Former city council member named Hamilton’s Citizen of the Year

Former City Council Member Kathleen Klink, a main force behind the 17Strong effort to strengthen Hamilton’s 17 neighborhoods, has been named Citizen of the Year.

She was honored Friday at the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s 110th Annual Meeting & Dinner at the Courtyard by Marriott.

When the chamber’s president and CEO, Dan Bates, told her about it at the True West Coffee shop on Main Street, “I was so surprised and so honored, I about fell out of my chair,” Klink said.

She since has thought, “But my gosh, there’s so many, many outstanding residents in our community.”

Bates and others who have watched her hard work say she was a standout.

“If I thought of one single person as a force who has had an extremely positive impact on the entire city of Hamilton, I can’t think of a better person than Kathy,” Bates said. “Kathy has passion, but she does her homework to make sure that that passion is well-focused. She asks a lot of questions. She wants to understand what’s really going on, and that it might be different than what might be on the surface.”

Homework comes naturally to Klink, who worked 47 years in public education, including as superintendent of the Lakota Local School District from 1994 to 2005, before serving a decade on council.

Adding Klink to fill a vacancy on Hamilton’s council was a great decision, Council Member Rob Wile says.

“I believe one of the most important things we did in the time that I was on council was one of the first things that we did, and that was to choose Kathy Klink,” Wile said. “It was just foundational to have somebody of Kathy’s intellect, vision and really her ability to connect with people — to have someone who had all of those skills on council, I think it set the stage for good, solid debate and good decisions that came thereafter.”

He and others tell of Klink walking door-to-door in many neighborhoods, to build support for 17Strong.

“She has an ability to connect with people, and a passion for doing that,” Wile said. “One of the phrases she said to me early on was, ‘It is our primary job to listen until it hurts,’ and I thought that was so profound because if you think of the role of an elected official, it’s easy to only hear from the chorus of those that perhaps you agree with.”

“Her compelling guidance was we must listen to everyone — everyone has something to say — and that really does play into her drive to connect with people,” Wile said.

Now that Klink is no longer on council (she didn’t seek re-election), she can — and will — serve on the 17Strong board, representing suburban areas.

Klink said trust is the key to boosting participation in 17Strong, whose aims are to improve communication within neighborhoods and between them and city government. That takes time, she said.

“It’s limitless what can occur,” she said, “because we don’t even know yet what can occur.”

She is proud of how 17Strong helped Moser Park, in the North End.

“That was a place people were not comfortable going,” she said. “There were too many unsavory incidents.”

And now, “that park is busy all the time,” she said. “And it now has a snazzy crosswalk, because Heaton Street is traveled by many cars that don’t know the speed limit, or don’t follow it.”

Because of 17Strong conversations, there now are solar-powered signs with blinking lights that pedestrians activate to get attention from otherwise reckless drivers. “We were there, watching, when we were in the park, how dangerous it was to cross the street,” she said.

MORE HELP FOR THE AREA: Hamilton teachers pitching in to tidy up North End neighborhood

About the Author