Former Secret Service directors hired by Mayor Starr and City Council to protect schools

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Seated: Mayor W. Starr signs the OPERATION: “Protect Our Children” ordinance flanked by former Secret Service directors Lewis C. Merletti (left) and Eljay B. Bowron (right).

Standing: From left to right: Chief of Police John Maddox, Councilmen Tim Ali, John Grech, Matthew G. McGregor, Matthew J. Castelli, Raymond G. Guttmann, David Bortolotto, Council President Alan C. Budney and former Secret Service Agent J. Lawrence Cunningham.

On the evening of May 14, 2013, Middleburg Heights Mayor Gary W. Starr introduced a school security ordinance to launch a new program: Operation “Protect Our Children.”

The program includes the hiring of two former U.S. Secret Service directors – Lewis C. Merletti and Eljay B. Bowron – and their associates at Torchstone Global, LLC, a company with unparalleled expertise in security.

Without hesitation, all members of City Council voted in favor of this important and unprecedented ordinance, allowing the city to hire Torchstone Global and their associates. The company will provide, review and assess the city’s current safety, security and crisis response plans in all schools in Middleburg Heights and several public buildings. This effort is being made to optimize our current plans and to protect the more than 3,500 students who attend school in Middleburg Heights.

The program began taking shape when, just hours after the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mayor Starr began gathering information and making phone calls to his chief of police and safety director in an effort to develop a program to protect children in Middleburg Heights Schools.

The following Monday, Starr enhanced security in each school and increased patrols surrounding the school areas. This was the initial solution for securing Middleburg Heights schools, however – as Starr knew and expressed to colleagues – the City needed to do more.

By hiring Torchstone Global the mayor, city council and the administration have access to the knowledge, expertise and experience of former directors and agents of the Secret Service, and can adopt their recommendations to protect our residents and the 3,500 school children who are in Middleburg Heights every school day.

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Mayor Gary W. Starr in discussion with Chief of Police John Maddox, former Secret Service agent
J. Lawrence Cunningham and former Secret Service directors Eljay B. Bowron and Lewis C. Merletti

“Our goal is to gain maximum protection of our children and enhance our response as first responders if there are threats that are posed to us as a city and school district,” said Mayor Starr. “No one can guarantee against a Sandy Hook, Columbine, or Virginia Tech from occurring – what we can do is make certain that we are doing everything humanly possible to proactively respond to that 911 call involving our children.”

Within the 148-year history of the United States Secret Service there have only been 23 directors. Two of those directors were present at the city council meeting. These gentlemen have served and protected Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Clinton.