Handwerk continues to serve his hometown

Handwerk continues to serve his hometown
Jon Kinney

Dave Handwerk is just starting his fourth and final four-year term as mayor of Orrville. Before that he served 18 years on council including 12 as council president.


Dave Handwerk and his entire family seem to personify the qualities that have built Orrville since it was incorporated in 1864 as a railroad town.

Handwerk is just starting his fourth and final four-year term as mayor. Before that he served 18 years on council including 12 as council president.

The election ballot that voters get when they go to the polls indicates party labels. But as Handwerk notes, they mean very little.

“A Democrat actually was the one who encouraged me to seek the council’s presidency,” the longtime Republican said.

At age 67 Handwerk is still a youthful-looking man with an easy smile and handshake. And there is another Handwerk in the “pipeline.”

Son C.J. just completed his first year on council, and C.J.’s wife is a teacher in the local school system, as was the mayor and his wife.

This tradition of multi-generational families contributing to the city’s history carries over in sports and industry. Think Smucker’s and the tag line that used to appear on its TV commercials: “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.”

Paul Powell, the longtime editor of the local newspaper, was fond of calling the city “the promised land.” And the local chamber of commerce presents a yearly award to honor those men and women who have contributed to the city’s growth and welfare.

As you might expect, Handwerk’s name is on the list of recipients.

Handwerk and his wife Nancy are both natives of Orrville. After college, OSU, the mayor accepted a teaching position at Triway, where he coached track and taught elementary physical education.

Then in 1987 he took a similar position in the Orrville schools where he continued to serve until 2007.

As a longtime track coach, Handwerk now has to be content with helping run the city — back problems in his 40s put an end to his running days, he said.

The mayor took a pass on commenting on the national political situation, as well as the upcoming Ohio primary and fall presidential elections.

But he did have this to say about how things have changed over the years: “I think local initiatives are more important because 24-hour news can now report more of those things (national) and talk about them.”

And speaking of local initiatives, the influence the J.M. Smucker Co. has had is strong. Carrying on the multi-generational theme, the fifth generation of Smucker’s is now at the helm of the still-growing company and Orrville’s largest employer.

“The Smucker family and the business they have created can only be looked upon as a blessing to this community,” Handwerk said. “They remain our largest employer and second-largest user of electricity. Whether (company employees) live in Orrville or not, if they work here, they pay taxes here, and they are a giant part of our success as a community.”

The company also has taken a leading role in the revitalization of the downtown area, even moving some of its employees to one of the renovated buildings on the east side of North Main Street.

“Heartland Point, Bouquet Shop, two great additions to our downtown and the renovation of the rest of that block, all such positives to Orrville,” the mayor said. “The support of Smucker’s of our schools and school children through the Heartland Education Committee has been second to none. (They are) the first to step up time after time for project support.”

Looking back on his tenure as mayor, the mayor was hard-pressed to name the most significant accomplishment.

Many projects take years if not decades to complete.

The Pine Street extension, which is designed to ease truck traffic, was completed last fall. But the mayor noted the money for the project was first set aside in the federal budget in 2005 by the late Ralph Regula, who represented this area in Congress for many years.

Industry has played a major role in the city’s development, and that also has been a focal point for the mayor and his team. Orrville currently has three industrial parks, and the mayor revealed the city is currently in negotiations to acquire land for a fourth.

“I think we are fairly close” to completing the deal, Handwerk said. “We’ve had a lot of good things happen in Orrville over the years. And certainly that will continue after I am gone.”

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