With humor, poignancy and a nod to this year’s bicentennial, Mayor Edward H. Kraus donned a black top hat and cape in opening Tuesday’s annual State of the City address.
For the more than 150 people in attendance at the Solon Chamber of Commerce’s first luncheon program of the year, Mayor Kraus transformed into “Samuel Bull,” one of the city’s founding fathers and proceeded to give a timeline of the city’s past.
“It’s a great celebration this year, and I ran into an old friend of mine who wanted to share some thoughts with you for a minute,” Mayor Kraus said in character to the crowd at the Signature of Solon ballroom. “My name is Samuel Bull.”
Mayor Kraus went on to describe Solon’s early roots, complete with the city’s first settlers and the choosing of the town’s name, which was after Samuel Bull’s son’s middle name, “Lorenzo Solon Bull.”
He chronicled how the community was first established, including the school’s development back in the early days, before taking off the costume and recognized the city’s leaders in recent history.
“I stand on the shoulders of giants as we celebrate our great 200 years,” Mayor Kraus said.
He credited past mayors and their contributions to the city as well as their role as mentor to him. In attendance at the State of the City was former Mayor Charles Smercina’s widow, Dorothy “Dottie,” as well as former mayors Robert Paulson and Kevin Patton.
Mayor Kraus also gave special recognition to former Economic Development Director Peggy Weil-Dorfman for her more than 30 years in building and retaining the city’s business core.
“We are Team Solon,” Mayor Kraus said, crediting the contributions of City Council members as well as the city staff.
He showed through a slide show the “Solon of Today,” noting the top school system in the state and introducing members of the Solon Board of Education and staff members.
“You are the best partners and you come through with everything,” Mayor Kraus continued in recognizing the Solon Chamber of Commerce.
For his department heads at City Hall, Mayor Kraus said he is the “luckiest guy to have the best directors anyone could ask for.”
The thanks and praise continued with Mayor Kraus recognizing organizations such as the Solon Rotary, several members of whom were in attendance, for their contributions to the city.
“Thank you for your friendship and support,” he said. “You continue to be part of all we do as a community.”
He also thanked the city’s law department, as well as his wife Bonnie and assistant Maria Farley, among others.
Mayor Kraus continued on the Solon of Today that it was two years ago he lamented the condition of the SOM Center Plaza where an empty Sears building once sat. Today, it is home to a $3 million redevelopment, including a Hobby Lobby and an Aldi food store.
He noted that there were 47 new businesses to Solon in 2019, crediting a small team including Director of Business Development and Marketing Angee Shaker.
“She has brought so much vitality, so much energy and so much drive to this job,” he said of Mrs. Shaker. “She has eight titles and is one person doing the job of 10.”
Mayor Kraus also spoke of the importance of Community Life and various projects and initiatives that connect the city and provide walkability, including a Solon Connect program on tap for this year.
“The reality is we are doing great, but I’m more (excited) about the future than anything else, because Solon’s greatest days are ahead of us,” he said.
With that, Mayor Kraus invited the audience to take a quick peek at “Reimagining Solon,” showing a video of imagery that included a future welcome monument on the freeway, streetscape improvements along SOM Center Road, downtown redevelopment, pedestrian friendly streetscapes and more.
“Aurora Road, we’re coming for you,” Mayor Kraus said of future improvements there.
“Sometimes you have got to plan for the future,” he said.
Mayor Kraus said that what Solon is most noted for is its diversity and inclusion, noting he was the first Jewish mayor and he took part in the groundbreaking of the city’s first mosque now being built on Liberty Road by the Chagrin Valley Islamic Center.
“It doesn’t get more diverse or inclusive than that,” Mayor Kraus said.
He wrapped up his address with another nod to the Solon schools, where two of his daughters graduated and his son currently attends. “If you have never walked the halls of the high school, do it,” Mayor Kraus urged. “You feel the SC (Solon Comets). There are kids of every religion, culture and ethnicity.
“We are all SC and thank you for being part of my team.”