At 202 years old, Elyria is undergoing a facelift. And, it seems only appropriate that Mayor Holly Brinda, a fifth-generation resident of the city, is at the forefront of a renaissance that has transformed the schools, businesses and arts community.
“Pride has returned in Elyria, and you can see it everywhere,” says Brinda, now in her eighth year as mayor. “We have very strong partnerships and collaborations, and I’m really proud of our taxpayers who have supported the schools and our library system.”
Brinda, a past president of the Elyria Board of Education, worked long and hard as a proponent of rebuilding the city’s education infrastructure. The result is a new $73 million high school and an outlay of $140 million to replace all of Elyria’s school buildings.
“We had the oldest chartered high school west of the Allegheny Mountains,” says Brinda. “But not everybody agreed we should try to do this. I made a personal decision I was going to contribute to this effort. It took almost 10 years, but it was so worth it. It was one of the most positive moments in our city’s history.”
The city’s major capital improvements include a $37 million downtown revitalization project, a new main library branch downtown, two new hotels, 350 new home builds and an ongoing effort to bring in new regional businesses to the city’s Midway Mall. “We have new streetscapes and new LED lighting,” says Brinda. “It’s a safer, better-looking environment.”
Another project that hit home with Brinda was the $355,000 raised to replace the city’s historic fountain in Ely Square. “It was one of the first electric fountains in the United States,” she says. “It epitomizes the pride people have in this community. It’s our living room.”
Brinda also helped establish Elyria Arts Council, a nonprofit with a working art gallery. “We knew there were a lot of talented people in our community, and I wanted to use arts as a way of improving our downtown,” she says. “You need to create a local niche to be viable.”
Brinda worked for almost 30 years to develop the skillsets that have served her well as mayor. She has degrees from The Ohio State University and Cleveland State University and a background in planning and resource development. Brinda began her career at WEOL radio and later became a columnist for The Lorain Morning Journal.
“Believe it or not, I’m kind of a shy person,” laughs Brinda, who is married to longtime WTAM radio personality Greg Brinda. “Doing those interviews forced me to come out of my shell.”
Brinda is an unabashed animal lover with a rescue St. Bernard and several cats at home. “One of my passions is the city’s partnership with the Friendship Animal Protective League,” she says.
Brinda lost her first run for mayor in 2007 but has established herself as the clear favorite to win a third term this November. “I think it’s a healthy process. Every time I’ve gone through it, I’ve learned something. I’d like to be mayor as long as I can do the job well.”