SIDNEY — Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, currently serving as vice president of the Mayors Association of Ohio, began visiting Ohio’s county seat mayors in an effort to visit all 88 Ohio counties prior to taking office as president of the organization. Barhorst will assume the office of president at the annual meeting of the Mayors Association of Ohio July 1, 2021.
Barhorst, who has already logged thousands of miles in visiting the first 65 communities, still has twenty-two municipalities to visit. He expects to visit Dayton, Hamilton, Lebanon and Wilmington and is then scheduled to visit the mayors of Marietta, Woodsfield, Saint Clairsville, Cambridge, New Lexington, Logan, Lancaster, Columbus, Delaware and Mount Gilead.
“City Clerk Kari Egbert has used her contacts in the Ohio Municipal Clerks Association in helping to arrange my travels,” Barhorst said. “Even so, a handful of mayors have proven difficult to reach, especially in some of the smaller communities.”
“Ideally I would visit five municipalities in a day, but that’s not always possible. For example, last week I visited Upper Sandusky, Cleveland and McConnellsville in the same day, a trip that involved more than seven and a half hours of drive time. I visited Upper Sandusky Mayor Kyle McColly at 9:00 a.m., drove to Cleveland to see Mayor Frank Jackson at 1:30 p.m., and arrived in McConnellsville just in time to see Mayor John Finley finish dispensing justice in his last couple of cases in McConnellsville Mayor’s Court at 5 p.m.”
“Kari has done a good job of trying to keep my time behind the wheel to a minimum, but that’s not always possible,” Barhorst said. “For example, I was scheduled to meet Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther a couple of weeks ago, but two days prior to my scheduled visit, there was a police-involved shooting, and the meeting had to be cancelled. Similarly some days ago, I was scheduled to meet Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. She called the night before the scheduled meeting to let me know that I was being pre-empted by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. I jokingly told her that had it been the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense I would have understood being thrown overboard – but the Secretary of Commerce – really?”
“With few exceptions, no matter the size of the county seat, problems are similar,” Barhorst said. “Having enough qualified workers to fill available jobs, housing shortages, and workforce development seem to be the top three. In most instances, those three are followed by infrastructure needs, drugs and homelessness.”
“Things are a bit different in Ohio’s Appalachian Region, where most county seats have a shortage of jobs,” Barhorst said. “Pomeroy Mayor Don Anderson told me that they had recently posted an opening for a laborer and had more than 150 applications. That would never happen here.”
When asked what has surprised him the most, Barhorst’s response included four things. “First, Ohio’s county seat mayors are a diverse and talented group,” Barhorst said. In addition, there are far more county seats that are villages (municipalities of less than 5,000 people) than I would have guessed. No matter the size of the county seat, the problems the communities face are similar. And, I will admit that I’ve been surprised by the distance between some of the county seats. I think I’ve gotten so used to being less than a half hour from the county seats to our north and south and forty-five minutes away from the county seats to our east and west that I never focused on the fact that some county seats are as much as two hours away from each other.”
“I’ve also been surprised by the fact that some of the county seats do not have a mayor,” Barhorst said. “In those municipalities, the council president serves the role of the chief elected official.”
When asked if he was glad that he’d set out on his journey, his answer was immediate. “Without exception, the reception I’ve received has been warm and welcoming,” Barhorst noted. “In many cases, the mayors have told me that my visit was the first time someone from the state association had ever come to visit them, and they were glad that I’d made the effort. As tired as I’ve been at the end of some days, it’s been a journey that’s been full of surprises. I’m hopeful that I’ll have the opportunity to visit some of the communities again soon.”