LIME CITY — As a quiet leader, Perrysburg Township Administrator Walt Celley shepherded the community through growth and a pandemic.
Celley’s last day was Jan. 6 and the township held a retirement party for him the day before.
“I was very glad I could spend the last 10 years of a full-time career here at Perrysburg Township. I feel like I have made some contributions,” Celley said. “I am also thankful for all the things that didn’t happen on my watch, probably as much so as for the things we did get accomplished.
“But I do feel like I was a capable administrator and this is a wonderful group to be associated with. They are very professional and I very much appreciate professionalism,” Celley said.
Celley is now looking forward to the private practice of law.
“Being a lawyer is not a prerequisite, but it certainly is an added bonus,” Trustee Bob Mack said of Celley’s credentials.
Immediately prior to being township administrator, which he started in January of 2013, he was the township director for almost four years.
He had also been in private law practice for eight years, as a partner in the firm Celley and Sanderson LLC. He specialized in zoning issues, joint economic development districts and joint economic development zones. These are all issues which he dealt with as a township administrator.
Before entering his law partnership, he worked for a variety of small private practice firms in the areas of real estate, foreclosures, collections, domestic relations, political subdivision representation and litigation.
Early in his career he worked as a law clerk to John Potter, judge of the U.S. District Court – Western Division of the Northern District of Ohio. He also had court admissions to the Supreme Court of Ohio in 1987, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in 1988, and the Supreme Court of the United States in 2006.
Being township administrator was a little like being a father, Celley said.
“When you work with a group of first responders, you kind of worry, all the time, about them. Every time you see them roll out, someone’s hurt or someone’s in trouble. They never go into a normal situation,” Celley said.
There was also the mundane work.
“I prepared all the resolutions, since I’ve been here. It’s not exciting, but it’s challenging and interesting and allows for some creativity from time to time.”
Celley also was able to work the balancing act of dealing with those administrative issues, while working negotiations in the collective bargaining agreements with the firefighters and police officers.
He is very proud of the new road levy the township passed five years ago. He said that it brings in approximately $600,000 per year. He did all the legal work, drafting and resolutions.
Celley is soft-spoken, even-keeled and modest, leaving others to speak about him.
The township trustees do speak highly of Celley, particularly for his daily leadership during the early part of the pandemic.
“When things first started coming down, Walt, he could have stayed home, but he was here every day. There were days when he had two TVs in front of him, trying to collect information that was coming in from the federal government, the state and the county. He really tried to stay on top of that stuff,” Trustee Joe Schaller said. “We got through it in pretty good shape.”
Trustee Bob Mack made sure to point out Celley’s community and civic activities, because they are not job or government related, but help the people of Perrysburg Township directly.
“Through Rotary, Walt ran the Strive program at Penta (Career Center). That was a really big deal for a number of years. It was a program where they would talk about careers. We would have people from Penta shadow with me,” Mack said. “In addition to that, he was a leader at the Owens Community College Foundation for many years. They are both great big deals in Perrysburg Township.”
He was on the Owens foundation as a board member and served as secretary. With the Perrysburg Rotary Club, he is both a member and Paul Harris Fellow. With the Boy Scouts of America, he is an Eagle Scout and former Scoutmaster.
The boards he has been a part of include Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments, the City of Toledo/Perrysburg Township/FedEx Ground JEDD and the Rossford Ohio Transportation Improvement District. He was also board vice president of the Wood County Regional Airport Authority.
The township is in good hands with the new administrator, Celley said.
“I couldn’t think of a better person to turn it over to, Jon Eckel, who I’ve known for at least 40 years. He’s going to do a great job and he’s done a great job already,” Celley said.