Congressmen in Washington D.C., vice president of BGSU, director of the National Science Foundation and outstanding citizen of the year are but a few titles Richard Edwards has held over his career.
After serving eight years as the mayor of Bowling Green, Richard Edwards will be stepping down from his position. He said, “I’ve had a long career. I’ve been working nonstop since 1961.”
In the years prior to his election in 2012, he worked on the Board of County Commissioners for Wood County as an administrator. At the time, Edwards remembered Bowling Green, like many cities across Ohio, “suffered greatly” because of cuts in local government funds by the previous administration in Columbus.
“We tried to help the city government as best as we possibly could. I was concerned about the financial health and vitality; we had so many deep cuts,” he said.
When Edwards stepped up to the plate and took on the role of mayor, he came into it with his “eyes wide open,” as he could see the impact funding cuts had on Bowling Green.
One of his goals was to maintain a healthy relationship with the university. He knew the school well, as he worked side-by-side with President Hollis A. Moore as his executive assistant in 1971, then became vice president three years later in 1974. After Edwards’ tenure, he left to work at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio in 1984, where he would become friends with Mary Ellen Mazey. Upon his return, he was part of the board of trustees that brought Mazey to Bowling Green as the next president of BGSU.
Because he had previously known Mazey before she became president in 2011, having that close relationship was deemed helpful for a number of joint efforts between the city and the university.
“I was really happy and welcomed the opportunity to work with President Mazey and incorporation with the city to move forward,” Edwards said.
With the spirit of collaboration, one of the first things they accomplished together was updating the city’s Land Use Plan, which hadn’t been modified since 1987. Determining the needs of the city allowed them to make necessary changes for Bowling Green and implement a number of things.
Sustainability was one of many recommendations they focused their efforts and resources on. Edwards said the city has a “long, rich history of sustainability.” In 2003, ‘Blowing Green’ became the first city in Ohio to build a wind turbine farm. The turbines are capable of supplying 7.2 megawatts of energy, which is enough to power 2,500 houses. All debts for the project were paid in full in 2015, according to bgohio.org.
Bowling Green is also home to the largest solar fields in the state. Construction on the project started in 2016 and ended a year later. Located at the north side of town are more than 85,000 solar panels spread across 165 acres that are expected to produce enough energy for 3,000 homes as well as reducing 25,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year.
Edwards noted, “We’re a city of about 40% sustainability. We had the first wind turbines of any city in Ohio and now we’ve got the largest solar field at present. We invested heavily in hydroelectric power and are trying as best we can to lessen our dependence on coal.”
Due to the efforts made to rely more on renewable energy over the past couple decades, Bowling Green was named as “one of the ‘Best Hometowns’ in Ohio” in 2017.
Additionally, Edwards and Mazey worked on strengthening neighborhood relations and enhancing the East Wooster Street corridor, including the construction of the bridge and roundabouts over I-75 and establishing a Not in Our Town movement after a series of incidents that left students and citizens feeling unsafe.
Although Edwards had accomplished many things during his term, he attributes much of his success to the city council working together.
“The only way you can get things done, especially at this level, is working together. That makes all the difference in the world. Government takes time, effort and a few setbacks along the way, it takes a process,” he said. “It’s been a joy to work with members of council. We’ve had very few difficulties along the way; we’ve worked well together.”
Edwards reflected on his time as mayor. “I am very grateful and it’s been a wonderful experience. I never thought I’d end my career in local government.”
As his term comes to an end, he believes the city government is going to be in very good hands.
Mike Aspcher, city council president, 3rd Ward and member of the board of education, said he’s excited, energized and grateful for the opportunity to serve as the city’s next mayor. He has been part of the Bowling Green community his entire life, as he grew up and raised a family in the city.
“I love the small-town feel. In many ways Bowling Green embodies the midwest feel of connectivity on a personal level. People care about each other and are willing and eager to focus on the values and goals that we share,” Aspcher said.
Aspacher said there were a number of factors that lead him to the decision to run. His interest in continuing to contribute to his hometown in a positive way has been one of his primary motivations. When Mayor Edwards decided he was going to retire, Aspacher thought the timing worked out well, because he had also retired from his day job.
“I feel very well prepared based on my experience and involvement in city government in the past 10 years, and also to a great degree, the opportunities that Mayor Edwards has provided for me these last several years,” he said. “It’s important to say that everything, in terms of planning and the process that occurred during Mayor Edwards tenure has set up what I believe is a bright and optimistic future for our city and I am really eager to build upon those things.”
Aspacher emphasized wanting to grasp and understand what’s important to the residents and providing what they need. He plans to continue the community planning processes, as the results provide a “road map” of where the city might want to go future community improvements. He said one of the most beneficial aspects is the collaborative spirit that included significant input from multiple community partners and how all segments of the community are well represented in every one of these planning processes.
“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what my failures might be, I spend more time thinking on what opportunities might present themselves for us to be successful. Over the course of these years, we’ve discovered we have great challenges in front of us and I am determined to confront these challenges head-on.”