BOTKINS — J.D. Vance, a nationally-known author and contributor to cable news outlets, told a gathering of local Republicans he has returned to Ohio with a plan to find ways to better deal with socio-economic threats facing families today.
On Thursday, the 32-year-old Vance was the featured speaker at the Shelby County Republican Central Committee Lincoln Day dinner at the Palazzo in Botkins.
More than 100 people attended the event at which a Jackson Center man was named 2016 Republican Person of the Year and a financial report was read detailing 2016 campaign contributions.
Riding the success of his book, “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis,” Vance has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and CNBC to talk about how society must look within itself for answers. He has also contributed to the National Review and the New York Times, where his book was number one on the best seller list.
The Middletown, Ohio, native moved from San Francisco, California, to Columbus, Ohio, just last week. He is in the early stages of creating Our Ohio Renewal, a nonprofit organization “to work on battling the opioid crisis and bringing durable capital to the region.”
Vance said his family is rooted in the eastern region of Jackson, Kentucky, where coal mining is a way of life. With generations of poverty and despair once guiding his future, Vance told of being a difficult teen, having rare academic success, socializing with wrong people and violent family dysfunction. When he was 12, with his mother hooked on pain killers, his grandparents stepped in.
Vance said the move saved his life in many ways, but it also continued a social cycle of grandparents, already living in poverty, taking on the care and cost of raising a grandchild. He learned his experiences were not that rare and that he had little hope of getting his share of the American dream.
As time wore on, his grandfather passed away, and he was left with an iron-fisted, strong-willed, “Mamaw that cussed like a sailor; but Christianity was very important to her.”
He began to write down the problems he was experiencing. He soon learned the drug problems were in every neighborhood at every level.
At 18, he joined the U.S. Marines, eventually serving in Iraq. The biggest lesson he learned there was how to behave as an adult. He would go on to graduate from Ohio State University and Yale Law School. Currently, he and his wife are expecting their first child.
Most recently, Vance worked as a principal partner in a Silicon Valley investment firm near San Francisco.
In his role as financial adviser, Vance said many investors never comprehend how fast the economy can change. He compared the philosophy with what today’s broken youth face.
As he considered ways to help, he found a common thread. A similarity surfaced when he compared groups that accomplished little, and those who found levels of success.
“They always had someone they could count on in their lives. It may be a teacher who took an interest in them. Maybe Big Brothers Big Sisters. The kids dealing with this actually think their entire life will be miserable,” he said.
Vance hopes to join educators, social services, the faith community, law enforcement and others to develop ways to make the situation better. His organization is expected to be online in about a week, he said.
Zehringer named, contributions reported
Nathan Zehringer, of Jackson Center, was chosen as the 2016 Person of the Year for his work as chairman of the Trump campaign in Shelby County. Central Committee Chairwoman Julie Ehemann said he was their top choice, due to his diligence to motivate voters to go to the polls last November.
Ehemann said Zehringer was involved in all aspects of the campaign, many times being the lead participant. She said he managed the local party website, arranged large and small gatherings of people, worked at the headquarters and became involved in door-to-door activities.
Zehringer, and his wife, Deborah, attended the Trump inaugural and ceremonies. The couple have five children, but were not in attendance, Thursday, as they were celebrating their 15th wedding anniversary.
He works as the transportation department manager of Independent Fiber Network.
“Thanks for this recognition. I am honored,” Zehringer said in a letter. “I look forward to continuing and expanding my role in the local party.”
Treasurer Aaron Heilers reported that contributions to the 200 Club fundraising campaign totaled $18,000 in 2016.
The top donations were $10,000 to Shelby County Treasurer-elect John Coffield campaign; and $5,000 to the campaign of William Zimmerman Sr., for the judgeship of the Third District Court of Appeals in Lima.
Also noted were donations of $1,000 each to the campaigns of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.