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Twinsburg -- As he reflected on his first year in office, Mayor Ted Yates said an employee wellness program he helped implement has lowered health insurance costs, and that economic development continues to be a focus as the city moves closer toward planned downtown redevelopment.
Yates said it's become apparent that four years is not a long time -- especially when considering the time it takes to see major projects come to fruition.
"I can understand why four years is such a short period of time," he said. "A lot of projects unfold over time."
Economic development will continue to be a focus in the city, Yates said, whether related to small business, completing the last industrial openings at Cornerstone Business Park or moving forward with a plan for mixed-use zoning and pedestrian-friendly walkways in the downtown area.
"We are constantly fighting to keep business here as well as bring new business in," he said. "I think all municipalities are in the same position."
The Darien Lane resident and former City Councilor said the implementation of a wellness program for city employees -- a program that encourages a fitness-oriented culture among employees and their families, through free memberships to the Twinsburg Fitness Center -- has led to more stable health insurance premiums.
Employees must be tobacco-free or in a program to quit, have annual physicals, work out twice a week and meet with a private trainer.
"It's had an impact," he said. "It is reducing [insurance] claims and expenses."
And keeping costs down in the city's $55 million budget, in the face of flat income tax revenue and increased annual costs, while continuing to offer residents services, is always a challenge.
"People are familiar with the ceremonial part of the job, but we have a $55 million budget and 200 employees," he said. "When I first stepped in, I just wanted to get my arms around it all, the budget, the staff heads."
Yates said his previous experience as a City Councilor helped prepare him for the position.
In the coming years, he said he hopes the city can offer quarterly meetings (outside of Council meetings) for residents, the mayor and their Council representatives.
"We'll continue to look for ways to better serve Twinsburg residents," he said.
Yates added he is grateful for the support of his family and the community.
"It's heartwarming to get that random shoutout," he said. "At the grocery store, someone will come up to me and say, 'Hey, you are doing a great job.'"
He is married to his wife, Sharon, and the couple has with three children.
Yates said he had lengthy family talks with them before deciding to run for the position.
"The family always participates [in my carer]," Yates said. "They are in the spotlight. I'm grateful for the commitment and dedication of my family. I knew I was getting involved in a seven-day-a-week job."
"It's a juggle balancing family and work. But I love this job. It's great to have an active role in the community."
Council President Gary Sorace said he is pleased with the direction in which Yates is leading the city.
"In my opinion, Mayor Yates has done well," Sorace said. "With the help of City Council, he has taken on the burdensome task of cutting the budgets and reigning in salary growth. We are moving in a positive direction, but there is much work and more tough decisions ahead.
"I am hopeful that we can continue to work together to keep this community strong. As President of Council, I will work with him to help keep Twinsburg a great place to live."