Emotions ran high Wednesday as Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin tendered his resignation from the commission after 10 years on the job.
Later Wednesday, Wilkin was sworn in as state representative from the 91st Ohio House District by Highland County Juvenile and Probate Judge Kevin Greer in a ceremony at the statehouse in Columbus. County Auditor Bill Fawley and Commissioner Terry Britton said Greer offered complimentary remarks about Wilkin before administering the oath, and Wilkin followed by thanking his family and others.
Fawley and Britton said Wilkin’s name appeared on the voting board immediately after he was sworn in. Wilkin began casting votes on various bills immediately upon taking office.
According to a press release sent later from the House communications office, Wilkin said, “I am proud to represent the people of the 91st House District. I look forward to getting to work and serving them at the Ohio Statehouse.”
Wilkin was seated in the legislature after winning the May GOP primary against Clinton County businesswoman Beth Ellis. House GOP leaders decided to immediately seat the winner of the primary because the seat was vacant due to the resignation of House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger after the FBI opened an investigation. In November, Wilkin will face Democrat Justin Grimes and independent candidate Todd May, both of Clinton County, for the full two-year term beginning in January.
At the Wednesday morning commissioner’s meeting, Wilkin, with daughters Piper and Parker by his side, handed in his resignation to fellow commissioners Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton with tears in his eyes.
“As you can see, this is pretty difficult,” he said. “This has been a great job… I’ve enjoyed it. The ups, the downs, the challenges. I just thought it was time to try another challenge.”
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley, who has shared a close relationship with Wilkin over the years, said that early on in Wilkin’s campaign for the 91st House District, he told Wilkin that no matter the outcome, Highland County would have a good commissioner or a good state representative.
“You’ve led us through some tough times and some good times,” Fawley said. “You’ve been pretty dependable on all of them.”
As Wilkin and others in the room grew emotional, Fawley joked, “We’re all gonna end up getting choked up, aren’t we?”
Duncan moved to accept Wilkin’s resignation and wished him well in Columbus.
“With regret, we need to accept your resignation, but we do wish you well in your endeavor and we appreciate what you’ve done for the county,” Duncan said. “You’ve been a good commissioner and I think we’re going to strive to continue the standard you’ve set for us.”
Britton thanked Wilkin for mentoring him when he was new to the commissioners office, and said he looks forward to seeing what Wilkin does in Columbus.
“Thank you for what you’ve done,” Britton said. “You’ve been an outstanding commissioner. What you’re doing moving forward is going to help Highland County even more than in the past.”
Wilkin thanked local media for covering the commissioners office fairly and holding the board accountable, and said Highland County is left in good hands with Duncan and Britton.
“Although it doesn’t appear easy, it’s easier to leave with you two here,” Wilkin said, adding that Britton and Duncan “have the best interest of the county in their heart and will do a great job.”
Wilkin said Fawley “has been great helping to keep us out of trouble” at the auditor’s office, and that while budget cuts during the recession proved particularly challenging, teamwork between department heads got the county through times of economic stress.
“The people I’ve had to work with, the department heads, it’s just been a pleasure,” he said. “Even through the hard times it’s been a total team effort to make things work.”
Wilkin lauded commission Clerk Nicole Oberrecht for her part in securing economic development projects, adding that he wished she could work for him in Columbus.
Wilkin thanked the citizens of Highland County for allowing him to serve as commissioner, and said he looks forward to continue representing the county, albeit in a different capacity.
“I am only a phone call away,” he said.
The commissioners approved Wilkin’s resignation on Wednesday, along with routine financial resolutions.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.