OUR VIEW: A goodbye to three leaders and 42 years

The world’s wealthiest man, valued at $79 billion, was a college drop-out.

When Bill Gates left Harvard, he started Traf-O-Data. It failed, but Gates went on to found a computing empire, with his Windows operating system dominating the business landscape.

Before they can do great things, leaders need to have opportunities to stumble.

That’s a lesson we hope readers will remember in the coming months, as the cities in our newspapers’ coverage areas embrace new executives with new ideas — some of which may seem scary and alien.

David Taylor, in 12 years as mayor of Amherst, proved himself a hard bargainer when needed but always sought to use diplomacy rather than muscle. He came to be known for his honesty, his frankness, and happy transparency, never taking credit even when it was deserved.

Eric Norenberg, in eight years as Oberlin’s city manager, was the consummate professional, keeping calm and steady even in the face of conflict. He never hid from difficult truths or cold hard facts, but chose to address them head-on. And he was always readily accessible, whether on the job or off the clock.

Wellington has the biggest gulf to cross as mayor Barbara O’Keefe leaves behind a 22-year legacy. She is intrinsically linked to the village’s image as a haven of Americana, a place of white picket fences and warm nostalgia. Ask anyone to describe her and you can count on words such as “practical” and “genuine” to follow. If she saw something that wasn’t right, she would be the first to try to fix it.

Among the three, that’s a combined 42 years of experience gone from western Lorain County leadership.

None have been without their faults but they have all made great progress, and for that we are thankful. Their actions have never been marked with malice, only their best wishes for their neighbors.

They’ll be difficult to replace. Mark Costilow will take the challenge in Amherst and Hans Schneider will in Wellington, while Oberlin’s future is more obscured.

What may be clouded by nostalgia is that all new leaders — even Taylor, Norenberg, and O’Keefe — make missteps as they adjust to the rigors of office. In the first 100 days, we challenge readers to be patient and understanding, to be compassionate and forgiving as new leaders get their footing. They need time to experiment, to make mistakes, to find their strides, and to push forward. It will be a learning experience for them as surely as it is for us.

When a new leader rises to the challenge, it’s imperative to give them the benefit of the doubt, for a trial period at least. If they stumble at first, that’s to be expected; if they are still stumbling months after taking office, that will be cause for concern.

Time and leeway are needed.