November 2007 Issue
Ohio's Best Hometowns 2008 - Independence
A town of traditions welcomes the new.
“The heart of it all.”
For Independence, that catchphrase couldn’t be more correct, since this northeast Ohio city is literally the geographic center of Cuyahoga County. Located 8 miles south of downtown Cleveland, it’s also a destination for more than 30,000 daily commuters who head to and from 1,400 companies headquartered in the city’s business district.
But the sentiment is more than a slogan on the white clapboard signage marking the city limits. It’s a promise made to residents of all ages, upheld by an array of services and recreational opportunities; attractive, well-tended public buildings; and idyllic neighborhoods.
It’s an ambiance, explains Mayor Fred Ramos, that for the most part remains unknown to those whose relationship with Independence is strictly 9-to-5.
“We’re clearly a best-kept secret,” he says, a bemused smile crossing his lips. For only a half-mile away from busy Rockside Road lies a friendly town of 7,200. It’s a place where, Ramos proudly adds, “everybody knows everybody.”
Where homes are usually passed from generation to generation or sold quietly by word of mouth.
Where calendars are kept cleared for not-to-be-missed celebrations such as the old-fashioned August Home Days, complete with midway rides, a band concert and the crowning of Miss Independence.
Where homage is paid to the city’s past through tours of a former schoolhouse dating back to 1896 and wreath-laying ceremonies at the town’s 142-year-old Mapleshade Cemetery. Where the welcome mat is rolled out for new establishments, most recently the Cleveland Cavaliers’ $20 million training facility and the Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine’s 27-acre campus.
And where improving an already exemplary quality of life is a constant priority, starting with residents age 60-plus.
“We feel indebted to our seniors,” Ramos explains. “They made Independence what it is, so we try to do as much as we can for them.”
As a result, town elders are eligible for a number of free services, including van transportation to doctors’ appointments, grocery shopping and community activities; and Wednesday matinees at the town’s multipurpose Civic Center. For $1 per year, they can sign up for free snow removal that’s available every time levels reach two inches or higher in their driveways.
“You talk about a wonderful place,” says 76-year-old Delores Badarzynski, who’s lived in Independence for 36 years, as she gratefully acknowledges the assistance she’s received over the past four years, following her husband Raymond’s stroke. “Everybody thinks they live in the best city, but for us seniors, it’s just super to be here.”
But that doesn’t mean younger generations are overlooked. The community offers recreational pursuits such as yoga and baton twirling classes, field trips to the Cleveland Play House, and Independence Blue Devils tailgate parties, where the town turns out in blue and gold to support the high school football team.
“As seniors move on, families with two or three children move in,” says Independence economic development director Ron White. “We are forever evolving.”
Location: 8 miles south of downtown Cleveland
Size: 9.73 square miles
Type of government: Mayor/seven-member city council