Mercer reflects on 12 years as mayor

| December 10, 2019

Steve Mercer

COSHOCTON – Coshocton City’s longest serving mayor believes he was put in the position for a purpose.

“There are things that we initiated that someone else is going to have to run with, but I’m satisfied that God has used me for what he wanted me for while I was here,” said Mayor Steve Mercer.

He has many positives to reflect on after leading the community for 12 years. Mercer was the first mayor of Coshocton to serve three back-to-back terms. Prior to that, he served three terms on city council for a total of six years on council and 18 in city government.

“When I was first approached about running for city council it wasn’t something I’d ever thought about before,” Mercer said. “Being on council helped me learn about how government operated and evaluate and see the needs of our community.”

After serving on city council he was once again encouraged by others to take the next step and run for mayor.

“I was encouraged by many people to do that except my mother,” Mercer said. “She’s been gone for 10 years now, but at the time was living in Arizona. I called her after I’d made the decision to run and she said please don’t tell me you are running for mayor. She was one who didn’t like politics, but was very supportive after that initial shock. I think she was afraid of the time it would take up. We still had time to go out there though. We always went out once a year and never did stop doing that.”

One thing Mercer doesn’t think people realize about the role of mayor is the stress that comes with the job, especially when you take ownership of it like he did.

“I had many sleepless nights,” he said. “My whole first term we dealt with the effects of the recession, not having money to do anything and the bankruptcy of the ethanol plant (which was filed by the people who originally opened it).”

After the ethanol plant filed bankruptcy the city negotiate settlements with various organizations because of debt it was saddled with from work done to prepare for the plant to come to the community. They sought and received $300,000 in forgiveness from the ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) and were able to have interest only payments from a loan converted to payments against the principal.

A lot of work also has been done behind the scenes to make city government more efficient and safe.

“We consolidated some departments and some positions, negotiated with unions so we had more flexibility with how employees were used, and came up with official job descriptions that had not been done in 25 years,” Mercer said. “We also created a whole safety program with a part time position to promote safety in the workplace. Before this we had no one specifically focused on safety.”

During Mercer’s terms the city also created a presence on the web and has upgraded it twice.

“It made the city more accessible to the public,” he said. “All our forms can be found online.”

Efforts also were made during the last 12 years to update city vehicles and equipment.

“Once we emerged from the recession we were able to begin replacing vehicles and equipment with much safer ones,” Mercer said.

Another focus of his was on parks and recreation.

“We created Himebaugh Park by doing a land swap with the school system,” Mercer said. “We refurbished Bancroft Park and Hall Park will be finished next spring. It (Hall Park) was another piece of land we received from the school system. They wanted to get rid of it so we took it. It’s been completely redone and will have pickleball courts.”

The city also now has Riverfront Park by the sewer plant and Waterworks Park by the water plant.

“These created more water access to one of our most natural resources and more people will be able to enjoy our rivers,” Mercer said.

One of the biggest ways he feels he is leaving the city better off has to do with utilities.

“We were able to negotiate with the county commissioners to consolidate their water system into the city’s for one system,” Mercer said. “We also negotiated the water agreement with West Lafayette. My vision has always been that utilities are a city’s greatest resource. By realigning these we can help stabilize the city and provide much needed quality water to customers beyond the city limits. This is something that will benefit the city for decades to come.”

He is thankful for all those who have support him and his initiatives over the years.

“I can’t overstate my appreciation for the support of not just the citizens, but all the other people, organizations, and agencies that supported the vision I’ve had for things and that we’ve been able to negotiate agreements for the good of the city,” Mercer said.

His wife officially retired from her job at the post office and Mercer plans to join her in retirement in January 2020. For the time being he plans on simply enjoying time with her, their two daughters and four grandchildren.

“For a while I just want to experience exhaling,” Mercer said. “If there is something else in my future we will just see what God brings across my path.”

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Category: Government

About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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