The mayor of Akron is using the retirement of a longtime public servant as an opportunity to consolidate departments that directly serve the public.

Mayor Dan Horrigan announced Thursday that John Valle, the city’s first and only director of neighborhood assistance, retire at the end of February. His duties — overseeing home inspections, responding to nuisance complaints, policing vacant properties, mowing empty city lots, operating the city’s 311 call center and managing parks and recreation until it was consolidated with planning and development last year — will be folded into the Public Service Department.

The Public Service Department handles road and building maintenance, infrastructure projects, trash removal and other critical daily customer service functions.

Eufrancia Lash will assume the responsibilities of the director of Neighborhood Assistance in his refocused role as a deputy in Public Service. Lash has been the deputy director for both departments since he was hired 13 months ago.  

Chris Ludle, who was promoted last year from deputy director to director of Public Service, will continue to lead that department.

“This unified leadership team is part of my vision to continually improve communication, coordination and customer experience,” Horrigan said in a press release. “Public Service and Neighborhood Assistance both deliver services that keep our neighborhoods clean and livable. The goal of this integration is to achieve better outcomes for residents by bringing together many of the most important city services under one umbrella.”

To complete the consolidation, Acting Sewer Superintendent Jim Aitken, a West Akron resident who began his civil service career as a seasonal sewer maintenance worker in 1986, will be promoted to deputy director for operations in Public Service, absorbing some of Lash’s duties.

Aitken’s new salary will be $124,363 a year, which is what Lash will continue to make. Valle’s current salary is $149,323.

Valle first served his north Akron neighborhood in 1984 as an elected representative for Ward 1, which at the time covered North Hill and Highland Square. He was elected citywide to an at-large post from 1989 to 2000 and served a two-year term as president toward the end of his time on council.

He was the clerk of council from 2001 until then-mayor Don Plusquellic named him deputy director of Public Service in 2006. He held that post until 2012, when he became the first director of the newly minted Department of Neighborhood Assistance, formed specifically to increase the city’s responsiveness to resident concerns.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the residents of the city of Akron the past 37 years,” said Valle, who looks forward in retirement to spending more time with his wife, Jenee, their two sons and four grandchildren. “I’ve always strived to provide the best customer service possible to our residents and I thank all the city employees who helped me achieve this goal.”

“John Valle is a highly accessible public servant who has earned the trust, respect and admiration of residents, city workers, and community partners alike over the course of his distinguished career with the City,” Horrigan said. “John is a problem solver who cares deeply about Akron.  He is known for returning phone calls from residents, and is someone who wouldn’t hesitate to personally visit a home or business to address a concern.”

Valle’s tenure as the first and last director at Neighborhood Assistance included the implementation of the 311 call center to answer constituent concerns, moving that system online; the creation of a vacant building registry to hold private owners accountable for blight; the acquisition of grants to clear homes of lead paint and more.

Reach reporter Doug Livingston at [email protected] or 330-996-3792.

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