Wauseon City Council President Shane Chamberlin recalled telling Councilor Jeff Stiriz just prior to a recent Council meeting that a potentially lengthy executive session was included in the agenda.
“Jeff mentioned to me, ‘Well, I have to be out at Biddle Park for a ballgame, so family comes first,’” Chamberlin said.
Stiriz, 64, died unexpectedly June 12 during a camping trip with his son in Hillsdale, Michigan. Before official proceedings got underway at Monday’s City Council meeting, Chamberlin and Mayor Kathy Huner took several minutes to pay tribute to Stiriz, a 19-year Council member originally elected in 2002.
In an impromptu speech, Huner said, “Last week was a rough week for the City of Wauseon and Council. We lost a Council member, Jeff Stiriz. He was not only a Council member but a friend for the city. He brought a lot to the city.”
The Wauseon native and Delta High School graduate owned and operated Deryle’s Auto Care on Linfoot Street, where he began working 50 years ago under his father’s tutelage. Stiriz twice ran unsuccessfully for Wauseon mayor but returned to Council, where he served two terms as president. “With that comes added work for the city and a lot of meetings,” Huner said.
She said Stiriz also had a special affinity for the Wauseon Recreation Association, through which his children and grandchildren played sports.
Huner said Stiriz knew lots of people in the city, “so when it came to needing to hear something the people of Wauseon felt comfortable going to Jeff to bring it back to Council, and that was something, that I think, he really took pride in.”
She said he was famous for his motto – to agree to disagree, and then move on – “And that’s what he did. He’s going to be missed as a mentor, he’s going to be missed as a councilor and, more importantly, he’s going to be missed as a friend,” Huner said.
Earlier Monday, Huner said with Stiriz’s longtime experience as a business owner he was able to give insight to Council.
“He was a good listener for the community…Usually, he was the one that they called, only because he was well-known with the community, and people knew him,” she said. “His biggest asset was to agree to disagree, and that way you could be fair. (But) if he was passionate on something, he held his ground.”
Stiriz also made time to attend Ohio Municipal League conference sessions with Huner to learn the latest on Ohio ordinances, laws, and charters. “I think he did well as a representative for City Council,” Huner said.
And he had a good sense of humor, with a penchant for making jokes people weren’t always sure they should take seriously. “Jeff was pretty down to earth, and he is definitely going to be missed,” Huner said.
Council President Shane Chamberlin said he’ll remember Stiriz’s loyalty to the city. “He always put the citizens of Wauseon first in his decision-making, what he thought was best for the citizens. I always felt Jeff had that as his number one priority when it comes to legislation.”
Stiriz also had an integrity that made him put the city first, Chamberlin said.
“Jeff was a man of his word, and in this day and age that’s not something we might see as often as we like, and when we do see it maybe take it for granted,” he said. “But Jeff was a man of his word, and I always appreciated that of Jeff. He made decisions based upon what he thought was right, not necessarily what the majority thought was right. He was very much an independent thinker.”
Chamberlin added that Stiriz’s knowledge of the inner workings of the city, gained from numerous years on City Council, was important to how the council functioned.
“‘Jeff’s influence on City Council will be felt for quite a while,” Chamberlin said. “(His) are going to be big shoes to fill, and we’ll fill those at the right time but we can take our time doing that out of respect for Jeff and Jeff’’s family.”
Scott Stiriz, Jeff’s younger brother and fellow City Council member, said they’d grown closer over the past 15 years, and Jeff followed his grandchildren’s activities closely. “His family was everything to him,” he said.
According to his brother, Jeff Stiriz began working at 13, washing cars at a dealership where his father, Deryle, was employed. Scott Stiriz said that work ethic never left his brother.
“If it was daylight, he was working, doing something,” he said. “He was mowing, working on cars, it was carpentry work. He got all the talent in the family. He was pretty versatile.”
Scott Stiriz said he also respected his brother’s honesty and integrity as a mechanic at Deryle’s Auto Care. “He would fix a car right but as cheaply as he could. He wouldn’t charge a person for parts they didn’t need,” he said.
The brothers didn’t always agree on topics on Council but never took their differences home with them. Scott Stiriz said Jeff likely got his sense of civil duty from their father, a former Fulton County Commissioner. Jeff also served on the Homecoming Committee and was a member of the Exchange Club.
“He just wanted to give back,” his brother said.
Scott Stiriz said while he and Jeff didn’t grow up in a demonstrative home, “if you have a sibling, next time you see him give him a hug, because you never know.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.