A couple of thoughts about a politician who had an impact on agriculture here in Ohio, nationally and internationally, and had an impact on me.
Mike Oxley was a man who appreciated the farming community in Ohio and recognized the strength of the family farm and agribusiness. He made every effort at every level of his years of service to do what he could do to help maintain its viability for the future.
Mike spent 25 years in Congress from 1982-2007. I got to know him in 1990 when I wrote a letter to the editor about conservatism and Ronald Reagan. He actually wrote me back and later called. I asked him to come to our Wapakoneta Sertoma Club to speak. He came and was an annual guest of mine. He made every effort to stay connected to me and our group after that.
Our relationship got even more personal on Sept. 11, 2001. I was filling in for a local talk-show host on 1150 WIMA that morning and had scheduled the congressman for a 10:30 a.m. phone interview from his office in Washington, D.C. As that tragic morning unfolded I sat in the studios surrounded by the horrific images taking place. I had complete media coverage of the event, radio, TV and national newswire service. Needless to say, I was stunned by all that was transpiring and never gave it a thought that Mike would try to call.
At approximately 10:05 a.m. the station received a phone call from the press secretary of Congressman Oxley. The operator said they were looking for me. I was told that Mike wanted to still do the interview even while they were evacuating the Capitol building and the adjoining complexes. The powers that be at the radio station knew that this was a big story — a “live” report from Washington, D.C. was a big scoop. The station manger came into the booth and said to me, “I’ve got a whole newsroom chomping at the bit to do this interview, but because you’re the one who had it scheduled, we want you to do the interview with the congressman.”
I was both humbled and honored to have that opportunity — it was the only time that day any of the local stations were “live.” The recorded interview was so compelling it was sent to all the statewide affiliates, who then used it as well. I kept a copy of that recording, but I have only listened to it once since then. I recall, however, how somber Mike was and how emphatic he was that this was a terrorist attack on our nation. He called for us to remain calm in the wake of this tragedy, to pray for those who were lost, and spoke of patriotism and resolve.
In 2005 when we started our TV show, “In Ohio Country Today,” we had Mike on the program as often as we could. We caught up with him anytime he was in the district to interview him and get cutting-edge information that would benefit our farmers, farming families and those in agribusiness. He strongly believed in communications and was excited about the program. He was extremely supportive of our efforts to grow the show and spread the good word of agriculture throughout the state. And up until his retirement, I was able to get him to come to Wapakoneta for other events, including our Sertoma club, which he was always happy and gracious to attend.
Mike died Jan. 1, 2016, at age 71 after suffering from a type of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers. A memorial service is scheduled in his hometown of Findlay at the University of Findlay on Feb. 5, and I’ll be there. I did not always agree with some of the issues Congressman Oxley was in favor of or bills that he co-sponsored. But I will always remember Mike for his love of Ohio, his love of country, and for those hard-working people who supported him and gave him his opportunity to serve.
Here’s seeing you, in Ohio Country!
The writer is the owner of Wilson 1 Communications. He is an award-winning veteran broadcaster for more than 30 years and the co-host and producer of “In Ohio Country Today,” a nationally recognized television show, and offers radio commentary and ag reports including locally for 92.1, the Frog WFGF Lima.