Dave Lieberth was born and raised in Akron, graduated from The University of Akron, worked in journalism and practiced law in Akron, and recently retired after 10 years as Mayor Don Plusquellic’s Chief of Staff and the Deputy Mayor of Administration. Now, he is writing to tell the nation and the world about our history-rich and technology-advancing city.
In 2009, California-based Cherbo Publishing Group Inc. approached the city of Akron with an idea for a historical book, but it was six months into the recession, the timing was poor, and no one knew where the economy was headed. Three years later, the publisher re-approached the city, and Mayor Plusquellic agreed it was the right time. Lieberth volunteered to write the book, and upon his December 2012 retirement, he began the 22,000-word manuscript.
“I was, and essentially I’ve always been, a writer and a reporter,” Lieberth says, “And those are the skills this book required. I fundamentally wanted to write a report about what the community looked like in the first decade of the 21st century.”
A self-proclaimed “history nerd” in high school, Lieberth joined the Summit County Historical Society as a teenager, which led to an officer position and the eventual presidency of the group. He did radio and other programs about Akron’s history, and he wrote speeches for the mayor and other documents about Akron’s status, its development and the performance of its institutions.
“I just had some kind of natural interest in the city’s history and where things came from,” he says.
Although Lieberth already had an abundance of knowledge about Akron and its history, more research was necessary to fully understand its innovation and technological background. The most interesting thing he learned was that in the 1950s, Goodyear Aircraft was one of the leading providers of analog computer systems in the country, and he also learned that the Telxon Corp., formerly based in Fairlawn, created some of the original wireless technology still used today.
“I think for future historians it’s a pretty good resource for knowing what Akron was like during this time period,” he says.
Lieberth says the audience for the book isn’t necessarily local, but national and overseas audiences. “When the city goes to recruit companies to move to Akron, they need a way to very quickly exhibit to the candidate what this community is all about,” he says.
Through beautiful photography, historical snapshots and documents, and Lieberth’s words, the history of Akron — from canal transportation to creating synthetic rubber to wireless technologies — is described in detail.
“First of all, I wanted to do a scene-setting historical piece for each chapter, something that would identify the facts in context that the world didn’t start here in 2001 but that we had a rich history and background,” he says.
“We are an unusual place. We are not the same old Midwestern city. We have wonderful restaurants and locally sourced food, incredible entertainment and night life, a vibrant downtown. [People] want a place that knows its history, that has its old buildings, that doesn’t look like Anytown, USA. We have some authenticity, and it’s a very creative community that’s always defined us.”
What’s next for Lieberth? He says he’d like to create a historical piece about the area, specifically in the 1920s.
“Greater Akron: Inventive. Industrious. Inspired.” can be purchased at the Summit County Historical Society by calling 330-535-1120.
/ Writer Caitlyn Callahan is a senior at KSU working on her bachelor’s in magazine journalism.
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