AKRON, Ohio — The city of Akron is mourning the death of Ward 1 Councilman Rich Swirsky. He passed away Wednesday after a battle with acute myeloid leukemia, according to a press release from Akron city officials Thursday morning.
“This week, Akron lost a once-in-a-generation advocate for inclusivity, justice, and neighborhood stability as well as a father, husband, teacher, mentor, coach and friend,” the press release said.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan offered the following statement on Swirsky’s death:
Long before he was Councilman Swirsky — I knew him simply as Rich. He was an active, engaged and respected member of the Akron community his entire life. He made the people around him better, more conscientious and more caring. His passion for the environment, for equality and above all, for people, will leave a lasting impression on me personally, and on our entire community. I am grateful for the years we were able to work alongside each other and to make Ward 1, and all of Akron, a better place.
From championing the preservation of Highland Square’s historic and unique walkability and vibrancy, to relentlessly pushing our city to be do more to protect our environment and our most vulnerable neighbors, Rich exemplified what it means to be a true public servant. There has never been, and will never be, another Rich Swirsky. He loved this City enough to always push us to do and be better; and for that we are grateful.
Margo Sommerville, President of Akron City Council, provided this statement:
Rich was a uniting force on City Council. He often served as a bridge between factions while we were debating some of our most complex challenges. We will miss his voice of calm, reason and compassion. We extend our deepest condolences to Rich’s family and friends.
A lifelong Akron resident, Swirsky was elected as the Ward 1 representative to Akron City Council in November 2013 as a Democrat, securing re-election in 2015 and 2019. Both re-elections were uncontested, which city officials credit as “a testament to his work serving his constituents.” He most recently served as the chair of Council’s Public Utilities & Green Committee, vice chair of Housing & Neighborhood Assistance Committee and as a member of the Planning & Economic Development, Public Service and Public Safety Committees. In January 2020, Councilman Swirsky was elected by his peers to serve in Council leadership as the President Pro Tem.
Here is how Akron city officials described more of Swirsky’s accomplishments:
Councilman Swirsky earned a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Ohio University and began a 20 year long career with Ohio Citizen Action soon after graduating. He worked on environmental and labor issues while serving as the Regional Director in the Akron office. He went back for a Master’s degree in Education from The University of Akron in his early-fifties. He taught in the Akron Public School system for many years and most recently served as an ESL (English Second Language) GED instructor for Project LEARN of Summit County. Most importantly, Rich devoted himself to his family and raising his children with strong values.
In his years on Council, Rich co-sponsored significant legislative items like the City’s comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance known as the Akron Civil Rights Act, the tree ordinance and the creation of the complete, livable and green streets taskforce, as well as numerous ordinances that benefitted Ward 1 and the West Hill and Highland Square neighborhoods. Rich’s commitment to justice and equality extended even to his last Council meeting on May 10, where, despite his illness, he returned to vote in support of a resolution urging the U.S. Senate to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and to pass local “Pay-to-Stay” and “Source of Income” housing discrimination protections into law.