For nearly a decade, Darren Shulman has served the City of Delaware as its representing attorney, playing a part in the considerable growth the community has seen in recent years. Now, it’s time to move on as Shulman is set to take the same role in Upper Arlington at the end of the month.
A graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School, Shulman came to Delaware in 2011 after previously serving as the associate legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services and prior to that as a Montgomery County assistant prosecuting attorney. After his career path brought him to Delaware, Shulman found he quite enjoyed being able to see the fruits of his work, which wasn’t always the case with previous gigs.
“One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about working with a municipality is you’re very close to the people you serve, and you can really make a direct impact on individual lives and see that impact,” Shulman said. “That’s a really cool benefit to my job, being able to provide direct help to people, and being able to see that result firsthand.”
Shulman cited Delaware’s reputation as a “pretty cool community” as one of the enticing factors in taking the role years ago. Furthermore, he said there was excitement in coming to Delaware as the city began to transition from a small town to a midsize city.
“The growth and the transition … you want to try to strike that balance of big city issues but also maintaining that small-town feel,” he said. “I grew up in Oxford, Ohio, and size-wise, it is kind of similar to Delaware. So, I was attracted to that challenge of how you help the city move from that small town to a mid-major city…”
While Shulman has had a role in many of the developments that have factored into Delaware’s transition, there are particular projects that stand out. Many of them are obvious, he said, such as the many housing developments that have been built during his tenure throughout Delaware. However, one project he is most fond of is a project that most Delawareans might not even be aware of, and one that had an impact beyond Delaware’s city limits.
Delaware’s negotiation of multiple Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDD) with Berkshire Township has brought additional revenue into the city since 2015. Under Ohio law, townships are not able to levy an income tax, necessitating a municipality to enter into a JEDD in order for the township to receive tax revenue.
Under the first JEDD, Delaware collects taxes from workers at Tanger Outlets, with the city receiving 40% of that revenue. That JEDD covers 215 acres that extend directly east of the mall and then north along South Galena Road to U.S. Route 36. A second JEDD between the city and township was finalized last May, with the two sides agreeing to a 20% share for Delaware.
Shulman said it was “cool” to have a part in that agreement, although he was quick to point out the projects aren’t his ideas. Nevertheless, he is happy to facilitate those responsible for the projects in getting them completed.
“My job is cool because I don’t really own stuff, I help other people with their awesome projects,” Shulman said. “Everything I work on has been in support of some other member who is really carrying the water. But I get to help them move their goals along.”
Asked why the time is right to take his career to a different city, Shulman said he is proud of what the city’s been able to accomplish during his time in Delaware, and he also knows the excellent work will continue following his departure.
“I’m really happy with the work that we have done,” he said. “I’ve kind of gotten the legal department in a place where I think it is positioned to really continue flourishing. It’s a well-oiled machine, it has the right people in place. I think it’s time where they can continue their growth without me.”
Shulman added that he had no intentions of leaving. In fact, he said the plan was always to retire in Delaware. However, the Upper Arlington position, which had previously been occupied by the same person for the past 31 years, became available, and it was something he couldn’t pass up.
“It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, or at least a once-in-a-career opportunity, so when I was approached, I figured I had to at least give it a shot,” Shulman said. “If it didn’t work out, I’d still be (in Delaware) for another 20 years. (The Upper Arlington position) was one of the few positions I would have ever considered leaving for because I’ve been very happy here.”
With the shift in cities will also come a shift in the challenges associated with his job. Whereas Delaware is a city that continues to expand, Upper Arlington faces a different set of challenges due to it being landlocked by surrounding communities.
“(Upper Arlington) is focusing on redevelopment and how to use what space they have left,” Shulman said. “I think my experience with development issues here regarding new development will transition well to what they need for their own redevelopment.”
Although he is leaving Delaware professionally, Shulman said the new position does not require him to relocate his family, meaning he will remain a resident in the community he has helped to improve over the past decade.
“It’s a great community, I am very happy to live here,” Shulman said. “And I have the advantage of knowing the top-notch staff that serves the residents. It’s a great place for my family to grow.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.