MOUNT VERNON — It was a good night to talk local politics Thursday night at the Knox County Democratic dinner.
Keynote Speaker and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley spoke on how the national issues of gun violence, climate change and racism hit Dayton all in one year — and how it was Dayton, not Washington, that is pulling together to address those issues. Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis was honored for his achievements in 44 years of public service. Mavis said in his tenures as a county commissioner and as mayor, politics at the local level involved getting the right people together to find solutions and get things done.
Dayton made national news in August with the Oregon District mass shooting that left nine dead and 40 injured. It was struck by multiple tornadoes in May just days after a white supremacist rally was held in the city.
Whaley recalled how cries of “Do something!” erupted at a prayer vigil for the shooting victims by Gov. Mike DeWine, and that nothing has been done since to address gun violence. The tornadoes, attributed to wider drastic weather patterns as a result of global warming, have not been enough for the White House to start meaningful conversations on climate change, she said.
“Dayton will take the lead. We simply have no other choice,” Whaley said. “If the state and (federal) government won’t lead, Democrats at the local level will.”
Whaley said Dayton has dealt with other recent problems on its own as they have developed. Overdose deaths are down by half and a city effort has opened the way to preschool for all children. Dayton became the fourth city nationwide to take legal action against big pharma to hold them accountable for the opioid epidemic.
Mavis’s many achievements as commissioner and mayor were brought up in introductory remarks by Mount Vernon Councilmember Sam Barone. These include the development of Ariel-Foundation Park and the trail systems going through Knox County, as well as the improvement of Coshocton Avenue from a two-lane road to a five-lane to keep up with traffic needs as the east end experienced explosive economic growth.
But Mavis said those things were done with him in a guiding role, and that there were too many people to name who made it all happen.
Mavis attempted to break out of local politics to run, unsuccessfully, for state representative in 1983. His lesson from the campaign was “don’t do it again.”
Mavis attributed losing his sixth term for county commissioner due to his support for the development of the Kokosing Gap Trail. Like other things that hurt him politically, Mavis said he did it because it was the right thing to do.
After taking off two years, Mavis went on to serve as mayor for 24 years. He is in his last term, which will end this year.
“I’ve had 44 wonderful years in local government,” Mavis said. “I’ve never regretted anything I’ve done. I wish I could keep going.”
Democrat Kathleen Tate was honored with the Volunteer of the Year award. Now in her 70s, Tate urged the dinner attendees to get out in the community, and to encourage young people to get involved.