Retiring Middletown law director’s career took him from teaching to 28 years with the city

After 28 years with the Middletown Law Department, Law Director Les Landen retired at the end of 2017. Landen has served as law director since 2000 and will return to work on a part-time basis to assist with special projects starting in March. ED RICHTER/STAFF

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After 28 years with the Middletown Law Department, Law Director Les Landen retired at the end of 2017. Landen has served as law director since 2000 and will return to work on a part-time basis to assist with special projects starting in March. ED RICHTER/STAFF

After 28 years as a city employee, Les Landen said his career has been enjoyable and that the people he worked with over the years at the Middletown City Building made it that much more enjoyable.

“I’ve got to do a whole lot of different things and was able to touch a lot of different things, different cases and different situations,” he said. “Its been taxing at times, but the resolution of things has always been positive and its something I can be proud of.”

Although Landen retired on Dec. 31, he will return in March as a part-time special counsel to assist City Manager Doug Adkins with some special projects.

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He will assist in the charter review process and other special projects such as the city’s Professional Development Academy, a series of programs designed to enhance city employees’ understanding of the city organization and the community and the employees’ role in both. One of the programs prepares employees moving into supervisory and/or leadership positions in the organization.

“I’m most proud of the training program we’ve developed here,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that generally we stay out of trouble. We do things the right way generally and we treat our people pretty well, even in difficult times.”

After graduating from Miami University in 1974, Landen taught social studies for two years at Middletown High School before going to law school at the University of Dayton. While in law school, Landen co-opted with the Middletown law department, helping to prosecute cases in Middletown Municipal Court under then-city prosecutor Jerry Bryant.

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After graduating from law school, Landen returned to teaching for another year after a job offer fell through.

Landen became a clerk for senior U.S. District Court Judge Tim Hogan in Cincinnati in June 1980 to October 1981 before joining the private law firm of Ruppert, Bronston and Chicarelli in Franklin, where he did appellate and employment law work, as well as doing criminal and general work.

“I learned a lot from working with (James) Ruppert,” Landen said. “They were all very good lawyers, and I learned how to practice law the right way.”

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Landen said Ruppert and Hogan had “extremely sharp and great minds” and added that Ruppert taught him how to treat people.

In 1989, Middletown offered Landen a part-time job, in which he was made the same salary and a better insurance plan.

“When I got to Middletown, I dealt with employment law and did labor negotiations,” he said. “It was just learning everything.”

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During the 1990s, the city was in court with several annexation battles in Warren County as Middletown began growing to the east of Interstate 75. Some of those cases went before the Ohio Supreme Court. His appellate background helped as he argued cases involving railroad quiet zones and civil rights before the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Landen, who became law director in 2000, said the toughest part about being law director could be remembering who his clients are — and aren’t.

“I don’t represent the city manager or city council,” he said. “I represent the city corporation, and I have to be the one to keep the bosses within the white lines. But that has never been a problem.”

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Landen described his experience as “wonderful.”

“I told council it was an honor to serve Middletown and it was cool and awesome to be my hometown’s chief legal officer,” he said. “I appreciate the community. It takes a lot of shots but people who come here are surprised and impressed.”

Throughout his life, Landen has been active in a number of community organizations and events.

“It’s nice to be a part of it,” he said. “Five years ago, we were in a critical situation, but we’ve made enormous progress in the past five years.”

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While he applied for the city manager’s post in 2014, Landen said Adkins improved employee morale and has been doing a good job for the city. Landen originally hired Adkins as an assistant prosecutor more than 10 years ago, describing him as a “smart cookie.”

He also said it’s been enjoyable to watch people who are committed and dedicated to serving the city, adding that the teamwork in Middletown “has always been great…. There are a lot of good people who work here from top level people in management to the line employees…. Sometimes the line employees are more amazing that top level management.”

“It’s satisfying because you feel like you’ve accomplished some things,” Landen said. “Its been a great ride because I feel I’ve accomplished something.”

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