and hopes to meet many more early in his tenure as mayor.
“You want to tap into that collaborative spirit to say, ‘Alright, what’s the plan for downtown? What’s the plan for this specific neighborhood?’” Horrigan says. “There are a lot of ideas out there. You just have to break down some of those silos that exist in an environment where people don’t share enough information.”
Horrigan says public safety, economic development and job creation are and will continue to be top priorities. But another key is taking steps to make Akron a strong partner in the Summit County region.
“If a company moves in just outside of Akron, we want them to locate here, but they may be living here,” Horrigan says. “They may be buying services here. We sink or swim as a region with our strategic partners, the universities, the hospitals and all the major employers. The message is to think of Akron as being very competitive in that business environment.”
Entrepreneurialism is big for Horrigan and he wants to meet with many business leaders and entrepreneurs to see what can be done to strengthen the region’s economy.
“We need to give companies space and give them the resources to be able to grow their jobs,” Horrigan says.
A family-first mindset
In terms of leadership style, Horrigan says he has been influenced a great deal by his father, who was a salesman at Mohawk Rubber in Akron.
“He taught me a lot about treating people the right way,” Horrigan says. “It’s also my faith. It’s more of a servant-based leadership style than autocratic. It’s no less decisive when it comes to decision-making. It’s just that I don’t want to shut out views because somebody said that’s not going to work.”
Horrigan and his wife, Deanna, have three daughters and when he has free time, he loves to spend time with his family and friends.
“You need that decompression chamber a little bit,” he says. “Family is the most important thing. You want to see your kids grow up and be healthy and happy and stay here to take care of us when we get old. We want to build a city and a region that is able to do that.” ●
How to reach: City of Akron, (330) 375-2345 or www.akronohio.gov