HAMILTON — Gary Cates had a bittersweet moment this past Tuesday — he cast his last vote as a state senator representing Butler County.
The 55-year-old West Chester Twp. Republican voted yes on his bill, Senate Bill 118, which allows students to “opt-in” for screening for body mass index and weight status categories in Ohio schools and eliminates the need for schools to get an “opt-out” waiver.
Cates resigns the senate seat today that he’s held for 6½ years, and leaves the state legislature after more than 15 years in Col- umbus.
He will assume his new job as senior vice chancellor for the division of Innovation and Enterprise Development on the Ohio Board of Regents.
Moving to ‘something else’
While he’s enthused about his immediate future, he reminisced about his years as a legislator.
“It’s like when you’ve lived in a house for a long time and you move into a new house, you’re excited about the new house but you have fond memories of the old house. This has been a very good run for me being in elected office,” Cates told the Butler County Republican Party’s Executive and Central committees Wednesday night.
“It’s been a very exciting chapter in my life, but now it’s time to come to a close and it’s time to move onto something else.”
“Gov. Kasich and Chancellor Petro have given me an opportunity of a life time to give me a chance to work in a field that I have a lot of passion for in higher education,” Cates said. “Working for those two guys, Jim Petro and John Kasich, I couldn’t get luckier.”
“Love them or hate them, and some people do in this state, because of everything they’re doing to make our state better, our lives better here,” he said.
Cates spoke to the hundreds of Republicans Wednesday night at Tori’s Station in Fairfield before the Executive Committee hosted the five county Republicans seeking to take the 4th Senate District seat. The current term ends in December 2012.
Rep. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp, received the recommendation of both the county GOP and Ohio Senate Republican Caucus Screening Committee. The full caucus historically has appointed the local screening committee’s choice.
“I’ve been before this body many times to ask for your endorsement to serve you in Columbus, and every time you’ve always blessed me with your support,” Cates said. “I didn’t always do things right. In politics you never do, but I think (as) I’m leaving my elected office experience that I’m a better person for it and I hope that we’re a better county for my service there.
“While I made my share of mistakes there, I tried to do the best I could to represent you in Columbus and do what I felt was right. And I can’t count all the votes I casted over the years — there’s been a lot — and to walk off the (Senate) floor (Tuesday) was tough. But I look forward to walking into my new office (today) and go work for Jim Petro and John Kasich.
“Thank you for allowing me to do this,” an emotional Cates said.
Cates started his elected political career in 1989 as a trustee for Union Twp. He spent 9½ years in the Ohio House before moving to the Ohio Senate, where he’s served since 2005.
The accomplishments of which he’s most proud during his time on Capitol Square in Columbus are ones that involved his constituents, he said.
Cates was involved in approving Nicole’s Law — which strengthens penalties for sexual offenders — and Tina’s Law — which requires teaching about dating violence as part of health curriculum in schools.
“People can have an impact at the grass-roots level and they can get change there,” Cates said. “While they may not be significant pieces of legislation, they’re important to these people and they’re important to the constituents, and I think it’s important people feel they do have some impact in how we live in society.”
He told everyone who sought his help he can help introduce a bill, but he can’t change the law.
“Not everyone who’s brought ideas to me has resulted in a law change, but at least they’ve had an opportunity to get their say on something here (in Columbus) and that’s how it should work,” he said. “Citizens should be involved in the process and not yield that to others.”
On Sept. 17, 2003, when Cates was in the Ohio House of Representatives and Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory was a state senator, the two amended the U.S. Constitution when they helped Ohio ratify the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The amendment was originally adopted by the federal government in July 9, 1868, as one of the Reconstruction Amendments.
“Back in the 19th century, Ohio had actually approved the 14th amendment, but there was a change in the legislature and the legislature voted to rescind the amendment,” Cates said.
While he can’t remember how many votes he’s cast during his time in Columbus, and he’s forgotten about a lot of things he’s done, Cates said he’ll always be thankful for those who looked for his help and guidance.
“I’ve had a front-row seat in a lot of regards but I take greatest satisfaction in getting legislation done on behalf of constituents.”