Local leaders share their stories of gratitude

The Journal-News reached out to multiple leaders throughout Butler County to ask what they are most grateful for in relation to their positions.

DON DIXON, BUTLER COUNTY COMMISSION BOARD PRESIDENT

This time of year always presents an opportunity to reflect on all that is good. Above all, I’m grateful for the treasures of good health, family and meaningful friendships. I’ve been fortunate enough my professional business afforded me the opportunity to spend the time necessary to fulfill my public service. I’ve been in public service for over 30 years.

As a commissioner, with fellow officeholders throughout the county organization, I feel I’ve been able to contribute to the betterment of our county and protect the taxpayers’ interests and pocketbooks. That brings me great satisfaction and fulfillment.

The last few years particularly have been challenging, though I think we’ve made tremendous strides in shoring up the needs of the communities with American Rescue Plan Act funding and with building relationships. I believe there are great things in store for Butler County for 2023 and beyond and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

NICOLE CONDREY, MIDDLETOWN MAYOR

Walking around town, one cannot help but notice heads held a few degrees higher. A sense of hope, pride and joy are finding their way back into our community after decades of reaching to our past to find progress.

In addition to Middletown’s city-wide paving initiative, 2022 brought to fruition a long-planned facelift to Central Avenue downtown, with completion expected in Spring 2023. Middletown has been blessed this year with bold leadership from within by newly appointed City Manager Paul Lolli. His deep roots in our city give us confidence, direction, and unity at a time when their existence is scarce elsewhere.

While a lack of masks and economic restrictions hits number one on my personal list of gratitude for the 2022 Thanksgiving holiday, our city manager and his leadership follow with a strong second.

PAT MOELLER, HAMILTON MAYOR

Thanksgiving can be a time of introspection.

I am thankful for the families whose gifts keep giving — the Marcum family, whose gift of Marcum Park to our City still amazes me, and other families who give to our community through “our guardian angel” the Hamilton Community Foundation.

I am thankful for businesses such as Pinball Garage, whose owners, the Baker family, silently without wanting attention just “do the right thing” and Neal’s BBQ, which served Neal’s BBQ and Kansas City BBQ to Community Center youth to celebrate the Cincinnati Bengals beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

I am thankful for our Hamilton City public servants who are committed to making Hamilton a special place to live, during both their working hours and their volunteer hours, including volunteering at RiversEdge Concerts and Green Team litter and street clean up group.

I am thankful for our public and parochial school systems who continue to assimilate the importance of character into their respective daily teaching, including awarding monthly character awards to students at Crawford Woods Elementary School in the form of tokens to use at a vending machine to acquire free fun books to read and the high character manner in which student-athletes on Badin’s football team have carried themselves during their championship season.

I am thankful for our many Hamilton citizens who do great things when nobody is looking.

JOSHUA SMITH, HAMILTON CITY MANAGER

In 2022 it is hard not to be thankful — again — as our city continues to evolve in a positive way due to the wealth of initiatives and activities that can only happen with our volunteers and philanthropists. There are too many to list, but a few examples:

City of Sculpture raising private funding for public art. The Hamilton Garden Club volunteering to landscape visible areas of Main Street. The YWCA building a first-class supportive housing and domestic shelter to provide safe and dignified space for those in need. The Hamilton Junior Women’s League that fundraises for PARACHUTE: Butler County CASA, whose mission is to assist children in the Juvenile Court System. 17 Strong which collaborates with neighborhood volunteers for cleanups, microgrants, and other improvements. Small businesses like Municipal Brew Works and Casual Pint who do special events to support veterans and the Animal Friends Humane Society, and Brad Baker/Pinball Garage that hosts the Crafts & Critters Car Show which raises funds for the Hamilton Police Department K-9 unit.

Finally, an army of volunteers allows us to have incredible events including outdoor concerts at RiversEdge, operate the Hamilton Flea, have successful events like Operation Pumpkin, and the annual Hamilton Thanksgiving Day 5k. In an era that public discourse has trended very negatively, most Hamiltonians focus on continuously improving our community with their generosity of time, talent, and treasures. For that, I am grateful this Thanksgiving.

MICHAEL HOLBROOK, HAMILTON CITY SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT

I am thankful, proud, and grateful for the work and efforts of our teachers, nurses, educational assistants, food service workers, bus drivers, administrators, counselors, media specialists, secretaries, custodial and maintenance personnel, school security, mental health specialist, crossing guards, parents, and the Hamilton City School District Board of Education for the support they have given our students during the past year.

We should never forget that we needed each of the above individuals and countless others during the pandemic, and none of them should be taken for granted.

MARLON STYLES JR., MIDDLETOWN SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT

A Middletown parent recently visited classrooms in four different schools. At the end of the day she shared a reflection that I believe every staff member in the entire district needs to hear. She said she was so impressed with the “enthusiasm” of the staff.

Many of the reflections from the visitors on the school tours were about the staff and all that they are doing for the students. It’s pretty easy to offer a comment to express what I am thankful for: I am thankful for the Middletown City School district staff. Taking this moment to say thank you to the Middletown staff who bring “enthusiasm” to the school experience each and every single day for each and every single student. I see you!

BILLY SMITH, FAIRFIELD CITY SCHOOLS SUPERINTENDENT

The one thing that I am most thankful for in our school district is the dedication of all of our staff members. As a school district, we lost the last three months of school during the 2019-2020 school year. During the 2020-2021 school year, we lost an enormous amount of time with our students due to student and staff illness and quarantines. Many of our students and staff members were ill or quarantined more than once. As a result, educators across the country knew that all of us would be facing a huge challenge as we attempted to close what would become known as the COVID 19 gap.

I am most thankful for the commitment that all of our staff members made to close the gap for our students. These gaps were not exclusive to achievement and growth. Some of our students struggled to make the transition back to a traditional schedule. While I knew the task to close those gaps would be a huge challenge, I had no doubt that our staff members would once again rise to the occasion for our students.

There is no doubt that our staff members have closed those gaps for our students, as evidenced by the most recent district report card. It is an honor and a privilege to work with so many people who give so much to our students, families and community.

MARK WELCH, WEST CHESTER TWP. TRUSTEE BOARD PRESIDENT

Having served as a trustee in West Chester Township since Jan. 1, 2014, I’m both proud and honored to be a part of Wester Chester’s continued success. In recent years West Chester has received over a dozen “Best of..” awards including Best Places to Live in America, Best Place to Live in Ohio, Best Place to do Business in Ohio and more. Communities don’t get awards like these by accident, they get them by being extraordinary and doing things consistently and on purpose.

I’m grateful that we have so many loving, caring and dedicated people who work in our township. Every department has leadership who is committed to doing their best every day and making a difference. They work long, hard hours and are always right there in time of need, but it’s not only the administrators, chiefs, and directors, it’s every person I’ve met who works for the township. Every interaction I’ve had with police, firemen, community development, administration, roads, etc. has been positive, and that’s not just because I’m a trustee. I’ve lived in West Chester since 1990 so going way back before I was ever involved. I was a regular resident raising my kids, providing for my family, and loving where I lived.

I could go on and on about how blessed we are and how wonderful it is to live in a community like West Chester with all our amenities and services, but suffice to say, I think we have it all.

Every day, every season, and every year we have things to do and experiences to look forward to in our safe and prosperous West Chester Twp.

DAVID BIRK, CHIEF MIDDLETOWN DIVISION OF POLICE

The Middletown Division of Police has had a few blessings to be thankful for in 2022. Our COP Unit was able to provide outreach to the homeless by getting roughly 85-90 individuals into treatment this year, as well as providing them with other valuable resources for vital necessities.

Thankfully, we have recently been successful in recruiting qualified candidates to backfill vacated positions. Hopefully, this will provide us with the ability to reinstitute our COP Unit and traffic officer, full-time, in the very near future.

After over a year of hard work, Major Eric rank has got us back on track to once again becoming a CALEA accredited police department, as well as being Ohio Collaborative certified. We were also able to make both our annual Casting with a Cop and Candy with a Cop events huge successes, and we cannot wait until this year’s Christmas with a Cop.

CRAIG BUCHEIT, HAMILTON POLICE CHIEF

My Thanksgiving message is short and simple, “I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve alongside an amazing group of men and women for a community that supports us and what we do.”

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