By PAUL LOCHER Staff Writer Published:
WOOSTER — Much was said Saturday at the 160th annual Jackson Day Dinner of the Wayne County Democratic Party, but it was perhaps Betsy Sheets, chairwoman of the county party, who sounded the loudest call to action.
In her closing remarks to the gathering, held at the Lamplighters party center, Sheets called the May 5 election “one of the most important years, because on the ballot are people who most affect our everyday lives” because they serve in “smaller posts” that more closely impact average citizens, such as council positions.
She urged Democratic voters to “pay attention” and start supporting the party’s candidates early.
Sheets also posed the question, “What if we no longer call it politics? Instead, we’ll call it ‘your life.’ Then will you be interested?”
Sheets said she believes “unions’ time has come again,” and urged the party faithful to take part in voting online for a woman to adorn the new $20 bill, She said the choices of famous women include Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Wilma Mankiller and Eleanor Roosevelt.
Speaker for the evening was Joe Schiavoni, minority leader of the Ohio Senate.
Schiavoni joked about his days as an amateur boxer, saying he found the experience beneficial when he was elected an Ohio senator from the 33rd District six years ago and discovered everything in Ohio politics was a fight.
He said with Democrats in the minority, they have “got to work incredibly hard against tough odds” to prevail.
Schiavoni said a big issue for him is to make sure “we are rounded in the senate and everyone’s voice gets heard.”
Other issues he says are close to his heart include charter school accountability and community renewal and revitalization as urban centers in Ohio shrink, necessitating the demolition of numerous homes and buildings that have fallen into disrepair.
The speaker said in 2016, “The future of the state is on the line. We can’t afford to fall on our faces. If we continue to get slaughtered in the statewide races, we won’t have the power to drive the agenda.”
Two awards were presented during the dinner. The first was the Old Hickory Award, presented to Judge K. William Bailey, a fixture in the county’s legal community and judiciary.
Betty Schuler traced Bailey’s career, starting with his early participation in the Democratic Party’s efforts in the mid-1960s when, as a teenager, he worked with John Glenn’s senate campaign in Carroll County.
Bailey, who attended his first Jackson Day Dinner in 1967 and was the featured speaker at the event in 1990, said it was “indeed an honor” to be listed with the other prominent Old Hickory Award winners.
The Ruby Award was presented to Doug Gray, who had moved back to Wayne County a few years ago after having lived away from the area for some years. Gray has become active in the Wayne County Democratic Party and Sheets characterized him as “future officer material.”
Reporter Paul Locher can be reached at 330-682-2055 or email@example.com. He’s @plocherTDR on Twitter.