FirstEnergyAll-American Soap Box Derby Countdown


Thank You Thursday - Dave Lieberth

Dave LieberthDave Lieberth 

Akron’s Dave Lieberth has accumulated a wide range of official titles over his professional life of more than 40 years: news reporter, attorney, mayor’s chief of staff, deputy mayor, civic leader, author, historian, event planner, communications consultant. In each, he has proven to be the “go to” guy to get things done. And, a true friend of the Soap Box Derby.

He was a reporter and news director at Akron radio station WHLO from 1970 through 1978.   While working in broadcasting, he earned his law degree from the University of Akron and spent more than two decades in private legal practice in Akron.

In 2002, he accepted then-Mayor Don Plusquellic’s offer to become his chief of staff and deputy mayor, roles he held for 10 years.

While deputy mayor, Lieberth supported many of the Derby’s frequent requests for city assistance. During Derby Week, he helped orchestrate plans to reduce disruptions in traffic and from loud sirens during the annual tradition of individually parading each of the hundreds of local champions with a police escort during the annual welcoming ceremonies.  He always made certain the city’s police and other departments were on hand to support Derby-related activities.

One of Lieberth’s shining legacies is his involvement in the revitalization of downtown Akron, including the creation of the outdoor event space called Lock 3. He worked closely with Derby officials to create the current tradition of the Derby Week welcoming ceremony, with the Main Street parade from Canal Park to Lock 3, where each of the hundreds of local champions is introduced from the stage to Derby fans from Akron and visitors from around the globe.

When the Soap Box Derby organization was facing critical financial challenges in 2009 and early 2010, Lieberth was very instrumental in the behind-the-scenes efforts among the city, the Akron business community and Derby officials to resolve the issues.

Since his retirement from the city in 2012, Dave has been a communications and events consultant. He also serves as chairman of the Summit County Historical Society.

In his 2013 book entitled Greater Akron: Inventive. Industrious. Inspired, Lieberth cites the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby as one of the attractions that makes Akron a “livable city.”     

His first association with the All-American championships was in 1969, when he began a three-year stint working summers for then-sponsor Chevrolet’s public relations agency Campbell-Ewald to help publicize the annual youth racing event.

“One of my jobs was to conduct and record two-minute audio interviews with each of the more than 100 local champions as they arrived in town at the old Mayflower Hotel for the big race,” Lieberth explained. “We then would cut individual reel tapes, put them in envelopes and mail them to radio stations in champions’ hometowns.”

Lieberth reported that the following year, the press operation began using the “brand new technology” of telephone answering machines to record and load daily news updates of what was happening during Derby Week.  Local radio stations from across the United States had been encouraged to call in for updates.

“In the room I slept during the week at the Mayflower, there were a dozen or more of those new AT&T answering devices and the constant clicking noise of callers retrieving our news updates made getting a full night’s sleep fairly difficult,” he recalled.

Both technology and the Soap Box Derby have made significant advancements in the years since!

The Derby would like to say THANK YOU to Dave Lieberth for helping us continue our mission of building knowledge and character, and creating meaningful experiences through collaboration and fair and honest competition.

This is the 24th installment of our weekly “Thank You Thursday” feature. Each week we will offer a heartfelt “Thank You” to a corporation, civic or community leader, volunteer, foundation or an individual who has helped us continue our mission. To view previous features please click below.

FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby Champs parading on downtown Akron's Main Street.

Opening ceremonies for the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby are now held at Lock 3 in downtown Akron. 

Thank You Thursday
Thursday, September 29, 2016 - FirstEnergy Corp.
Thursday, October 6, 2016 - Don Plusquellic
Thursday, October 13, 2016 - Bill Ginter
Thursday, October 20, 2016 - Marous Brothers Construction
Thursday, October 27, 2016 - Meggitt Aircraft Braking Systems
Thursday, November 3, 2016 - Myers Industries
Thursday, November 10, 2016 - Outgoing Board Members
Thursday, November 17, 2016 - New Board Members
Thursday. November 24, 2016 - Volunteers
Thursday, December 1, 2016 - Dairy Queen 
Thursday, December 8, 2016 - Curriculum Funders
Thursday, December 15, 2016 - SUBWAY®
Thursday, December 22, 2016 - Will Looman
Thursday, December 29, 2016 - Taylor Made Jewelry
Thursday, January 5, 2017 - Greater Akron Chamber
Thursday, January 12, 2017 - Bob Troyer
Thursday, January 19, 2017 - GPD Group
Thursday, January 26, 2017 - Former Summit County Executive Russ Pry and the County of Summit, Ohio
Thursday, February 2, 2017 - Pilot Flying J
Thursday, February 9, 2017 - Dave Hubbell
Thursday, February 16, 2017 - AAA Akron Auto Club 
Thursday, February 23, 2017 - Danny Hughes 
Thursday, March 2, 2017 - Corbin Bernsen