In 28 years as a South Euclid councilman, Ed Icove never lost an election.
“The reason for that is I treated everybody with kindness, dignity, love and respect,” he said. “I’m very proud of that. It’s a major accomplishment.”
When Icove’s seventh four-year term on South Euclid City Council ended Dec. 31, he stepped down as the longest-serving councilman in the city’s history. He was recognized during his final council meeting Dec. 27.
“When you do something for a period of time, there’s always the opportunity to take a repose and to look back and reflect on what you’ve done and look forward to what else you want to do politically with your life,” he said. “That could take a number of different forms.
“I also feel that it’s important to get younger people involved politically.”
Two newcomers, Sara Continenza and Curtis Orr, ran for Icove’s Ward 3 seat on South Euclid council in the Nov. 7 election, and Continenza won.
Icove said he supported Orr, “but this was a race where both were very well qualified, and I was happy.”
Icove, 66, believes he’s leaving South Euclid in a good place as he retires from council.
“I think the council has improved in terms of its civility and treating people with respect and dignity, and I feel that I’ve been a motivator in that respect,” he said. “Constructive disagreement is a part of government and business and a sign of healthy management.”
An attorney who specializes in public interest law and has practiced law for 40 years, Icove added, “The dissenting opinion may be correct. The law is a perfect example. Sometimes the dissent becomes the law.”
Another major theme that has emerged from Icove’s 28-year tenure on council, he said, is that South Euclid needs to promote diversity in terms of race and religion, not only in the community but also at City Hall.
“That’s very important because that makes our community strong,” he said.
Icove served as president of South Euclid council from 1998 to 2001 and as chairman of the city’s planning and zoning committee from 2000 to 2012. In the latter position, he dealt with a number of controversial and complex issues, including the building of University Hospitals University Suburban Health Center, the Cedar Center and Oakwood Commons shopping centers and the South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library.
“One thing that a lot of people appreciated when I was chairman of the planning and zoning committee and president of council was I treated everybody with respect,” he said. “I really am extremely proud of that because that’s the key to how you run government.
“It’s how you live your life; it’s what we were brought up with being Jews. You do mitzvahs every day for people, and that’s the way it should be.”
In the 1990s, Icove sponsored and helped to pass legislation and programs involving rental property registration and inspection and maintainance of vacant lots. He also assisted and encouraged the city’s administration to form a recycling committee and promoted early efforts in recycling.
“I would say the rental property registration was one of my major accomplishments that I was proud of,” he said. “At the time ours was enacted, there was only one other community (in Cuyahoga County) that had rental property registration, and that was Shaker Heights. It maintains housing stock for the community in rental properties.”
Icove also served as president of the Hillcrest Council of Councils from 2003 to 2006 and as chair of the South Euclid charter review commission in 2004 and 2005. He has been general counsel for Ohio Citizen Action since 1997.
Icove has been owner of the Icove Legal Group, based in downtown Cleveland and known for consumer protection cases, since 2006. He has served under three mayors in South _Euclid – Arnold D’Amico, John Kocevar and current Mayor Georgine Welo – but said he never considered running for mayor.
“Under our present form of government, the mayor is a full-time position, and you’re not allowed to have any other business interest,” he said. “So that would give me the options of giving up practicing law versus being the mayor; that’s why I have not considered it.”
Icove, who had a case heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 and won, added he has no plans to retire from his law practice.
“I enjoy going to work every day, and I love helping people out,” he said. “It’s the same love I have for helping people out in the community as a councilman, so I wouldn’t want to give that up.”
While Icove is not affiliated with a synagogue, he noted his family belonged to The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood when he was growing up in Shaker Heights. He has been a member of Jewish Elected Officials of Cuyahoga County since its inception in 2012.
A 1969 graduate of Shaker Heights High School, Icove earned a law degree from the University of Toledo College of Law and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio University in Athens.
Icove said he plans to spend more time with Mary, his wife of 37 years, after he leaves council.
“We’re going to go on vacation,” he said with a smile. “For 28 years, my wife has been very understanding for the needs of the community, and she deserves to spend more time with me.
“I also will be active on social and political issues that I feel are important, not only locally, but also statewide and nationwide.”
Ed Wittenberg is a freelance writer from Cleveland Heights