- 1 of 1 Photos | View More Photos
Summit County is mourning the loss of its County Executive.
Russell M. "Russ" Pry, the county's chief executive officer since 2007, died on July 31, shortly after 5 p.m.
Mr. Pry was diagnosed with colon cancer in June and had been recovering since surgery on June 14, according to a press release from Pry's office. He died "peacefully," according to the release, when a "series of setbacks in his recovery became too much."
Mr. Pry was sworn in as the fourth Summit County Executive on July 13, 2007. As Executive, he served as the chief executive officer of county government, with an annual budget of nearly a half a billion dollars, according to the Summit County website. County departments under the Executive's authority include: Administrative Services, Communications, Community and Economic Development, Sanitary Sewer Services, Finance and Budget, Human Resources, Job and Family Services, Law, Insurance and Risk Management, and the Medical Examiner.
County Council president sworn in
County Council President Ilene Shapiro was to be sworn in immediately as interim County Executive until the Central Committee of the Summit County Democratic Party meets to appoint a person to serve as Executive for the balance of Mr. Pry's term, which expires on Dec. 31, 2016.
Eyed development, saving tax dollars
Since being appointed to the position of Executive, Mr. Pry focused a significant amount of efforts on improving local economic development. Pry, along with city and state officials, played a leading role in keeping Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations Technical Center and the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company Global and North American Headquarters and Innovation Center in Akron, according to the county website. Together, both projects would ensure that 3,900 jobs remain in Summit County.
Executive Pry collaborated with numerous government offices and community organizations in an effort to save tax dollars, eliminate governmental redundancies and enhance services for citizens. As one example, under Executive Pry's leadership, the county has consolidated building department operations with the city of Akron and several other communities including Cuyahoga Falls. Additionally, Executive Pry brought together more than 53 agencies to establish and lead the county's highly successful and award-winning early childhood initiative, First Things First.
Mr. Pry, a lifelong resident of Summit County, obtained a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Kent State University and a Juris Doctorate from The University of Akron School of Law in 1984.
Missed by those who knew him
"Russ was a dedicated public servant from the time he served, at age 19, as a Mogadore [Village] Council member, until the day he died," said Summit County Councilman John Schmidt (D-District 2). "He loved helping people and making our community better. He shepherded Summit County through the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
"We are in solid financial condition today because of him. His efforts ensured that Goodyear and Bridgestone-Firestone remained where they belong, in Summit County. His list of accomplishments are too numerous to mention. He will be sorely missed."
Russell Balthis, law director for the city of Cuyahoga Falls and a former member of Mr. Pry's staff said, "Russ dedicated his life to serving the citizens of Summit County. There are few people more dedicated to getting good people elected and to mentoring people into and through their lives of public service. He served well and he will be missed."
Balthis°was a law clerk in Mr. Pry's°office from 2004 to 2006. Balthis also°was executive director of the Summit County Democratic Party while Mr. Pry was Chairman of the county Democrats from 2006 to 2008.°
"Russ first and foremost was a dear friend, a thoughtful, compassionate human being who always put the good of the people ahead of politics," Congressman Tim Ryan (D-13th District) said in a statement released to the media from Akron.
"I have never seen a better leader than Russ Pry, who made local government work efficiently and effectively for the people he represented. He had no ego and always brought people together to make lives better for ordinary people.
"There is a huge hole in Summit County today and a huge hole in my heart as well -- one that can never be filled. But we can all learn from how Russ conducted himself; always with humility, always responsibly and, for those of us in public life, always making sure government was creating opportunity for those who were looking to get ahead in life."
Ryan said he extends his "deepest sympathies to Russ' family and his amazing group of friends and coworkers who know better than anyone the amazing gifts that Russ brought to the people of Summit County. He was a friend, a leader, a generous and brilliant public servant lost too soon."
"Summit County, the Ohio Democratic Party and all of Ohio have lost a truly great leader," said Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, who is running for the U.S. Senate this fall. "Russ will be remembered as a true champion for Ohio families and someone who worked tirelessly to improve his community, and our state. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and I wish them peace."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), from his office in Washington, issued a statement. "/ [We] are saddened to hear of Russ' passing and offer our deepest sympathies to his family and the Summit County community," Brown said. "His loss will be felt by all those whose lives were made better by his service to his community."