COLUMBUS — Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst was elected President of the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Municipal League (OML) at its Dec. 14 meeting at the Westin Hotel in downtown Columbus. Earlier in the day, Barhorst and the other OML officers participated in a press conference in the atrium of the Capital.
His election marked a week of book ends for Shelby County. Commissioner Julie Ehemann was sworn in as president of the Ohio County Commissioners Association (OCCA) on Monday, Dec. 10. This marks the first time in Ohio’s history that both the president of the OML and the OCCA have simultaneously been from the same county.
“City Manager Mark Cundiff has been joking about our terms coinciding since we were both elected second vice presidents of our respective associations,” Barhorst said. “He’ll say, ‘Look out! Red Thunder (Ehemann) and White Lightening (Barhorst) are going to rule Ohio!’ in reference to our respective hair colors.”
Barhorst, who served as OML’s second vice president in 2017 and then served as first vice president in 2018. His term in office as president begins in January 2019. His formal service in an OML leadership role will conclude in 2020, when he will serve as immediate past president.
”I am honored to serve as president of the Ohio Municipal League,” Barhorst stated. “I’ve attempted to hit the ground running. I spent a part of the past week in Ironton and Chillicothe, and the following day traveled to Perrysburg and North Baltimore. Despite the diverse nature of those communities, there are tremendous similarities. Our efforts this coming year will focus on improving our relationship with the General Assembly and the administration, job creation, public safety and health, investing in infrastructure, and advancing good government.
“Job creation involves a host of issues, including land use planning, annexation, and housing,” Barhorst said. “Municipalities work hand in hand with our businesses and residents to strengthen our economy. We must partner with state leaders to find new tools to promote investment.
“Our public safety initiatives involve everything from Homeland Security to fighting the opioid epidemic to emergency management policy to supporting first responders,” Barhorst said. “Our communities are on the front line fighting the opioid crisis. Our public safety and health officials need stronger funding, information-sharing, and cooperation from the state to fight crime and treat those in need.
“You will see the OML really push for infrastructure funding,” Barhorst said. “Clean water, safe roads, and information technology are not local issues. They are fundamental to our state’s public health and safety and economic competitiveness. Our state must become a stronger partner in local infrastructure initiatives.
“Home Rule, enshrined in Ohio’s Constitution, has been under attack in recent years by the General Assembly,” Barhorst said. “The OML will continue to lead the effort to protect Home Rule. In addition, to serve our residents and promote economic development effectively, we need local decision-making and local financial management, without state preemptions, unfunded mandates, and tampering with our finances.
“It is clear that we need to redouble our efforts to rebuild our state-municipal relationship,” Barhorst said. “That relationship must be based upon mutual respect and cooperation. And, it’s not just municipalities. The rift also involves Ohio’s 1,309 townships and 88 counties. All of us have been impacted by a series of well-intended but ill-conceived policies that have been born in Columbus.”
The Ohio Municipal League was incorporated as an Ohio non-profit corporation in 1952 by city and village officials who saw the need for a statewide association to serve the interests of Ohio’s municipal governments, including Ohio’s 247 cities and 686 villages. The Ohio Municipal League is governed by a Board of Trustees, elected by the membership.
The Board consists of the previous two past presidents of the league, as long as they are municipal officials, and 28 trustees elected for two-year terms. Of the 28 trustees, at least one must be the: mayor of a city or village; a city manager; a fiscal officer or finance director; a solicitor or director of law; and, still another a member of a municipal legislative body, other than the mayor. The board is the policy-making body of the OML.
Barhorst has served on the board since 2015, when he was appointed to fill an unexpired term on the Board of Trustees of the Municipal League. He was subsequently elected to a full term at the annual meeting of the OML in 2016.
Garnet “Sis” Love, who served as OML Board president in 2017 and is retiring from the board this year, said Barhorst has been an active member of the Board from the time of his appointment.
“Mike has made significant contributions to the direction of the board. His background in personnel and hiring was of tremendous assistance in our search for a new executive director. In addition, he has testified on behalf of municipalities before the General Assembly on several occasions. His near quarter century of service as an elected official, more than half of it as either mayor or vice-mayor, make him a natural fit as president of the OML,” said Love.
Friday was a busy day for Barhorst. It began with a press conference, continued with the annual meeting, and culminated with a meeting of the board of the OML Service Corporation (OMLSC). The OMLSC is a wholly owned, for-profit entity established to seek proposals from providers of municipal services. Only after the OMLSC is satisfied that the services provided to municipalities meet the highest standards for the lowest possible cost, is an agreement made for the OMLSC to endorse a provider.
Barhorst has served as an at-large city councilmember since 2007. He was elected mayor that same year, and has served in that capacity since. He previously served as a councilmember from 1977 through 1989, serving as vice mayor from 1981-1987 and as mayor from 1987-1989. Barhorst is also a member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio Mayors Association, and an officer in that organization as well.
Barhorst spent much of his career as a teacher, coach and administrator. He left Lehman Catholic High School as the school’s president following a 40 year career as a Catholic educator.
Long active in community affairs, Barhorst has served on numerous committees and boards. In addition to his duties with the OML and the Ohio Mayor’s Association, he is currently a member of the board of the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency, the Shelby County Land Reutilization Corporation, and the Community Improvement Corporation. He also chairs the Community Traffic Safety Network of Shelby County, the Homeless Task Force, the planning committee for the Sidney/Shelby County Bicentennials and the planning committee for the Civil War Living History Weekend.