Jim Smith hates getting up in front of crowds to speak.
He says he always has during his 17 years as mayor of Avon, going so far as to joke that he gets terrified.
The North Coast Chamber of Commerce annual mayor's luncheon at Tom's Country Place, which featured leaders from Sheffield, Sheffield Lake and Avon Lake, was no different.
What was, was the emotion shown by Smith, who got choked up as he said to the crowd of nearly 200 this was his last term in office.
"It takes a lot out of you," Smith said of serving his mayoral duties. "When I first ran for mayor I wanted the city to become a city managementship not a mayorship and I tried to switch it back in 1994, put together a Charter Review commission, but they fooled me."
But not long after singling out some of the people who have helped run the city smoothly during his tenure, Smith quickly picked up in spirits.
"It has been stressful at times, you go to bed, sit at the edge of your bed and wonder what you are going to do," Smith said. " You go for a walk at 2 a.m. and your dog doesn't want to go with you because he thinks your nuts. And your wife tells you to go sleep in the other bed because she jokes saying she can't stand you getting up and calling your office at 2 a.m. and leaving yourself messages because you are too stupid to remember. But we've done a lot as a community."
Avon has indeed experienced a lot of growth since he first took office in 1994, and according to Smith one of the biggest reason's is what the city has to offer families, including the French Creek YMCA and All Pro Freight Stadium.
"If the people aren't happy where they are at, they are not going to put their businesses here," Smith said. " If they are not happy with the quality of life, and you don't give them entertainment, they are not going to put there business here, trust me, it won't happen."
Smith singled out the Y's numbers, where they thought they would be able to get 10,000 members.
"We have 5,200 families and 15,000 members in less than a years time," Smith said. "That is quite a thing to hit, and its just not Avon, it's Elyria, Avon Lake, North Ridgeville, it's that quality of life."
Smith also talked of improving access to the stadium, as the city is extending Recreation Lane.
"We realized that after the Alan Jackson concert, when people waited in the parking lots for two hours and then getting threatening phone calls from everyone who had cowboy boots and a cowboy hat, including my wife." he said with a smile. " It's a fantastic thing where you can go get this type of entertainment close to your house and it pays for itself."
He also talked about rebuilding the Avon Isle Dance Hall, which was originally built in 1924.
"My mother and dad met there," he said with a laugh. "I wouldn’t be here without Avon Isle, and probably a bottle of Jack Daniels, but it is a fantastic place."
Smith was also proud of how his city has survived in tough economic times.
"In 2009 we had a $3.6 million general fund carry over, in 2010 we had $5.5 million carry over," Smith said. " These are very tough times and it amazes me, as I keep finding our numbers going up."
But he warned that times are changing and said, while he is sorry he is retiring, he also felt bad for anyone who runs a city in the future as they will have to think out of the box.
"The way we do business in Ohio as a city is going to get very different," Smith said. "Grants, free money and I have told all my people, let's make sure we do not have grants to do things because these are going away faster than pierogies at a Polish wedding. It is going to change here in Ohio."
As for current projects, Smith said the city is currently in negotiations to get a new hotel, which will bring additional income into the city.
"Hotels are the greatest money in the world," Smith said. "Two and a half acres, if you take all the taxes that go with it, approximately $250,000 per year, and I refer to it as the 'tooth fairy" under the pillow because it helps the city and county out."