Mark Schwieterman’s employment with the city of Kettering spans five different decades, during which he’s become what one fellow city manager called “a pillar” for municipal leaders statewide.
The end of Schwieterman’s 34 years with the city — more than 16 as its top administrator — ends Saturday. His departure closes a chapter that those who have worked closely with him say has been marked by successes that far outweigh failures.
The redevelopment of what is now Kettering Business Park, the modernization of Kettering’s fire and police facilities, and job growth at the Miami Valley Research Park all came under Schwieterman’s leadership, several officials have said.
Kettering “acknowledges the work, the foresight and the unwavering grit” Schwieterman has displayed to improve the city and “the entire region without hesitation or complaint,” according to a city council proclamation approved recently.
“Mark has been a pillar within the local government management profession, within the Dayton region and throughout Ohio,” longtime Oakwood City Manager Norbert Klopsch said in an email.
Schwieterman has served as treasurer for the Ohio City/County Managers Association since 2012, according to its website.
Schwieterman’s successor, former Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson, told the Dayton Daily News when he was offered the job in October that Kettering is seen as a “benchmark” for other Ohio cities and credited Schwieterman.
“I greatly respect the work he has done and his leadership in Kettering,” Greeson said.
‘Consummate team player’
Former Kettering Mayor Don Patterson, who led city council for all but a year of Schwieterman’s tenure as city manager, said the two sometimes had private closed-door disagreements.
“But, both of us were always pulling on the same end of the rope,” Patterson said recently. “We wanted what was best for this community.
“And sometimes to do that you need to have some discussions on what to do. And Mark was a consummate leader. He was a consummate team player,” he added.
Schwieterman, 57, said he was more than a year removed from earning an accounting degree from the University of Dayton in 1989 when he started as a Kettering tax analyst. He worked in the finance department for about 11 years and became budget manager in the mid-1990s.
At that time, what is now Kettering Business Park was the home of the Defense Electronics Supply Center, a recently closed Air Force installation that for decades was a major Kettering employer.
The city took over the property and “I did a lot of financial forecasting for the team on that business park in the mid-1990s,” Schwieterman said.
When he was promoted to assistant city manager in 2000, the former DESC site “was one of my direct responsibilities” in his new job and he “became day-to-day involved” in the property remediation.
Schwieterman said then-City Manager Steve Husemann “took a chance on me and gave me the opportunities to succeed and showed me the right ways to do things.”
Current Mayor Peggy Lehner was on city council when Schwieterman was promoted.
“He was a delight to work with back then and nothing much has changed,” Lehner said. “He was clearly rising” within the city’s ranks.
The biggest challenges in overseeing the DESC transition were the remediation efforts, Schwieterman said.
It required working closely with the state and federal EPA — as well as the Air Force — while “simultaneously working on growing the economic base there, bringing jobs to the park.”
Today, it is the home the Kettering Municipal Court, and is a jobs hub that includes Alternate Solutions Health Network, Amazon and Kettering Health, the city’s top employer.
It was also home of major jobs producer Synchrony Financial, which left at the end of 2020 citing a global work-from-home strategy.
The most significant challenges as city manager, Schwieterman said, have “generally speaking … the revitalization of our infrastructure — both our public facilities and our roadway systems and our bridge systems.
“But specifically, our own public structures,” he added, mentioning safety facilities, the government center and the Rosewood Arts Centre. “We’ve made improvements to pretty much every building we have … and that was a strategic priority of the council at the time — to take care of our assets. That was the major focus of my career.”
Schwieterman’s career — and, most importantly, his life — were in serious jeopardy when he collapsed Dec. 1, 2019, while playing golf with a friend.
“I suffered a major cardiac event. I was gone,” he told the Greater Miami Valley Emergency Medical Services Council earlier this year, the first time Schwieterman spoke publicly about the episode.
His golfing partner, who asked to remain unidentified, was a trained safety worker who happened to be steps away.
“My friend brought me back,” he told the EMS council at its 50th anniversary event. “EMS providers brought me back. The hospital staff brought me back.”
Schwieterman told the safety council his four-month recovery included 46 days in hospitals, including about three weeks on a ventilator. He returned to work in April 2020.
“This is a great place and a great community,” he said. “I think that sums up my career here. I’ve really enjoyed it because of the people I work with and the people we work for.”
Addressing city council publicly for the last time earlier this month, Schwieterman thanked several individuals and groups he has worked with through the years. But he also spent much of his time crediting his children, his parents and his wife, Mary.
“She has been supportive of my role as a public servant from the very beginning,” he said.
Schwieterman said the decision announced earlier this year to step down is not a retirement.
“At this time, it was the best decision for myself and my family. And it was also a good time for a transition for the city,” he said.
“What’s next for me is new opportunities — undefined at this point. I don’t have an absolute plan at this point. But I do intend to do something else after this,” Schwieterman added. “I’m going to take a few months and then examine my opportunities.”