Northeast Ohio lost a champion for collaboration and a galvanizing leader on Sunday when Summit County Executive Russ Pry died at the age of 58. As this story and many others highlight, Russ was an exceptional elected official who focused on making contributions that strengthened Summit County and felt no need to take credit.
His character and commitment to Summit County helped him build trust across sectors and political lines. He used those trusted relationships to create collaborations with the city of Akron, hospitals, social service agencies, and business development groups that improved services and lowered costs, promoted child welfare, and improved the economic future of his county.
He also trusted others. When the Fund for Our Economic Future approached him a few years ago with the idea of creating a collaboration to strengthen the talent development system of Summit County, he asked all of the right questions to make sure our Fund’s interests were aligned with those of county residents and business. Satisfied, he took the risk of leading a group of civic leaders through a rigorous process that led to the establishment of ConxusNEO to help companies better meet their talent needs and Summit residents access pathways to prosperity through employment.
Throughout the development process, Russ pushed everyone involved to stay focused on the needs of companies and residents. He never allowed short-term political issues to distract him from the long-term goal. In April 2015, we highlighted the critical leadership role Russ and his successor, then County Council President Ilene Shapiro, played in leading the effort.
For the Fund to be successful, it needs good partners. Russ was a good partner and great friend.
Russ told us he wanted the work of ConxusNEO to be his legacy for the residents of Summit County. We and all of those who benefited from Russ’ leadership owe it to him to do all we can to make sure that legacy is fulfilled.