Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings has purchased full page advertisements in The Times-Gazette and the Highland County Shopper/Community Guide to express his appreciation for the prayers and words of encouragement he received from the time a criminal investigation was launched against him last December through his acquittal last week.
The ad, appears in Friday’s Times-Gazette and this Sunday’s Shopper. Hastings paid for the ads with personal funds. The Times-Gazette is a paid subscription daily newspaper, while the Shopper is delivered free each weekend to every home in Highland County.
Addressing his remarks in the ad to “the people of Hillsboro and Highland County,” Hastings states in part that throughout the past year, people “taking the time to tell me of your support, your prayers, to hang in there, to keep my head up is, frankly, the only thing that kept me going at times. So, to the residents of Hillsboro and Highland County, I thank you with all my heart, and I will never forget your kindness and your concern for me and my family.”
The ad states, “When this effort to remove me from office first started, it was difficult for me to think of anything but myself and how this would affect me. But then I realized that this outcome was as important to most of you as it was to me… the people of Hillsboro are taking back control of their future.”
The mayor concludes the ad by stating that the experience “has made me more determined than ever to remember that I work for no one but you.”
A criminal investigation and concurrent civil case were launched against Hastings on the same day last December, with the civil case filed by five Hillsboro residents early in the afternoon of Dec. 16, and the criminal probe launched with search warrants served at the city building just two hours later.
For the next several months, more warrants were served and searches carried out, including a late-night February search where Hastings’ visiting father-in-law was ordered out of the mayor’s Hillsboro residence while investigators documented the presence of clothes, appliances and children’s toys.
Eventually, in July, a Highland County grand jury indicted Hastings on four felony charges related to his place of residence, a $500 vacant property rebate he had received, and his use of a city dumpster for personal debris. When the case came to trial last week, the presiding judge dismissed two of the charges, ruling that the state had failed to provide enough evidence to go to the jury, and the jury acquitted him of the remaining charges.
Hastings said this week that he decided to purchase the ads because, “I feel deep gratitude for the people of Hillsboro and people across the whole county, and it was important to me to say so in a very visible way. I mean it when I say it was their encouragement and their prayers that carried me and my family through this. If I ever felt discouraged, I’d walk uptown or go to a restaurant, and people, including many I had never met before, would say, ‘Don’t let ‘em get to you, Drew. Hang in there. I’m praying for you.’ And that kept me going.”
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.