Drivers stream onto East Aurora and Darrow roads from Exits 36 and 37 every day as the highway pumps business into the region and attracts renters and homebuyers to the once far-flung community. Prior to the construction of I-480, commuters had a much longer drive to and from the area. To negate or offset the cost, some would carpool and others would catch the trains to and from Twinsburg, destined for Cleveland and stops along the way.

But Chrysler was an economic juggernaut, attracting new residents and bringing an influx of tax-based income to the region. The introduction of the highway in the 1960s made the three communities more accessible and appealing. Originally known as I-80 before becoming part of I-480 in the 1970s, it opened a world of opportunities for builders and buyers, businesses and customers.

When interviewed for the Plain Dealer about the marketability of Heritage Hills, a housing development then under construction, noted developer and philanthropist Bert Wolstein said, “When finished . . . it should put the community just 19 minutes from downtown Cleveland as well as putting it on a direct route to Columbus, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Chicago ‘without stopping for a red light.’”

Twinsburg Township

The Township’s story began in 1817, a mere blink of the eye after the arrival of Ohio’s first settlers. Ethan Alling, then a young man of sixteen, came to Ohio to survey family-owned land in what was then known as Millsville. Though he held countless positions in and around town over the years and his contributions to the area are indisputable, it was the Wilcox twins, Moses and Aaron, who would eventually bestow upon Twinsburg its current moniker. Arriving six years later, these young entrepreneurs purchased an expansive swath of land and began selling off parcels, contributed to the creation of a school, and eventually donated a small plot of land for the creation of a town square.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from this point: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family-owned businesses, farms, schoolhouses, and churches sprang up within view of the square. The streets lining the square were always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s appeared, providing big-city amenities with the comfort of small-town familiarity.

Significant growth didn’t arrive until the twentieth century. Farm and field began to give way to housing developments and commerce. Countless farms, once a familiar sight along the daily commute, began blinking out of existence. The way of life was evolving and many took note. Little could be done, however, and the transitions took place unimpeded.

During the 1920s, a man named Charles Brady saw a need to give African Americans an opportunity to purchase land in the area to form a community of their own. The newly purchased homesteads, known as Brady Homes, formed the foundation of what would become Twinsburg Heights, a tightly knit community in close proximity to the eventual site of the Chrysler stamping plant.

Chrysler would play a significant role in the area’s evolution. The formation of Twinsburg Village in 1955, separate from the Township, was sought as a means of collecting the taxes generated by the new plant, something an unincorporated township would be incapable of pursuing. So it was with that nudge that one became two, and Twinsburg and Twinsburg Township went their separate ways; Reminderville would follow suit almost immediately.

Something strange happened following the creation of these three communities, though: talks were held and attempts were made to recombine them, some as early as the 1960s. Former Twinsburg mayor Katherine Procop outlined some of the discussion: “There were three [major] attempts, one in the ‘80s and two in the ‘90s, to merge the township and the city. The first two attempts were voted for by city residents but voted down by township residents. The third attempt in 1999 was finally voted for by the township residents but voted down by city residents.” Following this last attempt, the Township attempted to forge its own way, negating any future potential for reconciliation. By establishing the Joint Economic Development District with Reminderville, Twinsburg Township increased its economic stability and lessened the likelihood of future annexation talks with Twinsburg.

According to documentation supplied by Twinsburg Township,

The Twinsburg Township-Village of Reminderville Joint Economic Development District (JEDD) is a separate political subdivision, established in 2002 . . . per a contract between the Township and Village. The JEDD levies a 1.5% tax on employee wages and business net profits in the JEDD area, which includes all land in the Township’s industrial district. The JEDD’s primary purpose, as stipulated in the JEDD Contract and as directed by the JEDD Board, is to promote jobs and economic development in the JEDD area. The JEDD Board takes this mission seriously and, in the years since establishment of the JEDD, has overseen significant investments in the JEDD area. JEDD area investments included reconstructing and adding sidewalks and decorative street lighting to all Township roads in the JEDD area, increasing police protection for JEDD area businesses, establishing a park in walkable distance to JEDD area businesses, enhancing public transit accessibility through the addition of METRO RTA bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area, and clearing snow from sidewalks and bus passenger shelters throughout the JEDD area during the winter season.

With the JEDD in place and community services secured for its residents, the Township has cleared the way for a bright and independent future. The Township began its Recreation Center Program in 2008, granting its residents access to nearby recreation centers, and its police, fire, and EMS services are outsourced to Twinsburg. Through the decisions and directives firmly in place, Twinsburg Township has managed to merge the best of both city and country.

Mayoral Era of Twinsburg, 1979

Prior to the mayoral era, Twinsburg was run by a city manager hired by city council. This style of government worked for a while, but in the 1970’s it came time to move forward. Anthony Perici resigned from the charter commission in April of 1972 with greater political aspirations. He had been attempting to get the commission to enact a mayoral form of government where the mayor is actually in charge, eliminating the city manager. This action would make the council weaker. He resigned from the Commission to work from the outside in order to make this happen. Perici served as the president of city council from 1974 to 1976 and as part-time mayor 1977 to 1978 before becoming the city’s first full-time mayor in 1979.

The most flamboyant of all Twinsburg mayors, and city managers for that matter, Perici ruled the city with an iron fist. Often described as a dictator (in fact his nickname was “The Little Dictator”), he believed he alone could govern Twinsburg. Once when asked why he rarely visited his second home in Florida, Perici’s response was: “Who will watch the city while I am gone.”

Perici’s use (or possibly abuse) of power Perici was showcased in 1983 when he served as judge and the city council served as jury in hearings to remove Darryl Paskoff from the council for alleged neglect of duty, misconduct, and violation of his oath of office. It is unusual for the accusers to also serve as judge and jury. Perici also refused to recognize the police union. They union) took the case all the Supreme Court of Ohio.

Perici had just as many admirers as detractors. He was an old-school, hard-nosed leader and “a student of world history”, according to Adelle Nykaza, long-time city employee who worked with a number of city managers as well as the first three full-time mayors.  Katherine Procop described him thusly: “He was the kind of guy you would ask to do something and boom it would be done right now.” His methods were unorthodox, but he got things done.

The second mayor of Twinsburg, and possibly the most important, James Karabec held the office for twelve years (1987-1999). For twenty-five years prior to becoming mayor, Karabec developed land and businesses for Developers Diversified. This experience, along with his time on city council and passion for the community, made him the perfect candidate. Hand-picked by his predecessor, he was far from a puppet. Perici thought he could still govern the city and that Karabec, due to his quiet nature, would oblige, but Karabec had no intention of handing the reigns back to Perici.

“I’m a great believer in giving people services,” says Karabec–a stance that differed greatly from Perici’s. Upon taking office, Karabec was told there would not be money to pay the mortgage on the sewer plant that year, but the city did have the money, and not only paid the mortgage but also improved the plant. “He [Perici] gave the services to the people, but he didn’t want to do anything extra, like build ballparks,” says the former mayor. The Karabec administration was the polar opposite; the fitness center was constructed, a golf course was bought, and property was traded to help build a new high school.

One of his greatest contributions to the city he loved was using tax abatement to bring more business into Twinsburg, helping to diversify the industrial base. If not for his foresight an initiative in recognizing the need to attract a cornucopia of commerce to the city, Twinsburg could have been set up for a huge financial hit when Chrysler departed. At one point Chrysler accounted for 75 percent of income tax revenue in Twinsburg, but by the time of the plant closing it was closer to 12 percent. The loss was devastating but far from catastrophic.

On November 2, 1999 Twinsburg elected its first female mayor, Katherine Procop. She won with relative ease over opponents, Susan D. Ferritto and William E. Hon. She would become the longest tenured mayor of Twinsburg, holding the office for sixteen successful years.

After arriving in Twinsburg with her husband and son in 1977, she almost immediately became heavily involved in the community affairs.  Her first true foray into local government came in 1986, when she was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission, followed in 1991 by a successful run for city council. While she was on council, Karabec first suggested she become his successor.

Her greatest accomplishment may have been the procurement of Liberty Park, including the beloved Ledges, for the city. Karabec started the push for the purchase, but it was Procop who ultimately secured the land deal.

During Procop’s tenure in office there were a couple of calamities, not of her making: the demise of the Chrysler stamping plant and the tragic death of police officer Josh Miktarian. No previous mayor or city manager had dealt with such dire circumstances.

In 2009 the council and safety forces backed Procop in her quest to raise taxes a quarter percent over a four year period to offset the loss of revenue from Chrysler’s departure. Members of both the fire and police departments went directly to the voters, pushing the benefits of passing the temporary tax increase. Taxes were raised, and the loss of revenue and safety services was averted. Twinsburg residents voted to repeal the tax increase of November 2013.

When Officer Miktarian was murdered, Mayor Procop was in Maine, but merely four hours after receiving word of the tragedy she was back in Twinsburg. His death was devastating to the entire community. Procop has often singled it out as the toughest challenge of her administration and the “worst day of her life.” As tragic as this atrocity was, it brought a close-knit community even closer, aided by the leadership and compassion of its mayor.

There were other controversies that occurred during her administration, including zoning and charter issues. Though she was quite popular, there were many detractors and critics as well.A group of concerned citizens played the part of watchdog. Their criticism came from a love of the city they grew up in and a concern for the rights of the electorate.

Ted Yates was elected the fourth mayor of Twinsburg in 2015. He was born in Alabama, but in 1984 his family moved to Solon, where he finished his last two years of high school. Four years later he moved to Twinsburg.

His first foray into local government was an appointment to the Parks and Recreation Committee, serving as chairman. An avid cyclist and triathlete, he is a long-time spin instructor at the fitness center, so a position with Parks and Rec was a natural fit. In 2009 he was appointed as the Ward 3 councilman. He applied for the vacant position and was appointed by council to serve the last two years of the term. In 2011 he won an election for the same Council position.

When it became apparent to the public Procop would not run for another term, many of her supporters petitioned Yates to make a run. The move made sense since Yates and Procop shared similar visions for the city. Where they differ was Yates analytical approach to leadership honed through years of law and accounting.

Yates is focused on the creation of an “active, walkable downtown”, a critical economic driver that Twinsburg lacks. His vision is similar to what Hudson has developed on First and Main in that quaint and cozy city. Yates also sits on the board of a private, nonprofit community improvement corporation created by Procop that allows the city to acquire properties through a no-bid process. This could prove to be a useful tool in meeting Yates goals for downtown.

Only time will tell if Mayor Yates can live up to the lofty standards set by his predecessors, but all indicators point to a successful tenure.

Twinsburg, City of

The City of Twinsburg, though relatively young, is a wellspring of history that also offers comfort and familiarity—an area that has blossomed and evolved to include new housing developments, beautiful parks, and hubs of commerce while maintaining picturesque views worthy of a postcard. These views did not spring up overnight via the whims of mayors and city planners, but evolved with the natural passage of time to shape the cityscape we know today. Though it shares nearly 140 years of history with the Township, the city’s own unique history dates back just over sixty years. Unlike other, older villages and towns that were carved from the woods and fields of an untamed wilderness, the City of Twinsburg was created in the twentieth century by an act of political secession. The need to collect taxes from the recently announced Chrysler plant sped things along, prompting the separation of township and city and bringing jobs, other businesses, and a torrent of taxpayers to the area.

Much of the history to come would radiate outward from the square: Twinsburg Institute, Locust Grove Cemetery, family owned businesses, farms, school houses, and church after church sprang up within view. The streets lining the square, always the center of festivities. Richner Hardware, Lawson’s, and Roseberry’s took root one-by-one, providing locals with some of the amenities larger cities had to offer, with the comforts of small town familiarity.

No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.

No parking spaces to spare on a busy afternoon at the Town Square.

When new housing was needed, Glenwood Acres was created to provide it. Lowcost homes, numbering more than four hundred, began springing up in 1956 following the announcement of the new Chrysler plant. Homes would be needed to accommodate the countless new employees looking to minimize their commute to work and keep their families close. Production at the plant would begin in earnest the following year.

With each development and each alteration another farm, wooded area, and orchard would fall beneath the wheels of progress. The growing village reached the critical five thousand head count by the end of 1969, allowing it to acquire cityhood. City managers begat mayors, volunteer firemen begat paid firefighters, and mainstays of business gave way to corporations.

The 1970s would see two unique milestones come to pass: 1976 would mark the nation’s bicentennial as well as the start of Twins Days, a celebration paying homage to the Wilcox brothers, who laid the foundation for what Twinsburg would come to be. Though it began as a community-centered festival with a parade, food, contests, and a parachuting clown named Thunder Chicken, interest in the event would spread.


Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.

Area children lend a helping hand, planting flowers under the sign to Liberty Park.

The new Twinsburg High School opened in January 1999, providing students with a new learning environment when they returned from their winter break. (The “Old School” still stands, though it’s been closed for years.) The park system also received some attention, with Mayor James Karabec securing a letter of intent for the property that would eventually become the three-thousand-acre Liberty Park. The dawning of a new century brought with it many changes: some wanted, some unavoidable. Longtime mainstays like Richner Hardware shuttered their stores in response to big-box stores like Home Depot and Walmart eating away at their customer base. Chrysler, the financial backbone of Twinsburg and employer of many, closed during the summer of 2010. Economic ripples from its closure were inevitable, though the blow to the city’s tax revenues was mitigated in no small part by the foresight of former mayor Karabec, who had set in motion a plan to diversify the city’s income stream, knowing it relied too heavily on Chrysler. Mayor Katherine Procop would continue the work begun by Karabec, helping to secure new tenants and diversify city revenues. Among the new tenants operating out of the Cornerstone Business Park (site of the old Chrysler plant) are an Amazon fulfillment center and FedEx.

Glenwood Acres

Few things can spur growth and development in a small town like the construction of a company in need of thousands of local employees. Taxes are generated, jobs created, and area infrastructure receives much needed improvements. The construction of the Glenwood Acres subdivision is an example of one such development. Preparations began shortly after the announcement that Chrysler was pulling its automotive plant out of nearby Macedonia and shifting its gaze to Twinsburg. When construction was complete, the development would boast more than four hundred low-cost houses. With the influx of new residents moving to the area in search of good jobs, few could overlook the housing opportunity afforded by Glenwood Acres. Residents began moving in the week of November 11, 1956, according to the Twinsburg Bulletin.

The Acres was not without its shortcomings. During a city council meeting just four months after occupancy began, vocal residents of the newly created subdivision brought their frustration to light, demanding something be done to improve upon the poor quality of the roads. However, their grievances went unaddressed. Records for 1958 indicate that voter turnout in Ward 1, which consisted of Glenwood Acres, was higher than that in the other four wards combined. The prolonged back-and-forth between City Council and the residents continued into the 1970s with issues of adequate sewage and sidewalks in need of attention. Sixty years have passed since the first residents arrived in Glenwood Acres, and in the intervening time these issues have been addressed one by one.

Chrysler Stamping Plant Opens, 1957

Chrysler had long sought a spot in Northeast Ohio to build a stamping plant. Brooklyn, Copley, and Macedonia had been front-runners for the plant at one time or another, but Twinsburg was projected as the most profitable. The site previously considered the favorite in Macedonia turned out to be quite problematic; the soil conditions were considered unstable and not fit for construction of a massive stamping plant. In November of 1955, it was decided Chrysler would build a two hundred-acre plant in Twinsburg at an estimated cost of $85 million dollars. The plant was built on land purchased from the family of future Twinsburg mayor, James Karabec.

Exterior of the Chrysler Stamping Plant, not long after it opened

Exterior of the Chrysler Stamping Plant, not long after it opened

According to an article appearing in the Plain Dealer on February 17, 1957, nineteen Ohio cities and thirty firms shared in building the Chrysler plant, accounting for the bulk of materials used. Thousands of workers across the state contributed to the plant’s construction with contracts awarded to companies ranging from a few thousand to millions of dollars. Three orchards and four houses came down to let bulldozers dig the plant foundation. Bedrock was fourteen feet below ground, close enough to brace presses that would reach 600 tons in weight with a stamping force of 1,800 tons.

This massive structure was located on Township soil, but the recently seceded city of Twinsburg annexed the land and property. The greatest catalyst for growth within the City of Twinsburg was the arrival of Chrysler. “The city built up because of Chrysler…that economic impact and the freeway 480 coming through here is what drove Twinsburg to develop. It provided jobs. It provided economic income for the city,” according to Mayor Procop. The opening of the stamping plant was cause for celebration. Nearly 1,000 of the 3,600 Twinsburg inhabitants braved blustery, winter weather to greet the great new employer of the masses at their groundbreaking ceremony.

Chrysler was the employer and generator of tax revenue for Twinsburg, at one point accounting for 75 percent of tax revenue. At its peak it employed around five thousand people (more than the population of Twinsburg when Chrysler first arrived). The plant employed people from as far away as Pennsylvania and Michigan. Glenwood Acres, a neighborhood comprised of 431 affordable houses, was constructed to house the influx of new arrivals to the area.

Over the course of the plant’s fifty-three year history there were numerous alterations in the methods of automotive assembly. As described by long-time employee Dale Franks, the plant in the mid-1980s was “rough…smoky, dirty, nasty.” By the time he left in 2006 it was “very clean”. When the plant was first built most of the labor was manual. Little-by-little robots became commonplace. The first A.I. employee was a small welding robot. After the introduction of the first robot there was more automation every year and less employees. “They [the robots] did displace people on the lines,” said Randy Addison, a thirty-eight year employee at the plant. “When I was there, door line would take eighty people. When I retired door line would take eight people.” Addison and many other employees were sent to Detroit to take classes on how robots worked.

The plant’s production was thoroughly concentrated on constructing car doors. For the vast majority of the plant’s lifespan production was phenomenal, as was the interpersonal relationships between employees. Dale Franks has described his former fellow Chrysler workmates as “family.” But all was not rosy at the stamping plant. Excruciatingly long hours (often eighty hour weeks and very few days off) lead to employee discontent.

There were a number of shootings and drug busts at the plant through the years, but possibly the most heinous act occurred in 1967 when a wooden cross was burned at the union hall. A lynch rope and a KKK sign also appeared in the plant. Racial tensions were running high amid concerns about poverty and problems in Twinsburg Heights, which was adjacent to the plant.

Strikes at the Twinsburg stamping plant and in Michigan greatly affected employees across the country. A strike at one plant would ripple through the company, causing layoffs at various other plants as production slowed. In November of 1983, 3200 United Auto Workers Local 122 members employed at the Twinsburg plant went on strike for a mere five days. The effect of the strike was widespread and considerable costly—half dozen assembly plants closed and twenty thousand workers were cut loose. Losses for the automotive superpower were estimated at $75 million. In 1967 a strike at Chrysler Auto Plants in Michigan “forced” the corporation to lay off five hundred Local 122 employees.

On the brighter side, if not for Chrysler Kent State University (KSU) would not have a presence in Twinsburg that it has today. In 1991, KSU opened a training center at the plant, to offer classes in business management, industrial trades, computers, quality certification and general education.

It was the largest stamping plant for any automotive corporation in the world, right up to the time of its demise. Talks of closing Chrysler plants were rampant in early 2009, even though Chrysler filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. An announcement was made that no more plants would be permanently closed. It looked as if the Twinsburg plant was safe. Instead Chrysler broke their promise, closing five more plants, including Twinsburg, on the same day their empty promise had been made. Union employees, state legislators, and local government officials were caught off-guard by the abrupt decision to shut down the plant.

President Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection on Thursday so it could pursue a life saving alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat, in yet another extraordinary intervention into private industry by the federal government. Flanked by his automobile task force of cabinet secretaries and business advisers in the White House’s grand entranceway, Mr. Obama announced a plan that would allow the United Automobile Workers, through their retirement plan, to take control of Chrysler, with Fiat and the United States as junior partners. The government would lend about $8 billion more to the company, on top of the $4 billion it had already provided,” according to a New York Times article published on April 30, 2009. It seems the federal government saw fit to bail out a billion dollar corporation, but not the city of Twinsburg.


Mayor Katherine Procop mentioned the company’s chief executive and several administration officials talked about bright futures for Chrysler cities, during conference calls the week prior to the permanent closings. “I feel so disheartened because I had been meeting with the UAW and with the management of the plant” discussing Twinsburgs future, Procop said, “To find out that we were on the chopping block from the very beginning, that goes beyond disbelief”. In fact, she was not even alerted by Chrysler brass about their decision to close, instead an early morning call from an AP reporter informed her of the decision.

There was a great fear the closed Chrysler plant would remain vacant for a substantial duration of time, creating an eyesore and continue to detrimentally affect the local economy; however in July 2011, the Plain Dealer reported two companies, “The DiGeronimo Cos. of Independence and Scannell Properties, based in Indianapolis, purchased the automotive complex for an undisclosed price.” Plans were set from the new owners to tear down sixty-five percent of the 2.2 million square foot plant.

The hard work of Mayors Karabec and Procop assured that Twinsburg’s financial loss would not be nearly as devastating as it could have been. Long before the plant’s closure, Karabec realized no city should so heavily rely on income from one company as Twinsburg had, for far too many years. He used tax abatement to bring additional industry to the area. Mayor Procop worked tirelessly to pass Issue 32 that would increase city income taxes a quarter percent for four years to offset the losses in tax revenue felt by the loss of Chrysler. It did pass, tax revenue loss was nullified, and city income tax was reset at its previous mark, two percent. An article that appeared in the July 18, 2010 edition of the Plain Dealer aptly describes how Twinsburg offset the plant closure: “The Twinsburg that Chrysler leaves behind used the automaker as a springboard to build an industrial corridor that includes Goodrich, Rockwell Automation and GE Energy plants. Along with those came medical, communications and technology businesses. Edgepark Surgical, a seven hundred-employee supplier of home health equipment, this summer eclipsed the waning Chrysler in writing the most paychecks in town.”