David A. Boston (1947-2018)

David Boston
David Boston

David A. Boston, executive director of the nonprofit Anne Grady Services, who became Toledo city manager at age 34 and then a private-sector executive and served for more than a decade on the port authority board, died Saturday in ProMedica Toledo Hospital. He was 71.

His family did not report a cause of death.

Mr. Boston led the Anne Grady organization, which aids those with developmental disabilities, since 2008. He earlier served several years on the Anne Grady Foundation board. 

“He really had a focus on the folks we were serving,” said Tom Gibney, president of the Anne Grady Services board. “He was universally loved.”

With government requirements subject to change, “You have to be nimble and be responsive,” Mr. Gibney said. “Dave could handle all of those things with skill and efficiency and calmness.”

Mr. Boston was appointed by Lucas County commissioners in July, 1994, to the board of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.

“He had a multitude of different life experiences,” said G. Opie Rollison, who served on the port board for 18 years. “He could talk about government or development, real estate, all the things we were involved in. He had a plethora of ideas. He was even keeled and explained his position. He did it very effectively.”

Mr. Boston was a critic during his tenure of port funds — money from Lucas County —  being spent by a companion agency to create jobs across the region. With two years left in his third term, he resigned at the end of 2004 to give someone else a chance, he said then. He said then that he was proud of his work as airport committee chairman and on a project to analyze the possible uses of land near Toledo Express Airport.

A Blade editorial afterward lauded “the nature and quality of his contribution to the board and the agency. Mr. Boston was really the first of a new breed of board members truly interested in reforming the port authority.” 

He was born Jan. 17, 1947, in Kentucky, but moved with his family at age 3 to the Toledo area. He was a graduate of Rogers High School, where he played basketball.

He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Toledo and, in 1970, joined the city’s employee ranks. His first role was as a personnel analyst in the civil service division. He became an assistant director of the division five years later and, in 1977, was appointed commissioner of civil service. It was a new role, created with Mr. Boston’s administrative skill in mind, to consolidate civil service, personnel, and labor relations functions. He received a master of business administration degree that year from UT.

Named in 1979 as assistant to then-City Manager J. Michael Porter, one of his first jobs was to help negotiate an end to a two-day strike. He was the manager’s liaison to council and served as de facto safety director of the city.

Mr. Boston became Toledo’s 12th city manager — in effect, its chief executive — in September, 1981, selected by Mayor Doug DeGood and confirmed by city council. An attribute he had, Mr. DeGood said Tuesday, was “he was not a professional city manager.”

Unlike those for whom city manager is a career, Mr. Boston “didn’t feel that a city manager ought to view the elected officials as the other side. He understood we were all on the same side,” Mr. DeGood said. 

Mr. Boston oversaw a boom in downtown development that spanned Mr. DeGood’s tenure and that of Mayor Donna Owens — including the riverfront One SeaGate, new office buildings and hotels, and Portside Festival Marketplace. 

“He worked literally 70 hours a week in an attempt to implement the policy decisions the council had made in connection with a huge commitment made by the private sector,” Mr. DeGood said. 

His service to the city, Ms. Owens said “was just immeasurable. He was a quality person, and he was very knowledgeable and very bright, and he understood government. He had the personality to help make things happen.”

Mr. Boston resigned as city manger in 1985 after the city’s loss of an investment of more than $19 million through a Florida brokerage firm that later failed. He said he had not been aware of the investment.

He was president of Associated Building Contractors of Northwest Ohio in 1986 when Rudolph/Libbe Inc. named him president of a new subsidiary, Vista Development. He was president of Cavista, a real estate and development firm, from March, 1999, until Dec. 27, 2001. The firm collapsed under the legal and financial troubles of the late Edwin Bergsmark, its chairman.

Mr. Boston later was vice president of Westchester Mortgage Services. 

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at the Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township. Services will be private.

The family suggests tributes to Anne Grady Services.

Contact Mark Zaborney at mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.