BOTKINS — Dedication to public service and helping others were common themes found in both people chosen for annual awards presented by the Shelby County Democratic Central Committee, here, Thursday, April 26.
More than 50 people attended the annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner at The Palazzo that also featured two guest speakers.
Kathy Lukey, of Sidney, was chosen as the Shelby County Democrat of the Year. Longtime civil servant Merrill Asher, of Sidney, was named the Shelby County Community Citizen of the Year.
Committee Chairman Tom Kerrigan said that Lukey serves as the party treasurer and her work is continuous. A dedicated wife and mother to her family, Kerrigan said Lukey didn’t begin a career and political work until she was 40.
The 81-year-old Lukey received her nursing degree at the age of 39, which began a 20-year span of services in Shelby and Miami counties. She quickly rose, serving in psychiatric and education scenarios while earning a psychology degree. She worked as a prevention and substance abuse consultant.
Kerrigan stated she established awareness programs and trained educators and other consultants regarding substance abuse. She has served on the Edison State Community College Board of Trustees and is currently on its foundation board. In 2017, she was a featured alum at Rhodes State College in Lima.
Her daughter, Lynda Lukey, took a more personal look at her mother. In a written statement, Lukey recalled her mother’s teaching Red Cross swimming while managing and serving as a lifeguard at the Botkins Pool. She indicated the same dedication she had for her family crossed over to her service work.
Kathy Lukey and her late husband, Jack, were married for 63 years when he died in 2017. They have four children, 13 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.
Regarding Asher, Kerrigan said he has been involved in community service for many years. He noted Asher was a Sidney City Council member for 28 years, a member of the board of education of the Sidney City Schools and currently serves on the city planning commission and board of elections.
Kerrigan said when he is working on a project for the Democratic Party that Asher is the first person he calls seeking input. He stated Asher has worked for many years in Columbus protecting the pension programs for all public employees.
Asher and his wife, Ann, have a son and three grandchildren.
The guest speaker was Danny O’Connor, of Columbus. The 2005 Lehman Catholic High School graduate is running for the U.S. Congress to represent the 12th District. He is currently serving as Franklin County recorder.
The 31-year-old graduated from Wright State University in 2009 and later earned his law degree at Syracuse University. He is currently a partner in a Columbus law firm with Amy Weis.
O’Connor said Ohio was the next state to have a special election in August. He said if Democrats worked hard to garner votes, that “Ohio could set the pace” in creating a mindset that the U.S. should be leading the world in green environment issues, technology and industry.
As a comparison, O’Connor said years ago, the Russians launched the Sputnik space capsule ahead of the U.S. and this country’s response was to go to the moon. That, he said, is an attitude Democrats should become involved with.
Also speaking was Garrett Baldwin, the 17-year-old Mechanicsburg High School senior seeking the seat in the Ohio House of Representatives from the 85th District. He is running unopposed in the May 8 primary.
Garrett spoke on his three campaign topics of poverty within the district, the opioid crisis and funding for public education.
He said more than 14,000 people in the 85th District live in poverty. He plans to introduce a measure to establish a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour. He claimed knowledge of a $2 billion “rainy day fund” in Columbus that could be used to properly equip health care officials and establish opioid rehab programs. Closing tax loopholes for the rich is one solution to providing schools with more operating income, he said.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.