Former Springfield City Manager Matt Kridler, the longest-serving leader in city history, died Tuesday, Aug. 22 in Pennsylvania, where he had lived the last six years.
Kridler, 69, guided the city for 20 years before he retired from the city manager position at the end of 2008.
Springfield City Manager Bryan Heck worked under Kridler for almost three years, including when Heck first joined city government as an intern.
He credited Kridler with work decades ago that continues to influence Springfield in a significant way today.
Kridler led the city when two hospitals, Mercy and Community, discussed a merger and as officials worked to lure the new, combined hospital downtown. Heck said Kridler helped them come together and pushed the importance of being downtown.
“We are still seeing the fruits of that still today,” Heck said. “It brought 2,000 jobs to our downtown. He had a significant impact we are still seeing today.”
Kridler came to Springfield in 1988 when the city was in extreme financial trouble and faced the threat of street lights being turned off, Heck said.
“It was the right person to come in and make changes and put Springfield back into a trajectory for success,” Heck said.
Kridler negotiated to keep the lights on and worked to improve the city from then on.
“Matt was always about how can we make Springfield better and move Springfield forward,” Heck said. “Matt just embodied professionalism.”
Jim Bodenmiller took over for Kridler as city manager in 2009 after working for him for several years.
He said the city was struggling and citizens did not have a high opinion of City Hall when Kridler arrived.
“He brought in a breath of fresh air and a style of leadership we hadn’t seen,” Bodenmiller said.
He said Kridler was a good friend, too.
“On a personal level he had a tremendous sense of humor,” Bodenmiller said. “A lot of good times and good memories.”
He and his wife Kathy, who worked at Wittenberg University, raised their two children, Maggie and Kyle, in Springfield and committed to the community.
“He really made this his home,” Bodenmiller said.
Bodenmiller served 10 years as city manager, which is second-longest in city history.
“He helped develop me,” Bodenmiller said. “I learned the business from him.”
Heck credited working with Kridler and Bodenmiller, calling them great mentors who helped shape his career.
“They are both just strong leaders overall,” he said. “Matt surrounded himself with good people and empowered other leaders.”
About six years ago, the Kridlers moved to Gibsonia in the Pittsburgh area where he originally was from, because Matt had health issues and Kathy needed support to help care for him, Heck said.
Kridler graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University with a master’s degree in public administration policy.
He was recognized as city manager of the year by Ohio City Managers Association.
A service for Kridler is planned at 11 a.m. on Oct. 14 in Schellhaas Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Ltd., 5864 Heckert Road, Bakerstown, Pa.