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State of the City Address

City Manager Ken Filipak reflects on Mentor’s developments this past year
City Manager Ken Filipiak begins the State of the City address
Sarah Blakemore
City Manager Ken Filipiak begins the State of the City address

Annually, the Chamber of Commerce for Mentor organizes a State of the City Address, providing updates on local developments to business owners and various local organizations, including the Mentor Police Department, Mentor Fire Department, and Mentor Public Library.

The most recent address occurred at Mentor High’s Paradigm on February 27. Ken Filipiak, serving as Mentor City Manager since 2009, delivered the presentation. Mr. Filipiak covered topics included the ongoing construction of new buildings, the emergence of new businesses in Mentor, and progress on recreational projects initiated in the current and previous years. The theme of the address was adaptability; he emphasized adapting is a fluid act and that adapting to change is beneficial for the community.


In terms of safety, the community has experienced an overall decline in crime, with a consistently low rate and a notable decrease in drug-related offenses for the second consecutive year. Vehicle crimes have also seen a reduction. However, there has been a concerning increase in fraud cases, particularly in the realm of cryptocurrency, resulting in $3 million in losses for three Mentor residents. To address this, authorities are actively issuing fraud warnings, particularly targeting senior citizens.

Mentor Police training at Mentor High School

Law enforcement is actively investing in officer training, last spring there was a department-wide session focused on active shooter situations. This was followed by a large-scale simulation in the summer, involving a simulated explosion in a classroom. Notably, the Mentor Mobile Green Estates witnessed its first major shooting, and the initial responding officers were honored with the combat cross and a distinguished award. Officers arrived in a swift 2 minutes and 16 seconds, ultimately saving lives.

In the realm of victim support, a comprehensive Victim’s Assistance Program has been implemented, raising awareness about victim rights, crisis intervention, and restraining orders. Mentor has also noticed a decrease in police officers which has been a nationwide issue. To try and remedy this, Mentor introduced a program for junior police officers in grades 6-8, trying to raise an early interest in policing. The community is actively recruiting police officers, utilizing posters, social media, and a dedicated website.

A coordinated effort by Police, Firefighters, and EMTs was evident during a recent tornado, 150 yards wide, where firefighters responded to 152 calls, addressing downed power lines, road closures, and other emergencies. A new fire station, with a focus on training and responsibility for Lake Erie rescues, has been established.

Looking forward, there are plans to design a new fire station that goes beyond housing equipment, incorporating integrated training facilities for various rescue scenarios. Additionally, efforts are being made to improve residents’ access to essential services through the ADAMHS Board

Overall Safety in Mentor is something that has been consistently on the upward trend, a dedicated team of emergency responders is available to residents 24/7, and crisis lines are also available as well. Mr. Filipiak reassured residents that Mentor is actively making improvements to safety measures and is providing sufficient funding for that to be the case for years to come. 

Infrastructure and Finances

Mr. Filipiak then went on to discuss the infrastructure of the city. To begin, he reassured the audience that Mentor is experiencing very high General Reserve funds and very low debt service. Additionally, he shared that Mentor also earned the Auditor’s Award with distinction this past year. Moving forward, Mr. Filipiak shares with the attendees that due to the most recent, unrelenting, cyber attacks facing governments and private agencies across the nation, Mentor has invested in the IT department to ensure that citizen data is protected.

City Manager Ken Filipiak discusses Mentor’s infrastructure (Sarah Blakemore)

Connecting with this, Mr. Filipiak went on to discuss the new infrastructure within Mentor. To begin, he discusses the new bridge on Center Street which cost the city around $70 million. Along with that, around $6.5 was invested in our roads throughout the city (repaving, creating, etc). Lastly, about $1 million was used to revamp our stormwater works.

Moving forward, Mr. Filipiak discussed the Mentor Gateway site online. With this site, contractors are able to register much more easily, gain zoning appeals, and obtain permits. Over the past year, this site has had over 7,000 transactions – around 30% of all the permit activity within Mentor.

Mr. Filipiak then went on to share that the new Cleveland Clinic Mentor Hospital has exceeded expectations. This hospital has treated thousands of patients in its first year of opening and is expecting to treat thousands more. Mr. Filipiak emphasizes how this hospital is the first 24-hour ER in Mentor and is even fully connected to the larger Cleveland Clinic that is located downtown and globally.

Mr. Filipiak shared that Mentor has been recognized as a center of innovation. Following this, he shares with the crowd new plans regarding businesses. He reveals some up-and-coming businesses coming to Mentor soon including The Human Bean, Tropical Smoothie, Kearney’s Public House, and more. Along with that, he shared that the old Sears part of the mall has been sold to a private contractor. He explains that the old Sears will have a heavy residential component in the future. 

Overall, during his presentation, Mr. Filipiak discussed numerous infrastructural improvements in the past year regarding Mentor. 

Community Service Partners

Mentor students discuss a new community partnership to help fight blood cancers (Sarah Blakemore)

Building on this theme, Mentor is involved in a variety of community service partnerships that aim to provide essential support to the Mentor residents who need it most. These partnerships include The ADAMHS Board which provides mental health and addiction services, and United Way which was able to put $1 million back into the community for the first time since Covid-19. In total, 60,000 services were provided by United Way, and large quantities of fresh produce were delivered due to a partnership with Mentor Schools. There are several more partnerships such as AWT, which exposes high school students to new career options, and the Lake Humane Society which provided 13,000 animals with homes and 14,000 meals for pets through their Meals on Wheels initiative. Finally, the city also has a partnership with the Mentor Headlines Center and with the Lake County Health Department to conduct wastewater testing and address the opioid crisis. This partnership also helps guarantee the proper care of the city’s children and elderly. 

Environment and Recreation

Finally, Filipiak discussed Mentor’s efforts to preserve the city’s unique environment and support its many recreational opportunities. He first established Mentor’s commitment to lowering its carbon footprint through efforts such as supporting the use of electric vehicles. In the last year, several new charging stations were installed at Garfield Park, and in this upcoming year, the city plans to install four more at City Hall with about 80% of the cost for that project being paid for by a grant.

Additionally, the city has reached an agreement with First Energy that will lead to the complete transformation of street lights to LED over 5 years. The agreement entails street lights being replaced with LED lights every time one goes out which will significantly cut down on energy costs. Also, Mentor is becoming a trailblazer as it is set to become the only city in the United States to have an electric school bus, which will be replacing two diesel ones.

Ken Filipiak gives an overview of Mentor’s new recreational activities (Sarah Blakemore)

The City Manager then shifted attention to a discussion surrounding Lake Erie. With one of the nation’s more important environmental features on Mentor’s shores, the city certainly intends to take care of it. Recently, Congressman Dave Joyce noted that Lake Erie produces 1.5 million jobs and $62 million in wages, so clearly, the benefits of Lake Erie are far-reaching. One investment the city is making in Lake Erie is working to filter out contaminated water at the Mentor Lagoons via a new $600,000 project – most of which will be paid for by the National Fish and Water Foundation. Mentor is also investing $400,000, provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Grant, into a stream restoration project to improve water quality and recommission old dams. Erosion is being addressed through a partnership with the Smith Group to evaluate the state of the shoreline and alternate erosion control methods. This partnership will also aim to increase public access to the shoreline which was the most common request during a survey done by the city of Mentor which 2,200 people responded to. Positively, the Lake Erie warbler very recently came off of the endangered species list, and the city is collaborating with the Mentor Yacht Club to stabilize the channel that all boats currently come in and out of. This channel currently has 90-year-old infrastructure. 

In terms of recreation, the new Mentor Marsh Boardwalk was installed this past year and so far has been very popular. Additionally, Mentor will be adding a new observation tower at the edge of the Mentor Marsh. Construction for that project could start as early as the end of this year, but more likely early 2025. Notably, the Mentor Marina will be getting a new building. Here, guests will be able to rent kayaks and get concessions. This will replace the current kayak shack the Marina has. Also, the Wildwood Cultural Center has a new storage facility, which while not accessible to the public, will greatly aid in the preservation of that important cultural site. 

Filipiak then discussed Mentor’s public pools. Before the pandemic, there had already been a 40%-50% decrease in public pool usage. After the pandemic, those numbers dropped even lower. This past summer only one public pool was kept open, the Civic Center pool. Two thousand people used that pool, which is a third of how many people used just that pool alone in 2016. In addition to decreased public interest in pools, the city is also having difficulty hiring lifeguards. 

Due to these reasons, Mentor will be removing the pool facilities at Garfield Park. However, the city does not want to decrease the amount of activities available to families at Garfield Park, so it is designing a new splash park which will be the most creative out of all the ones Mentor currently has.

Finally, new updates for Mentor Rocks 2024 were introduced. Mentor Rocks has been one of Mentor’s most popular events for years now. This year several exciting acts will be coming to Mentor, such as Queen Nation – a Queen tribute, Fresh Horses – a Garth Brooks tribute, Finger Eleven – a national act, Death Legend – a Def Leppard tribute, an Eagles tribute, Forever Seger – a Bob Seger tribute, a Bruno Mars tribute, and a Taylor Swift tribute performed by Katy Ellis who will be coming from the UK to perform two shows on consecutive days. 

Overall, Mentor is investing in several new projects to honor its environment, and to maintain and grow its recreational opportunities. 


Mr. Filipiak finished his address to the city by summarising how Mentor has adapted throughout the years and will continue to adapt to changes in the future. He quoted Winston Churchill saying, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” Hear from members of the community on what they thought of the address below. 


Ken Filipiak – City Manager 

City of Mentor – Ken Filipiak

Cardinal Nation: Are there collaborations between the city and educational institutions such as the high school or Lake Catholic to enhance opportunities for residents and students? 

Ken Filipiak: Yeah, sure. So we have a lot of partnership arrangements with the Mentor School District. We operate the EMT Academy, a lot of their students intern through programs, through the school services, whether that’s through our recreation police or fire departments. So we work with them regularly. We also work with Lakeland College. Specifically, we work with Lakeland on helping to find opportunities for job placement into the many different manufacturing positions that are available throughout the community. So, yeah, I mean working closely with our schools at every level is critical to not only just the general welfare of the community, but also providing a ready workforce.

Cardinal Nation: And then as city manager, what’s your vision for the city for the next five to ten years? 

Ken Filipiak: So my theme today was about adaptability. And I think what is critical for any city, so the vision for any city, has to be being able to meet current challenges. So we live in a fast-paced world. Economies are changing and the way people work and live is constantly changing. We have some housing issues that we need to address in the city. That’s one of our important issues. Maintaining a relevant economy. So, a diverse economy. High tech, advanced manufacturing has really been our focus. So jobs, infrastructure, ready workforce, housing, affordable housing, these are some of the things that are important to us in the next ten years.

Cardinal Nation: How does the city plan to adapt to changes in demographics and technologies and global or national trends? 

Ken Filipaik: Well, we’re doing it. That’s a big question because we do it every day in terms of the diversity of the businesses that we attract to the community. I talked about the Alliance for Working Together. They’re training, and you asked me about the school institutions. So, they are preparing workers to be able to fill the jobs of the present and the emerging jobs of the future. Having that ready workforce is one of the most critical things that attracts new businesses to the community. When you attract business and you have a vital economy, everything else really flows from there. It provides a tax base so you can provide the quality of life amenities for residents. It allows for more housing, more development interest in the community, whether that’s for retail and commercial providers or residential providers. We’re working with several developers right now on housing projects that will provide diverse housing. So everything from small formats like rental houses and apartments to condos and higher density type of development. So these are the things that we know we need and that will keep and attract people to the community.

Kevin Malecek – Mentor’s Financial Director

City of Mentor – Kevin Malecek

Cardinal Nation: What are the key economic development initiatives the city is currently focusing on? 

Kevin Malecek: Well, obviously we continue to try to focus on our manufacturing base as can best be addressed. We’re also looking at obviously different housing options that might be out there because we really obviously need a little bit more diversity in terms of high-end apartments, condos, and more single-family homes to address our aging community that’s here. And then we’re also looking to obviously attract a variety of different areas both domestic and international. Building on the success of what we’ve been able to get through Black Digital, creating their headquarters, the US headquarters here in Mentor, continuing to work with our Irish and UK connections there to bring other companies.

Cardinal Nation: And then how has the local economy been impacted by recent events and what measures are in place to promote economic development? 

Kevin Malecek: So we do have an incentive program that we run for both small businesses and for businesses that might be bringing, you know, several dozen employees and large payrolls to the city. That’s something we constantly try to work with. We also work with ways for us to do infrastructure improvements for them, all kinds of different things like that. So we’re constantly looking for ways that we can support the business community wherever we can.

Ray Kirchner – Councilman at Large

City of Mentor – Ray Kirchner

Cardinal Nation: What is one accomplishment from this past year that you are especially proud of?

Councilman Ray Kirchner: I think all the improvements at the marina and the preserve. The observation tower, the new building, the concession stand, kayak rentals, and the parking lot improvements there, and of course the continuing upgrade of all the bulkheads down there, too.

Cardinal Nation: What is the city council currently doing to encourage economic development in Mentor?

Councilman Ray Kirchner: Well, we have a multi-faceted economic group. We have a team that annually goes to Las Vegas for the commercial and retail convention, and we have a group that goes to Europe to encourage economic development from the UK, which as we saw today, we have a company that’s already brought the company over from the UK.

Cardinal Nation: What are your goals for this upcoming year? 

Councilman Ray Kirchner: I think we’ve got a lot of economic development on our agenda and I’m looking forward to continuing. 

Craig Heath – Mentor Schools Superintendent 

Mentor Schools – Craig Heath

Cardinal Nation: How do you feel about the Junior Police Academy opening to the 6th and 8th graders? And how do you think it will affect both the city and then the children?

Craig Heath: I think that it’s a great program. We’re looking forward to that ourselves because I think ultimately our goal is to try and kind of emulate what we’ve done with the EMT Academy. And if we can create our own police academy where we’re getting those students that have that interest to get some of that experience and some of the knowledge here while they’re still, you know, again, starting in sixth grade, but eventually doing all the way to 12th grade, I think we’ll be able to help out our police department as well, who right now is just continuing to struggle to find quality candidates for their roles.

Cardinal Nation: Mr. Filipiak mentioned the department’s wide active shooter training at the school. Along with that, what are some other measures that Mentor Schools is taking to ensure the safety of the students and staff within the city school district?

Craig Heath: So a couple of different things, and I mentioned a little bit about this when I did my state of the schools last month – we’re really looking to try and expand that partnership with the Mentor Police Department and the Mentor-On-the-Lake Police Department to make sure that we get some uniformed officers in all of our buildings. We started a process of trying to get these four-hour shifts filled at our elementary schools because we haven’t had that up until this year. And it’s slowly trickling in, but again, it goes back to the lack of police officers that they have available. But we’ve also expanded now where the Mentor Police Department is actually going to post that schedule for a week and then send that scheduled that isn’t filled over to Lake County Sheriff’s Department. The second part of that is we’re looking at some retired officers potentially stepping into some similar roles to be like a student or a school resource officer position. We’re not quite there yet – we have to work some contractual language out, but right now the Lake County Sheriff’s had a pretty good setup with Riverside Schools that we are going to emulate a little bit, and we’re gonna be working with the chief of the Mentor Police Department to try and expand that also. With the failure of the levy back in November with the PI levy, we kind of had to tap the brakes on some of these pieces that we were looking at from a crew safety standpoint. But what we want to try and do within our own budgets right now is see if we can get those unit officers in our school buildings on a low regular basis. So that’s our hope right there. 

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About the Contributors
Ellen Freeman
Ellen Freeman, Contributor
Ellen is a current sophomore at Mentor High School. Outside of Cardinal Nation, she participates in Model UN, Speech and Debate, Track and XC, and the FCMB. 
Loren Wandersleben
Loren is a current junior at Mentor High School. She is currently involved in, Cardinal Nation, Model United Nations, Sparkle Cheerleading, NHS, and is President of the Mentor High Chess Club. Outside of school, she enjoys hanging out with friends, going to the beach, and traveling.
Sarah Blakemore
Sarah Blakemore, Contributor
Sarah is a current sophomore at Mentor High School. Some extracurriculars she is involved in are Model UN, Student Government, Helping Lake County, and Cardinal Nation. She currently holds the position of Sophomore Class President for Student Government, Public Relations Director for Model UN, and founder of Helping Lake County. Outside of school, Sarah enjoys kayaking, skiing, boating, and running.