In 1950 Harvey & Shirley Friedman moved their young son out to "the country"- Beachwood country, that is! Harvey still maintains that he had no idea what awaited them in Beachwood, Ohio. A Buffalo native, Harvey quickly saw the winds of change bringing obstacles to their new Village of Beachwood. Early on, both Harvey and Shirley rose to the challenges in their new community. They quickly proved to be modern day pioneers which has continued during their nearly half century in Beachwood.
It was Shirley Friedman and the late Rebecca Brickner (wife of Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner) who first got Harvey involved in community issues. Like other Beachwoodites’ in the new suburban village, Shirley Freidman was dissatisfied with the quality of education. Rebecca Brickner saw her husband’s congregation confronting serious opposition for a building permit to construct their proposed new Fairmount Temple. Both women sought Harvey’s help. Somehow they knew his community involvement could make the difference. And right they were.
Harvey ran for the Beachwood City Council just as he completed his degree at Case Western Reserve University. He earned his degree the long, hard way going to classes at night while working as a salesman at Midland Electric Co. Friedman had to vie for the three available spots with Armand Arnson, Sanford Likover, Leo Rattay, Max Rhodes and Stanley Weinberg. In 1956, Harvey Friedman, Stanley Weinberg and Sanford Likover won over the three incumbents. All three men were the first Jews to serve on City Council.
The following January, Harvey took office. Soon after, he volunteered his services to the then Mayor Henry Hopwood to serve as chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission. Friedman diligently used this opportunity to begin molding Beachwood into the city we know today.
The fledgling suburb had big problems. They needed money. The school system was desperate for cash to build modern school buildings and a good educational system. Simultaneously, many developers looked to Beachwood as a place to develop and build. Daily requests came before City Council to rezone various land parcels. Things seemed to move quickly. To gain orderly progress for the city’s future, Friedman asked the Cuyahoga County Regional Planning Commission to provide the Village of Beachwood with a comprehensive development plan.
With input from Harvey, an overall program was developed. The plan included rezoning land parcels for commercial use at Cedar and Richmond Rds as well as all of Kinsman Rd (now Chagrin Blvd). Commerce Park, the crown jewel in Harvey’s plan, became one of the first planned suburban industrial parks. Conveniently and carefully tucked into a corner of Beachwood remote from the residential neighborhoods yet adjacent to throughways, major companies quickly sought locations in Commerce Park. It soon generated the needed property taxes that developed Beachwood’s school and the city’s entire infrastructure and quality services. To this day, Beachwood’s financial stability continues to provide a fine school system, recreational facilities, road services and maintenance, police and fire protection, par excellent. The financial stability for the now City of Beachwood was secure.
During Friedman’s years as chairman of the Cuyahoga Regional Planning Commission, he made many close contacts with state officials. These co-operative relationships proved helpful as the new city developed. County and State officials knew the young City of Beachwood had a serious trailblazer willing to pave the way for the city’s future progress. This proved invaluable as Beachwood sought the widening of State and County roads for better access and to ease traffic.
Harvey Friedman was elected to serve as President of City Council in 1960. He remained in that prestigious and powerful position for twenty years. He became Mayor of Beachwood in 1980, succeeding the well-known and well-loved George Zeiger.
Under Mayor Freidman’s leadership, numerous planned developments, proposed in the original 1950’s Comprehensive Beachwood Plan came to fruition. Projects such as the expansion of Park East, The Village, Beachwood Place Mall, Science Park, numerous Corporate Office Buildings and the annexation of 680 acres from Warrensville Township took place. It is also worth noting that when Friedman was elected to Council in 1955, the city tax was $6.40 per $1000 of tax valuation. Today, in 1997, it is $4.00. In the same period, residential values increased sevenfold.
Mayor Harvey Friedman was known to be tough. He was tough only on behalf of his fellow Beachwood taxpayers. Always a pioneer, interested only in what would be good for Beachwood, he welcomed new plans and ideas only if their intentions and proposals would benefit the City. Considering the numbers of hours he put in each week it is doubtful that his hourly rate was above the minimum wage. He worked, ate and slept Beachwood. While Harvey was busy making Beachwood a great community he also provided his leadership skills to numerous organizations. This could be one reason why he is listed in Who’s Who in America
Harvey Friedman retired as Mayor of Beachwood in the summer of 1995. In September of 1995 friends and neighbors of the Friedmans wanted to personally thank Harvey for his tireless efforts on behalf of their City. Beachwood Place Mall along with over 500 longtime friends, neighbors and 75 corporations hosted a retirement gala to fete the Friedmans. Partygoers wrote Mayor Friedman notes wishing him well. Essentially, they all said the same thing. "Thanks for being Mr. Beachwood, we love you."
It seems Shirley Friedman and Rebecca Brickner knew the right man to ask for help way back in 1950. Mayor Friedman did more than help Beachwood; he pioneered its creation to become the proud, progressive suburban City that it is.
Today, at the young age of 77, Harvey Friedman looks and feels well. He and Shirley live in the same house in Beachwood where they raised their three sons. Now they are enjoying watching their grandchildren grow up and the city Harvey molded, as they both continue to grow and to prosper.
Another pioneer that served in public office with Friedman was Si Wachsberger. He was born and raised in Cleveland and graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. When Wachsberger and his wife Shirley moved to Beachwood in 1951 he had just opened a clothing store known as The Oxford Shop in Shaker Heights. Wachsberger remembers that their children attended the only school in Beachwood, the eight-room schoolhouse known as Fairmount School. In 1956 Wachsberger was elected to the Beachwood school board where he devotedly served for 14 years. He was an instrumental player in the development of the school system. Wachsberger was one of the advocates for building Bryden and Hilltop in lieu of putting a second addition on Fairmount.
Wachsberger was also one of the early organizers of Beachwood softball. He served as a manager and coach for fourteen years. He was a charter member of the Beachwood Voters’ League, the Boosters, and the American Field Service. The Civic League honored Wachsberger as Beachwood’s "Man of the Year" in 1969. Wachsberger proudly served on Beachwood’s council for 24 years and was an intricate part in the leadership of the community. He currently spends time helping a variety of organizations.
Other valuable pioneers included Fred Isenstat who moved to Beachwood in 1954 and served on the school board from 1958 to 1969. As a builder it was natural for Isenstat to oversee the school board’s development of the middle school and additions to several buildings. Isenstadt continues to live in Beachwood and provides quiet input into he community’s future.
One of Beachwood’s pioneers was the late Connie Cowan. Cowan moved with her husband Les to East Baintree Rd. in 1949 and served on the school board from 1953 to 1959. Cowan served on many committees and was very active in the creation of the Voters’ League. In 1950 published a monthly newsletter known as the "Beachwood News". This publication welcomed new residents and brought readers up to date on what was going on.