Voters in the city of Chardon will directly elect their mayor for the first time since the late 1970s, with current council members Chris Grau and Nancy McArthur running for the top seat on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
Under Chardon’s previous system, the mayor was elected by the people and ran city operations. But a charter change put a city manager form of government into place where council named its president who acted as a ceremonial mayor. Voters in 2018 approved a charter amendment calling for residents to select the mayor. In January of 2019, council passed an ordinance to provide for an elected mayor in 2021 who would also serve as a seventh member of council. The seats are nonpartisan.
The terms for both council members and the mayor are four years. The $7,000 annual salary for the mayor remains unchanged. Council still elects the vice-mayor who earns $6,500 annually and council members earn $6,000 annually.
Mr. Grau, 56, grew up in the Chardon area, is a 1983 graduate of Chardon High School who has been married for 34 years to his wife Jane and is in his sixth year serving on Chardon City Council.
“We have two children who are both married – Stephen (Megan) Grau and Maggie (Matthew) McBride, we are also proud grandparents to Maizy Grace McBride,” he said.
After high school, Mr. Grau enlisted in the U.S. Air Force until 1988 when he served as a firefighter/EMT at K.I. Sawyer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
He graduated from Kent State University in 1991 and pursued a career in marketing. “In 1995, my brother, Jeff, and I started Lake Erie Video Productions, Inc.,” he said.
Mr. Grau has served as the city’s vice-mayor since 2020, chairman of the Safety Committee, a member of the Finance Committee and has served on the city Planning Commission since 2015.
“I am a registered Republican who seeks to understand before being understood,” said Mr. Grau.
As the vice-mayor and the chairman of the Safety Committee, supporting first responders serving in the police and fire departments remains a top priority, he said. As the city continues to successfully grow through economic and residential development, maintaining staffing is critical for those departments, Mr. Grau added.
“The opportunity to serve as mayor would be a continuation of my desire to ensure our city remains a unique, safe and historic location for our residents and businesses to call home,” said Mr. Grau. “My top priority would be to respect the opinions of all and to continue making decisions with local government that best serve our community.”
City officials currently are working with an outside firm to promote Chardon as a friendly and welcoming business environment.
“Chardon’s entire square’s health and vitality remains a key issue with all of council and we will continue to explore opportunities for improvement,” said Mr. Grau.
As mayor, Mr. Grau said he would work with all council members and city staff to expand the city’s relationship with the Chardon Local School District.
“Encouraging students to better understand how local government works would benefit them in their academic studies and would ensure our future city leaders are better prepared for the future.”
Mr. Grau said living close to Chardon’s historic square provides his family with many opportunities to enjoy entertainment, shopping and dining.
“Our new bike paths are a wonderful asset to enjoy with friends and attending Chardon Local School events for plays, concerts and sports is time well spent, Go Hilltoppers,” said Mr. Grau. “My favorite place in our entire city is sitting on my front porch with my wife Jane, viewing videos and photos of our granddaughter, Maizy, who lives in Nashville.”
Mrs. McArthur, 64, has a B.A. from Cleveland State University where she studied public relations, business writing and promotional communications, and has been a resident of Chardon for the past 25 years.
“My husband of 41 years, Michael McArthur, grew up in Chardon,” said Mrs. McArthur. “We moved from Euclid to Chardon in 1996 when our daughter Kelley was 5 years old and entering kindergarten. We were looking for a good school system and a close community in which to raise our child.”
Mrs. McArthur said she spent more than 25 years working in the private sector working for both large and small companies.
“I have held management and supervisory positions with IBM, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey law firm (now Squire, Patton, Boggs), Firefighters Community Credit Union, KeyBank and the Geauga County Board of Elections where I did campaign finance and trained poll workers.”
Mrs. McArthur is a life-long Republican and in 2014 became the first woman elected as chair of the Geauga County Republican Party and was re-elected in 2016 and in 2018.
She has served on Chardon City Council for 12 years, two years as mayor and six years as vice-mayor having been elected by fellow council members. She also served seven years on the Planning Commission, chairs the Finance Committee, is the former chair of Economic Development and has been on numerous city committees.
“During my first stint as Finance Committee chair, I led an initiative to do a state performance audit which identified over $460,000 in savings and improvements in our city’s operations and services to residents,” she said.
She said her top priority is safety, and she respects and appreciates law enforcement and first responders.
“Other than the Sheriff’s office, our dispatch service is the only other in Geauga County, it is an expensive service, but we back the sheriff’s office and they back us,” said Mrs. McArthur. “We have some of the finest police officers in Geauga County. I would like to hire more officers to keep crime low and to protect our growing population and businesses.”
Mrs. McArthur said another top priority is to build a better working relationship with the county commissioners. “The city and the county have had a long history of discord,” said Mrs. McArthur. “As mayor, I will work to develop a meaningful long-term affiliation with our commissioners and our other county officials.”
When Mrs. McArthur first got involved in local government, she said Chardon’s square was in decline. “Today, I am happy to say that we have few vacancies.
“As your vice mayor, I worked with our businesses on the square to help get assistance they needed to improve their bottom line with retail grant money and liquor licenses for restaurants to bring in more revenue and customers,” she said.
Mrs. McArthur said she loves to visit the square and attend the Friday night summer concerts and other events throughout the year.
“Chardon is an incredibly special place,” said Mrs. McArthur. “We need someone with experienced leadership to move our city forward and maintain our status as the county seat.”
If Mr. Grau is elected mayor, city council would need to select someone to serve the remainder of his two-year term. If Mrs. McArthur is elected mayor, there would be no council vacancies since her term expires Dec. 31.