As we all know, “Getting Drew” has become an unhealthy obsession for a few people, and last Tuesday’s election result is not likely to cure it for everyone. While most voters who supported Democratic challenger Pam Limes for mayor will graciously accept the results and move on, a few never will.
I expect that eventually Pam herself will be among the gracious. But even before Election Day, Pam posted a comment on Facebook implying nefarious activity and promising, “Should you, the voters, elect me on Nov. 3, one of my first calls will be to the state of Ohio to request an investigation.”
After her loss, she posted a comment thanking her supporters for their votes, but added, “I am proud we did not have to lie to get those votes nor did we have to break any elections laws,” implying that someone else did. And Pam’s campaign manager, former Mayor Betty Bishop, while acknowledging that voters didn’t seem to respond to the issues Pam raised during the campaign, couldn’t help but add, “But they will.”
The Times-Gazette did its best to cover both mayoral campaigns fairly and completely. Even though Pam refused our debate request, she did agree to other invitations that we extended. We provided our readers with guest columns and videos from both candidates that allowed them to address voters directly in their own words. We produced comprehensive stories based on questionnaires they answered for us. Those are the basic things a newspaper is supposed to do, and I am proud that we did them and more for both campaigns.
We do not report rumors without pursuing the facts, or allegations based on half-truths or innuendo. But such things can be found elsewhere, and to believe that voters were not informed or were unaware of all the claims regularly made against Drew Hastings is to either admit that no one reads the things written by his biggest enemies, or to conclude that the readers are too stupid to understand them. The answer is, they see through them.
Frankly, last week’s results would have been the same whether the ballot had featured Drew Hastings vs. Pam Limes, or Drew Hastings vs. “Not Drew Hastings.” This election was a referendum on the mayor, and the verdict was rendered. How most voters feel about the fire coverage issue and the other changes Drew has championed has been made plain.
The fact that there is a new generation of Hillsboro residents who are on the ascendancy was also made clear in this election. We all saw the list of supporters of the Limes campaign. Two former Hillsboro mayors. Two former safety and service directors. Two former Hillsboro fire chiefs. Two former Highland County commissioners. Respected members of boards. On and on and on.
And yet, Drew won. How can that be? Is it because he’s a Republican in a Republican town? Then how do you explain the repeated elections of Democrats Betty Bishop and Dick Zink? As much as some want to come up with any other reason for last Tuesday’s outcome, it is most honestly summarized by acknowledging that most residents are happy with Drew as mayor.
A key point is that the population that constitutes “most residents” has been changing. Hillsboro is increasingly made up of a new generation of residents, business owners and community leaders, a combination of younger people and recent arrivals. Every time Drew Hastings was criticized as an out-of-towner who shouldn’t be leading the city because he is not from here, it was a slap in the face to the growing and influential number of residents about whom the same can be said.
I have friends who supported Drew and friends who supported Pam, and I respect them all. As her campaign and her supporters often pointed out, many of Pam’s backers were well known and influential here for decades. (To be sure, not all longtime business and community leaders were in Pam’s camp.) But time marches on.
Happily, the old guard and the new guard do not have to be mutually exclusive. People and families with historic, generational roots in Hillsboro and the more recent arrivals do not have to be at odds with each other. The old and the new can work together, but it requires flexibility, a willingness to recognize and embrace change, and an attitude that welcomes, rather than shuns or belittles, newcomers who want to be and should be involved.
Drew received 1,027 votes, and Pam received 705 (a few more votes will be added to both totals when the official count happens). But just as President Obama is my president even though I have never voted for him, Drew is mayor of all of Hillsboro, including the 700-plus who voted for Pam. Drew must remember that, too. He must be willing to work with anyone willing to work with him going forward, regardless of who they supported in this election.
But as the victor, he has earned the right to continue pursuing his agenda for the city. Part of the reason he wanted to change fire coverage was so the city could finally have the financial flexibility to spend money on other projects such as more street paving, cleaning up the city in general, and improving the appearance and appeal of the uptown district.
Two of his projects are providing matching funds for business façade improvements and moving ahead with the construction of an uptown plaza for relaxation and holding events such as concerts, outdoor movies or other community gatherings that will help make the uptown area a destination location once again.
Pam Limes deserves respect and appreciation for putting her name on the ballot and giving the voters a choice. The voters have chosen. It’s time to move on, even if a few come to that conclusion a little later than others.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.