There was a sense of closure but also of reluctance in John Dietrich’s voice Monday as he said his goodbyes.
“I’ve been here through five mayors,” he said in a final few words to city council, looking back on his 18-year tenure as president of the local legislative body and remarking on progress made, especially in Amherst’s downtown historical district.
Dietrich was named the city’s electrical inspector in 1972 and in the following years served on the board of appeals and council.
He has played a major role in the development of Amherst, helping to woo the LorMet Credit Union headquarters, Precision Auto, Premier Toyota, and Premier Foods factory to Cooper Foster Park Road. Under his watch, Target came to Amherst and a Wal-Mart location here was the subject of great debate until it located in Lorain.
Dietrich worked closely with mayors John Higgins and David Taylor to shepherd Amherst through a building boom in the early 2000s and the recession of the mid-2000s.
“I think all of us here at council are not only aware but thankful for your leadership over the years,” said fellow Democratic councilman Joe Miller, thanking Dietrich for guidance. He said the outbound president molded his political career, sometimes telling him no when he needed to hear it and other times prepping him to fight for what he thought was right.
In November, Dietrich lost a reelection bid to Republican councilwoman Jennifer Wasilk, who now is the most senior member among Amherst’s elected officials.
City auditor David Kukucka, also a Democrat, chose not to run for reelection, saying it was time to step down after 22 years in finance and council positions.
Miller said Kukucka took many phone calls that helped inform many of his council votes, and never hesitated to offer guidance whether in regard to the budget or politics.
“I’d like to wish everybody the best. Treat each other well. Be good to your constituents,” Kukucka said.
Mayor Mark Costilow, a Republican, offered words of thanks to both Dietrich and Kukucka. “I really do appreciate their many years of service that they put in for the city,” he said, adding that Dietrich’s wisdom and knowledge of the city will be missed.
Council members voted to cancel meetings for the remainder of December, making Monday’s the last for outbound officials.
A swearing-in ceremony for new office-holders is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 3.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.