Closing out on council

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Chesapeake council member Paul Hart addresses the Dec. 4 meeting of council, his last as a member before his retirement at the end of December. (Larry Rees | For The Ironton Tribune)

Hart winding down 38 years serving in Chesapeake office

CHESAPEAKE — Paul Hart calls the Village of Chesapeake “one of the loves of my life.”

And, last week, the village showed their appreciation for the service for the longtime council member, who is retiring when his term expires at the end of the month.

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The Dec. 4 meeting at village hall was Hart’s last serving on council and the village hosted a reception in his honor and presented him with a plaque for his time in office — which is continuous since 1986, save for one term when he temporarily retired.

Hart’s time on the council began in 1986, when he said he was encouraged by Mayor Bob Templeton to serve.

A businessman for two decades at that point, Hart said he joined to council to be an advocate for such business interests, as well as to help the village grow.

Hart has a lifelong interest in seeing Chesapeake thrive, born on Third Avenue in a home built by his father, Harry Hart.

Chesapeake council member Paul Hart is seen outside Village Hall in 2017. Hart is retiring from council, after nearly four decades in office, when his term expires at the end of the month. (The Ironton Tribune | Heath Harrison)

Hart said he was one of eight siblings and, when he was growing up, two Hart families lived in the home, with 17 people in the residence.

His father built many homes, churches and businesses in the village, including rebuilding the village hall, when it was nearly destroyed in a gas explosion in the 1940s.

Hart said his father’s work was evident from the family home.

“You could stand on the yard and see five houses my dad built,” Hart recalled.

Hart left Chesapeake to serve in the military for four years, then spent a brief time in Pennsylvania, before returning to the village in 1968, where he began his long business career

there, running a Texaco station near the bridge.

From there, his business interests expanded to include two gas stations, a muffler shop, a convenience store and parts services.

Eventually, he moved into real estate and owned land and buildings, rented to numerous businesses in the county, including property in Burlington, near the busy Walmart shopping area, which Hart said he got “for a bargain” prior to that development.

Hart credits his business success to not just being at “the right time and the right place,” but also to his family, especially his “hard working wife,” Beverly, who died earlier this year after 58 years of marriage

“She was the best thing to ever happen to me, and it was the worst thing ever when she died,” he said.

The Harts have two sons, one of whom, Paul Nathan Hart, will be rejoining the council in January, having won a seat in November’s election.

The younger Hart has served multiple terms on council before, concurrently with his father.

In his long tenure on council, Hart said he was most proud of his work on the sewer project for Chesapeake, as well as helping to build up the police departments and maintaining  “the daily operations of the village.

“Just to keep doing what we’re doing,” he said of village services.

Hart said he has worked with “a lot of good, fine people” in his nearly four decades on council, noting he has served under seven mayors.

He praises many of them, such as former Mayor Dick Gilpin, who he said was key to getting slip repair done for the village, former Mayor Tommy Templeton, who he said “went above and beyond” in his dedication to the village,  the late County Commissioner Bill Pratt, who he said was always attentive to the village’s needs, as well as former State Rep. Ron James, former mayor Jim Justice and former State Sen. Oakley C. Collins.

He also spoke highly of former county commissioner and treasurer and current Ohio Speaker of the House Jason Stephens, who he said he has always had a good relationship with.

Hart especially had strong accolades for the three members of the Union Township Trustees, who partner with the village on things such as the Chesapeake-Union Volunteer Fire Department.

 “They have really worked with us,” he said. “They are ‘get ‘er done’ type of guys.”

Hart said he also wanted to thank “every resident and council member” who gave him feedback over the years.

“They kept me straight,” he said,

Hart said the biggest change he has seen over his time on council comes due to more regulations form the state and grant requirements, in the need for minutes and villages workings to be more thoroughly documented. He credits the village’s former clerk-treasurer, Peggy Houston, to help them meet that challenge.

As he departs village hall, Hart said he thinks the current mayor, Drew Griffin, “will do all right” and was optimistic of the future.

His advice to the remaining members of council, as well as those who may join in the future: “Do your job, voice your opinion and put the village first.”

Hart said he will be no stranger to village hall, and will still be attending council meetings, offering advice when he can and keeping up with things.

He said the village has many needs, particularly in economic growth.

“Chesapeake needs a grocery store and a restaurant,” he offered as examples.

He said he hopes that more people will begin to attend council members and stresses that it important because the village is “home” and to not take that for granted.

 “Where in a big town can you get people to help you like in a little village?” he said.

Looking back on his time in office, as well as his business career, Hart said he has “been very blessed.”

“It’s been good and I definitely wouldn’t trade my life with anyone,” he said.  “I’ve always said to put God, family and friends first. And, if you do that, you will have a great life.”