CUMBERLAND — Lee N. Fiedler, a former Cumberland mayor and CEO of the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., died Wednesday surrounded by family in Stow, Ohio. He was 79.
Fiedler came to Cumberland in 1991 from Akron, Ohio, the site of the corporate headquarters of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which owns Kelly-Springfield. He rose to the rank of CEO at Kelly and retired in 1999 after 35 years of service. Shortly after retiring, he was elected Cumberland's mayor, and served from 2000 to 2010.
"It's sad to hear of his passing ... far too soon," said Jeff Rhodes, former city administrator.
"He will be missed," said Larry Brock, a local businessman and close friend. "He was a positive influence to his family, friends and the city."
The Baltimore Sun wrote at the time of his election that Fiedler had gone from "jetting around the world, sealing multimillion-dollar contracts as chief executive officer of Kelly-Springfield," to presiding over the city's day-to-day issues with parking, noise ordinances and water service.
Those who worked under the Fiedler administration knew he had one goal — to elevate customer service and morale among city employees.
His peers agree he succeeded in that mission.
"His effort to get the attitude of the city employees changed was important to him," said Brock, who shared coffee with Fiedler most mornings for several years. "He took the attitude from passing on a problem, to one of 'How can I solve problems and get this done?"
"I was community development director when he was elected and there was quite a buzz at the time," said Rhodes. "It was, a Fortune 500 executive would will be our mayor. That was uplifting to everyone. It was instant leadership the second he walked in the door."
Fiedler was born Nov. 8, 1941, in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, the son of Leon and Betty Fiedler. He was the third of six children. He graduated from St. Mary’s High School in 1959, Kent State University in 1963 and the Harvard Business School in 1987. Advancing through positions at Goodyear, in 1991 Lee was appointed president and CEO of Kelly-Springfield Tire Company in Cumberland.
Achievement was a family sport. Four of the Fiedler children grew up to be presidents or CEOs of large companies. His oldest brother, John, ran Kelly-Springfield before him.
"Mayor Fiedler was a mentor that I had the honor to serve with and work with while I was on City Council," said Brian Grim, a former mayor. "His experience in the private sector at Kelly was a big plus for Cumberland.
"He was not a native, but he moved here and adopted Cumberland as his home because he saw the potential in the city," Grim said. "I learned a great deal about leadership from him and I’ll always cherish those mentoring moments. He was as a kind, gentle and giving man. He always saw the good in people and the possibilities ... an eternal optimist."
Gary Bartik of the Allegany Museum said Fiedler helped the nonprofit organization succeed.
"He will be missed. He was one of a kind," Bartik said. "Lee was a visionary and a thinker. The Kelly-Springfield saw that in him. You never thought he was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He did not flaunt it. He was down to earth.
"As mayor, you could tell he had Cumberland at heart. He looked at the big picture of things and he did things that were good for Cumberland."
Fiedler is survived by his wife Teresa Cera Fiedler, five children and 14 grandchildren.
Friends will be received Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Dunn-Quigley Funeral Home in Stow. A funeral will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church, Stow.