A Curious Candidate

He carries a gun, scares his neighbors, and really wants to be a city councilman.

Paul Ilg
Candidate Paul Ilg's gun collection includes a .454 and an AK-47. - Walter  Novak
Candidate Paul Ilg's gun collection includes a .454 and an AK-47.
Paul Ilg can't stand graffiti. Hates it. When some punks started tagging the warehouses near his Cuyahoga Falls home, he wanted to catch those bastards in the worst way. The city was planning to put together a task force, which is what cities do. But Paul Ilg is a man of action. "Gimme some night-vision goggles and a radio." That's what he told the mayor.

He hates terrorism too. A couple of days after 9-11, a guy was riding on top of a train. The cops thought he might be a terrorist. "I took off in foot pursuit," Ilg says. He was 40 then, not as spry as when he used to box at the Y. But he chased that bearded fella for damn near a mile, till the real cops caught him. "Turns out it was nothing more than a hobo," Ilg says with a dying-cat cackle.

Then there's City Hall. Idiots. They screw up everything. The biggest thing is this new section of houses, right behind the house where he was raised. It was gorgeous back there -- thick trees and open space. But now they're building on it. He can't believe it.

He and a neighbor got into it with the woman who owns that land. There's a police report -- one of about 50 with Ilg's name on it. They were yelling so loud, the cops had to calm things down. Then the neighborhood's councilwoman, Mary Ellen Pyke, showed up. But here's the thing about Pyke: "She's a snooty back-stabber," says Ilg.

Which is why he's running for her seat on the Cuyahoga Falls city council.

Ilg has made a living lifting and twisting, putting together and taking apart. After he graduated high school, he took a job in construction, then spent time working in the pits at Indy races. Now he delivers instruments for a music store.

But he's just so tired of people ignoring him and his neighborhood. He has to make a statement. "This is my neighborhood," he says -- a lot.

He doesn't stand a chance. Pyke's going for her fifth straight term. She's popular as hell. Last time around, she got 72 percent of the vote.

But Ilg's bigger problem is . . . himself. He sort of scares people. That stuff in him -- the stuff that makes him chase down bearded hobos and stake out punk teenagers -- sometimes gets the better of him. "People call me a troublemaker," Ilg says. People are probably right.

He was arrested in 1989 for trespassing and damaging, after he climbed to the second-story balcony of his ex-girlfriend's house and pounded on the window. Since then, the cops have been regulars at Ilg's place.

Mostly they come to quell spats between him and his second ex-wife, Joanie. They were married for 10 years and have an eight-year-old daughter. Report after report details disagreements over who will take their daughter. Usually Paul has her and doesn't want to let her go.

In 2003, a cop was at Ilg's house to settle another dispute when Ilg "picked up what looked like a chrome revolver," the officer wrote in his report.

Ilg put it down when the officer asked him. He only picked it up because he didn't want to leave it unattended, he says.

Ilg's not shy about his fondness for guns. He's got a .45, two 9-millimeters, a .454, and an AK-47, with a license to carry a handgun on his hip -- which he does. He drives in some shady neighborhoods for work, he says, and once had a .45 pressed to his forehead during a delivery. "The bad guys are always gonna have guns," he says. So he's always gonna have one too.

But some reports cast doubt on whether Ilg's the kind of guy you want with loaded firearms. In 2003, he was hospitalized after he put down some sleeping pills and vodka, a report shows. And police have visited Ilg several times this month, since someone reported that he was suicidal. He told police it was bogus -- said his ex-wife's trying to sabotage his campaign. But his ex-wife didn't make the calls. His own mother did.

Before he moved back into his childhood home, Ilg earned a reputation in his old neighborhood as a bully, igniting disputes over noise, parking, whatever. It's not that he goes around hitting people. But he'll dress you down like a drill sergeant on the first day of boot camp, then call the police when you tell him to shove it. One former neighbor says Ilg would incite people to fight him, then pull out a video camera to catch them coming after him.

"He had everybody in this neighborhood so on edge that you expected something to happen any minute," the old neighbor says.

"I don't want him in our city government at all, in any way, shape, or form," says another former neighbor. "He just isn't stable enough."

He's more popular among his new neighbors, who share his frustration with the new houses. But one said she wouldn't talk about Ilg, because she was afraid of what he might do.

She's not the only person he frightens. Councilwoman Pyke has had so many run-ins with Ilg, she asks police to come to city council meetings when he shows up. He once bawled her out in the middle of a community meeting about a street construction project that he actually supported. He just didn't like the way the city was doing it.

Ilg says there's nothing to be scared of. But he talks like maybe there is. He tells a story about the time some punk kid yelled at him in traffic. Ilg climbed out of his car. "You made two mistakes this morning," he recalls telling the boy. "One: You got up."

He never gets around to what the second mistake was; instead, he brags about how the kid walked shamefacedly back to his car. But it's a pretty safe bet that the second mistake was messing with Paul Ilg.

"If you're doing wrong," Ilg likes to say, "heaven help you. You're not doing it to me."

It's not much of a campaign slogan. But it's the best Paul Ilg's got.

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