Nicholas Fischbach is in as the Geauga Park District’s newest commissioner, replacing long-time park board member John Leech whose term expires Dec. 31.
Fischbach - who also is the mayor of Burton Village, a position he will keep - was named as Leech’s replacement by Geauga County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Tim Grendell.
By Ohio law, county park board members appointments are made by the respective county probate judge.
Grendell took pains to promote Fischbach’s experience, noting the latter’s almost 35 years of public park management and service. That service includes being the park district’s first-ever chief ranger, serving from 1979 to 1989.
Also, Fischbach served as both the assistant park manager and later, the park manager, of Punderson State Park in Newbury Township.
And before Fischbach retired from the Natural Resources Department, he served as that agency’s Division of Parks and Recreation’s regional district manager.
“Mr. Fischbach will bring his vast wealth of knowledge and experience with public parks and public park management to the Geauga Park District Board,” Grendell said.
“The residents of Geauga County are fortunate to have someone with Mr. Fischbach’s background on the Geauga Park District Board.”
For his part, Fischbach says he’s looking forward to the job.
“You couldn’t ask for a better park district,” Fischbach said. “In fact, my wife and I use them all the time.”
As for any possible agency shortcomings, Fischbach says he doesn’t “see too many negatives.”
“Maybe once I get settled into the job I’ll see something that I didn’t see before, but that being said, it’s a wonderful parks system with very professional people who have a genuine concern for the people of Geauga County,” Fischbach said.
Tom Curtin, the park district’s executive director, says few other people in Geauga County have a love of parks more than does Fischbach.
“I’ve known Nick since 1984,” Curtin said. “I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work both with him and for him, especially since his wealth of park management knowledge will be an excellent platform from which to work.”
Fischbach was one of nine applicants which Grendell received for the non-paying, volunteer job of park commissioner.
Of concern to Grendell was Leech’s involvement with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, serving as that group’s current board chairman.
Since the Conservancy and the park district work closely on land management and purchase issues, Grendell had questions about possible conflicts of interest on the part of Leech.
The other two park board members are Jim Patterson and Michael J. Petruziello, whom Grendell also appointed to the park board shortly after the judge assumed his duties as jurist.
Fischbach said he knows Patterson a little but says that both he and Petruziello have demonstrated their concern for the parks system, as has Grendell.
“He’s a good judge, and absolutely he has a genuine concern for the parks and for the outdoors as a whole,” Fischbach said. “Even when the judge was a state senator he was always concerned about the status of the state parks system.”
Fischbach will attend his first park board meeting as a commissioner Jan. 3.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn