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Joseph Mueller - The Man behind the Desk
by Jon Hanover, Editorial Editor

You've seen him on the podium; you've seen him in the halls; you associate him with "The Man" - but who is Joe Mueller?

Believe it or not, Mr. Mueller wasn't always principal here at West Geauga High School. Mr. Mueller taught reading and social studies for eleven years and administrated for ten at eight different schools in the Cleveland public school system, a system he recalls being full of, "…abuse, neglect, poverty and violence." On his career, he commented, "I never saw myself as a principal. I just wanted to be the best history teacher I could be."

Among his successes was a peer mediation group he administered at West Tech High School, composed of members from two opposing gangs, Up-the-Way and Down-the-Way, which had created so much violence at the school that many kids refused to attend. In addition to academics, Mr. Mueller had many successes in his years coaching football and basketball. One of his players, Charles Oakley, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, said in a television interview that no one believed in him but his high school coach, Joe Mueller.

However much he achieved in the Cleveland schools, one day Mr. Mueller faced what he called a, "philosophical barrier." As he said, "I couldn't say with certainty that the organization I worked for was absolutely committed to making every student succeed." This, combined with the, "…pervasive feeling of hopelessness among the teachers and staff," convinced Mr. Mueller he needed a change.

Then there was West Geauga ! Two years after the retirement of Dr. William Pierce in 1995, Mr. Mueller stepped up to fill Dr. Podojil's former position and has been principal of West Geauga High School since. "I've really enjoyed my time here at West G.," said Mueller, "and I expect it will be my last job."

When not working or attending West Geauga-related events, you might find Mr. Mueller decked out in cowboy boots on his 15 acre spread in Montville, spending time with his family, throwing a frisbee to his two blue healers or playing electric guitar. His taste in music varies from Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty to Bruce Springstien and Frank Sinatra. In addition to music, Mr. Mueller enjoys reading, cooking, and gardening and tries to read a couple of the summer reading books each year.

Mr. Mueller considers himself family oriented, but he said, "West Geuaga is a big part of my life. I spend most of my time here - always six days, sometimes seven days a week." However, Mr. Mueller has no complaints: "We have a great staff here. West Geauga has almost become a second family for me."

Joseph Takacs -The Man behind the Desk

Whether behind his desk, on his walkie-talkie, or perched in the hallway, Mr. Takacs maintains a strong presence at West Geauga High School. But who is Joseph Takacs?

Upon graduating from Miami University with a degree in systems analysis, Mr. Takacs began teaching mathematics at Autobahn Junior High School, where he first met West Geauga High School principal Mr. Mueller. Starting in the Cleveland public school system, Mr. Takacs worked his way up from teacher to department chair and finally to principal at Alexander Hamilton Middle School.

But when Mr. Ron Ayers retired as assistant principal at West Geauga in 1996, Mr. Mueller encouraged his, "old buddy," to apply for the job. Mr. Takacs jumped at the offer and has no regrets. "I love it here," said Mr. Takacs. "I told everybody in Cleveland that I had died and went to heaven. The families are great, and for the most part, people here want to learn and are well behaved."

Mr. Takacs is married and has three children: two daughters, ages twenty and twenty-five, and one boy, aged twenty-seven. In addition to administrating at West Geauga High School, Mr. Takacs works part time at Dick's Sporting Goods (note the stylish outdoor wear at left) in Mentor and takes people fishing in the summer as a Lake Erie Charter Captain.

When he is not working, Mr. Takacs enjoys fishing and hunting. He and his wife own a house in Naples, Florida and try to visit as often as they can. They will be able to spend more time in Florida after next year, when Mr. Takacs plans to retire. It is unlikely Mr. Takacs and his wife will be spending all their time in Florida, however, because Mr. Takacs is, "…not ready to give up the deer hunting in Ohio".

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