CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Former Cleveland Mayor Michael White, who served three terms between 1990 and 2002, made a rare appearance at City Hall on Thursday to receive the Cleveland Heritage Medal.
The award comes 53 years after White first set a goal as a 13-year-old student in Glenville to one day lead his hometown.
White, who rarely grants interviews, told Fox 8 News, "You know, when I was mayor, the thing that drove me more than anything else was just my belief in the deep and abiding commitment to the people of Cleveland, and I just wanted to be the best representative I could be for them."
Mike White stunned many Clevelanders when he suddenly walked away from politics after serving his third term as mayor.
He and his wife moved to Tuscarawas County where they run an alpaca farm and a winery.
When asked if he misses the hurly burly of Cleveland politics, White said, “I was in government and politics for 32 years and I think unless you're a masochist, that's probably enough, but in what I am doing now on behalf of the Mandel Foundation and trying to train neighborhood leaders so they can be better leaders in their neighborhood, and the kind of growing that my wife and I do on our farm, that's very fulfilling."
The fingerprints of Mike White can be found all over modern Cleveland. In 1995, when Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore, it was White who led the fight for a new NFL franchise in Cleveland and construction of a new stadium.
The landscape of Cleveland changed dramatically under White's leadership, with construction of the Gateway Sports Complex, the Great Lakes Science Museum and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
White told Fox 8, "When I took office, there were already seeds there and they were seeds sown by George Voinovich and I made a predetermined commitment that I was going to fertilize his seeds; I was going to add some of my own seeds and I think Mayor Jackson has continued in that concept, so all of us are gardeners who are continuing to build this garden called Cleveland.”
Even though he now lives in Newcomerstown, White says the new Cleveland continues to be a source of pride and as he found during a visit downtown, the source of an occasional laugh.
White quipped, "You know, there's this whole joke about being able to throw a bowling ball down Euclid Avenue at 5 p.m. and I was sitting in the chair and it was about 5 p.m., it was a traffic jam and I said 'this is great!’”
Also honored with the Cleveland Heritage Medal were business legends Sam Miller, Albert Ratner and Carole Hoover.