The credits rolled, the lights went up and former Chagrin Falls Mayor Lydia Champlin turned to the audience and raised her glass in tribute.
“To everyone who made us look so good,” she toasted and those gathered in the community room of the Chagrin Falls Historical Society, Aug. 28, seconded her motion.
The occasion was the VIP sneak preview of the 58-minute documentary “Five Mayors of Chagrin Falls,” one of 53 feature-length entries in this year’s ninth annual Chagrin Documentary Film Festival running Oct. 3-7.
“Five Mayors ” will be shown just once Oct. 6 at noon in Chagrin Falls Township Hall and figures to be a hometown favorite for the wit and wisdom of the five living mayors referenced in the title of the film.
Mrs. Champlin was one of the mayors to attend the wine and cheese sneak peek event along with Ed Towns and Tom Brick last week. Mayors Henry Bruner and Dick Bodwell sent their apologies but hope to be present for the Oct. 6 question-and-answer session following its screening.
Henry “Hank” Bruner served one term, 1973-1975 followed by three-term mayor B. Richard “Dick” Bodwell, 1985-1991 who was succeeded by Edward “Ed” Towns, 1992-1995.
Then came Lydia “Liddie” Champlin, the village’s first woman mayor who served from 1996-2005 before turning the gavel over to Thomas “Tom” Brick who served 2006-2015.
Each was coaxed, prompted and cajoled to tell their stories by Jan Jones Artz, a well-known local television personality, Moreland Hills resident and no stranger to the art of the personal interview.
While each had his or her own successes and challenges, the film highlights that the one thread that bound the five mayors together but managed to stymie them all was summed up in a word. Parking.
Mr. Bodwell smiled when he recalled his mentor the late Mayor James Solether who put a happy face on the parking problem by telling people the parking in Chagrin Falls at “100 percent full occupancy and has been for many years.”
He told the camera among his “accomplishments” was being quoted in the national press for his efforts in ridding Riverside Park of an invasion of “Bucky Beavers.”
In the film Mr. Bruner remembered how a vast majority of shops in the village were owned and operated by local people, that the village was home to multiple car dealerships but residents had to go out of town to find “a fancy restaurant.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Towns expressed his pride and that of council at the time when a mere $200 purchased property on the Chagrin River east of the then Ivex-Alco plant which would become Whitesburg Nature Preserve. “We had no interest in seeing a development there,” he said.
Mrs. Champlin said she also grappled with the parking deficit in Chagrin Falls and said she is proud of being involved of an initiative that reorganized North Franklin Street, made it a one way only and gained a block long stretch of new parking spaces.
It was Mr. Brick who had the job of mayor during what many call the modern great depression but saw the village soar to new heights with creation of the regional emergency call center known as Chagrin Valley Dispatch. This not only improved service but the village pays less for the service than when it ran it.
The eras, the events and the places the mayors remember in their film come alive accompanied by archival photographs from the Chagrin Falls Historical Society museum collection.
Views from the sky of Chagrin Falls in the film is the work of Drone Ohio and Jeff Holbury Sr., a drone operator/videographer and a Chagrin Falls High School graduate.
Original music “River Town” is provided by another Chagrin Falls grad, the late Tom Luckay with Marge Adler. It adds a soulful accompaniment to the visuals.
There were a lot of pieces and parts to the production and how it all came together is a story in its own.
In his pre-film talk, historical society President John Bourisseau credited member Laura Gorretta for coming up with the idea for a documentary when she realized there were five one-time town leaders still alive and able to discuss the history made during their tenure.
As luck would have it, four of the five still resided in Chagrin Falls and one in nearby Shaker Heights.
Ms. Gorretta confided later that ideas are only that. She credited member Jean Hood for bringing the film project to fruition.
“Jean Hood got the funding, corralled the mayors and chased down all the details,” Ms. Gorretta said.
The film was shot two years ago but went unedited when young videographers Devin Long and Hale Douthit left the area for California and the next phase of their careers.
What happened next was one of those “right time, right place” happenstances when Mr. Bourisseau attended a Chagrin Falls alumni event where he ran into school chum Skip Church who just happened to be a documentary filmmaker.
“I remember as we were leaving, Skip’s parting words to me were ‘if there is anything I can ever do for you,’” Mr. Bourisseau said. The preview party audience laughed knowing what happened next. Mr. Bourisseau credits Mr. Church for “putting it together.”
The Five Mayor committee included historical society members Mr. Bourisseau, former historical society executive director Jane Babinsky, Ms. Gorretta, Mrs. Hood and the museum’s photo archive coordinator Zo Sykora.