Perrysburg mayor looks back, ahead as term draws to a close

Evans hopes riverfront project wins approval

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    Nelson Evans said he would never run for mayor when he was retiring as Perrysburg police chief in 2003.

    “I’ll leave politics to politicians,” he said then.

    After being elected mayor two years later, he said he would leave after his first term and take his wife and father on a boat trip.

    Now Mr. Evans is looking at the final six months of his second term as Perrysburg’s mayor, and he has to leave.

    After 25 years’ service in the Perrysburg Police Department, he retired because of friction with the mayor at the time.

    “At my retirement party I heard ‘mayor, mayor,’ ” Mr. Evans said. It was chant, encouraging him to run for the position, he said.

    After consistently telling people he wouldn’t run, his wife, Felicia Evans, kept on pointing out signs for reasons he should.

    “God has called me to do certain things, and do things I haven’t anticipated,” Mr. Evans said. “My wife would say there’s a burning bush, she’s called me Moses. I say, ‘ya, right.’ ”

    After weeks of her pointing out “burning bushes,” Mr. Evans gave in. “I’m glad I did,” he says.

    Eight years later, Mr. Evans is proud of such accomplishments as departments getting creative with things such as garbage cleanup, combining the wastewater treatment plant and public utilities to save money, and even a partnership with the Perrysburg Baseball and Softball Organization. He is also proud of eliminating the city’s $6 million debt.

    It wasn’t all good in office, though. Mr. Evans joked that he had times he wanted to tape aspirin around his head.

    “I’ve done dunk tanks and ribbon cuttings,” he said. “I would go to events just to be visible and they will ask that I say a few words. I had to learn how to give impromptu speeches.”

    With six months left in his term, Mr. Evans is hoping to be able to see his riverfront restoration project approved. The $26 million project would connect Fort Meigs to Hood Park with a path and add a theater, new parks, and several other attractions.

    “We’ve already started Phase 1, and I hope we can get it kicked off and some hearty community support,” he said. “It is going to need the community to support it because it is expensive, but I hope it is a high priority.”

    City councilmen Mike Olmstead and Laura Hummer were, as of last week, the only two to announce their candidacies to succeed Mayor Evans.

    Mr. Evans said he has several options. He is considering a local job opportunity, but if that doesn’t pan out, he and his wife may move to Florida, or Mrs. Evans could become a traveling nurse and he would go with her.