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Growth and Recreation: The Lasting Legacy of Roger A. Reynolds

The growth and development of modern-day Hilliard would not be possible without the leadership and vision of Roger A. Reynolds.

To the younger generation, the name likely sounds familiar as the namesake to Municipal Park. Fittingly, the growth of Hilliard recreation and parks remains one of his proudest achievements.

Reynolds turned 90 last September, and while his step may have slowed he remains sharp as a tack and one of the community’s biggest supporters. In many ways, he served as one of the founding fathers of Hilliard’s City government.

Reynolds said his path to being elected as Hilliard’s first full-time mayor in 1975 was an unusual one.

Roger Reynolds pictured through the years during his 24 years as Hilliard's first full-time mayor.

For the first half of his professional life, Reynolds worked as an accountant for Jeffrey Mining Machinery company in Columbus. In 1958, he and his wife, Phyllis, moved to Hilliard when it was still a village of less than 5,000 people.

His first appointed position came thanks to his desire to have sidewalks installed for children to walk safely to school. Reynolds showed up to a parent-teacher organization meeting one evening and was named president of the J.W. Reason Elementary PTO.

“Believe it or not, that one opportunity started my career in public service,” Reynolds said. “Hilliard’s superintendent later asked me to run for Hilliard City Council, and after I got elected in 1971 things really took off.”

Reynolds quickly earned a reputation as a smart and trustworthy advocate for the Hilliard community. In 1972, he was granted a leave of absence from his employer to serve as Hilliard’s Director of Service, Director of Safety, and Director of Recreation and Parks.

A few years later, the City created a paid position for a full-time mayor, and the rest was history. In total, Reynolds was elected to six terms as Hilliard mayor from 1975 until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1998.

“I’m so proud of everything we were able to accomplish, especially when it comes to recreation, the roads, and our relationship with the Hilliard City School District,” Reynolds said. “My legacy is probably ‘growth,’ because I was very active in annexations to keep Hilliard as our own unique city. Over 24 years, we were able to secure land and form a master plan that’s now benefiting the next generation.”

Roger Reynolds poses with members of Hilliard City Council at the Beam Topping event for The Well, Hilliard's new recreation and wellness facility in February 2024.

In the early 2000s, the City officially dedicated Roger A. Reynolds Municipal Park, which serves as the home of the Recreation and Parks Department. The park’s 130 acres of amenities includes the Hilliard Family Aquatic Center, ball fields, a disc golf course, sledding hill, pickleball courts, and more. It also serves as home to Hilliard’s signature event, Freedom Fest.

The future of Hilliard recreation sits just west of this location, with the addition of the 125-acre Hilliard Recreation and Wellness Campus opening in mid-2025.

“The Well is going to be a fantastic facility and something our community has been (desiring) for a long time,” Reynolds said. “Our plan was to always expand Municipal Park, and it wouldn’t be possible without the business growth and the income tax to support these amenities.”

Reynolds’ charisma and likeable personality made him a natural negotiator in landing business deals to further Hilliard’s growth. During his tenure as mayor, the City’s tax evaluation increased more than 20-fold, with an operating budget that started at $1.8 million in 1975 and grew to about $12 million in 1998. In that time span, Hilliard’s population growth also increased from 8,000 to 21,000.

“Although we’re several decades apart, City Manager Michelle Crandall and I hold many of the same beliefs and philosophies, and I think she’s doing a phenomenal job,” Reynolds said. “She understands the importance of commercial and industrial growth and is really moving the city in the right direction.”

Reynolds still lives in Hilliard with his wife. They both remain active in the community they love dearly.

“I’ve always said, there’s a place for everybody here in Hilliard. In fact, that was one of our mottos,” said Reynolds. “Hilliard is truly a unique, friendly community with such a bright future. I’m just glad I was able to play a small part in what it is today.”

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