Magnolia Mayor Bob Leach serves the local community in leadership, learning and laughter

By Tesa Strasser The Press-News Published:

How did a young man born in Moundsville, W.Va., get lured to Magnolia, Ohio and go on to be the mayor of that town for the last 35 years?

It all started with a blind date set up by Bob Leach's former college roommate, Jim Hunter.

Hunter, already married, taught at Sandy Valley High School with Sue Ober. Over the staff lunchroom table, Hunter and Ober decided she should meet Jim's friend and fellow West Liberty College graduate. The rest is history. In 1966, Bob Leach and Sue Ober were married and now have two grown sons, Tad, of North Canton and Tim, of Clayton, N.C. There are also seven grandchildren.

Bob and Sue Leach have lived in Magnolia all of their married lives; first in an apartment for two years and since then in a home they built on Minerva Road. Bob taught social studies at Sandy Valley High School until his retirement in 1996. He served the school system in a variety of ways including being the voice of the home football and basketball games for many years.

The Leaches are long-time, active members of Magnolia United Methodist Church where Sue is the church secretary and he is chairperson of the administrative council and a Sunday school teacher. Both he and Sue sing in the church choir.

After one term as a Magnolia Village Councilman starting in 1974, other obligations caused Bob to decline a second term. But, a few years later, he was appointed mid-term when a councilman was unable to complete the four-year commitment. The mayor at the time, John Barrick, decided to not seek another term and asked Leach if he would consider vying for the post. He agreed and when the ballots were in he had won over Ed Gordon by just one vote. After a recount it was declared a tie.

In accordance with the law the two candidates met at the Stark County Court House to decide the race. A 1923 silver dollar was drawn from a velvet bag, which was kept at the Stark County Board of Elections for these types of unusual circumstancs. Leach was given the choice for the flip since he was the initial one-vote winner. He called "tails" and tails it was. He took office at age 37 on Jan. 1, 1974, and still holds that position today.

Reflecting on his years at the helm of the village, Leach said, "I really have had the privilege of working with councils that come with no axes to grind or agenda of their own. They come with the good of the village in mind. I also have enjoyed working with our fire department, which I consider to be the best around, and the police department. We have had very good, competent chiefs of police. I take great pride in those departments."

Lorrie Clevenger has been the clerk treasurer of Magnolia for 21 years, working very closely with Leach. She was one of his students in high school and is very complimentary of his leadership skills over the years. "He has been very helpful to me and is always fair and so knowledgeable of the laws and revised code. Bob is always available and is like another dad to me, always has great advice. He is not afraid to help out in practical ways, too, like helping with the mowing the week before Canal Days or helping chip debris after a storm."

A bit of a ham, Bob has always enjoyed performing. In college he and Hunter shared the lime light in the school plays. Hunter was the speech and English teacher at Sandy Valley High School, and had the responsibility of the school's plays, so Leach's helping hand with performances was very natural.

In 1967, the school had a variety show. The choir director asked for volunteers from the faculty to perform during stage changes. That was the beginning of a hit comedy group called the BUGS, an acronym for Brothers of Unmitigated Gall. According to Leach they "sang dumb songs, told dumb jokes and looked even dumber." It was a hit. Soon civic groups from the area were inviting the threesome of Bob Leach, Dave Spiker and Jim Hunter to be the entertainment for their events. The popularity of the BUGS grew to the point that they were traveling all over the state and did so for 35 years.

The last performance of the BUGS was about three years ago just before the death of Spiker. They entertained at Copeland Oaks, where Spiker was a resident suffering with the long term affects of diabetes.

So, for the last 35 years, Moundsville's loss became Magnolia's gain in the leadership, learning and laughter of Bob Leach.

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