PIQUA — After nearly 700 city commission meetings, 29 years, 20 city commissioners, seven mayors, and five city managers, Piqua City Commission Clerk Becky Cool is retiring.
“I got the job in 1989,” Cool said.
Cool, who was born and raised in Piqua, has been working since she was 15 years old, when she first worked at a pharmacy at the corner of High Street and Broadway. She later went on to do data processing for Citizen’s Bank, patient registering at the Piqua hospital, and work for Border City Bank before she took on a part-time position in the city Health Department in 1986. In 1987, she began her full-time position as the personnel secretary.
It was when she was personnel secretary that the city manager’s secretary position was opening up, which came with the clerk of commission role.
“Frank Patrizio was city manager at the time,” Cool said. “He came over and he said, ‘You gave me a stack of resumes and applications, but there’s one missing.’” When she asked which one was missing, he said, “Yours.”
Patrizio encouraged Cool to apply, and she got the city manager’s secretary position. Cool later went from the city manager’s office to the Planning and Zoning Department, and the commission asked Cool to stay on as the clerk.
Cool has also been the longest sitting clerk of the commission.
“The city was incorporated in March of 1850, and they became a charter city in July of 1929,” Cool said. “And then the first city manager and commission was appointed on Jan. 1, 1930.”
Cool found that most clerks were in the position for a year or two. Mary Elliot was the clerk of commission for 16 years, and Lucy Laug, the clerk whom Cool replaced, held the post for 12 years.
Cool has attended almost 700 commission meetings and approximately 140 budget, special, and executive meetings with the commission. She has worked with seven mayors: William J. Cruse, Lucinda L. Fess, Frank Barhorst, David Martin, Robert DeBrosse, Thomas Hudson, and Kathryn “Kazy” B. Hinds, the current mayor.
“I’ve worked with 20 different commissioners,” Cool said. She has also worked with five city managers, including Frank Patrizio Jr., R. Mark Rohr, N. Lawrence Wolke, Fred Enderle, and Gary Huff, the current city manager.
Along with Cool, her husband Steve and their son Ryan have also helped make covering the commission meetings a family affair. Ryan started televising the commissioners live in 1995 for Time Warner when he was still in high school. When he graduated in June 1996, Steve took over the position of cameraman, and has been doing it for over 22 years, Cool said. Steve is also retiring with his wife. They share another adult child, Stephanie Gerter, who lives in Cleveland.
“We planned our vacations around city commission meetings,” Cool said.
Cool — whose job as clerk entailed preparing the agendas for the commissioners, reading the items during meetings, and writing the meeting minutes after each meeting — has seen a number of memorable projects come before the commission and has watched the city change over time.
“When this (municipal) building was built, there was a lot of commission involvement in putting together plans for this building,” Cool said. “They had to come before the commission to get a lot of things approved.”
When the current municipal building was under construction, they moved out to the Aerovent building off of Ash Street/U.S. Route 36.
“We were there almost two years while they built this building,” Cool said. “Then we held the commission meetings at Mote Park.” Starting in 1999, Cool and her husband had to set up the Mote Park community building twice a month for the city commission meetings for two years, taking their camera equipment and other necessary items there before the meeting and then taking everything down at the end of each meeting.
“That was a trial,” Cool said.
The Fort Piqua Plaza and the Piqua Public Library was another project that stirred up controversy, as some people did not want to go forward with the renovation project, she said. It ended up being a “perfect place,” though, Cool said.
“They’re booked every week,” she said, adding that had they not gone through with the improvement project, “That would have been a hole in our downtown.”
Cool also noted another important city project, the Veterans Memorial, which said was a “no-brainer.” Other memorable projects included the Piqua bike path, French Park, and the new water treatment and wastewater treatment plants.
With still more to come, Cool said that the Lock 9 improvement project is “going to be fantastic.” She also noted, “The stores are coming back to downtown.”
“I think the commission’s accomplished a lot in the last 10 to 15 years,” Cool said. “Piqua’s back in action.”
Cool said that she has learned “so much in these 29 years,” and she has enjoyed representing the city and helping residents understand government processes. She said that she could help residents understand why and how the city was doing things.
Cool’s time with city has meant a lot to her, she said, which is making it difficult for her to leave.
“It’s going to be hard for me to leave,” Cool said. She said that it took her over four hours to write her letter of resignation to the city’s Planning and Zoning Department.
“I just know it’s time,” she said.
Cool and her husband Steve purchased an RV in May, and they plan to travel now that they’re both retired. She said that she can always go back, and expects that she might do that after they travel a bit.
“I think the thing I’m going to miss the most is the people,” she said.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org