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Filling the void

It has been a year of exciting highs and sorrowful lows in local government, most especially for the Lawrence County Democratic Party.

In January, Ted Strickland was sworn in as governor, leading a Democratic rush on the reins of state government. If the Democratic Strickland was not a Lawrence Countian, the Scioto County native was at least a neighbor and was treated like family when he visited.

But in May, Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge Frank McCown died after a battle with leukemia. Then last week, Lawrence County Commissioner George Patterson succumbed to cancer.

Unusual

The death of McCown in May was the first time in recent history that a Lawrence County officeholder has died while in office, according to local historian Juanita Markel. She and her husband, Charles Markel, researched and compiled a history of the Lawrence County Courthouse in the late 1980s or early 1990s while she worked as Chief Deputy Auditor for Lawrence County Auditor Ray T. Dutey. In 1852, probate judge Joseph Wheeler Jr., died while in office. Lawrence County has lost three sitting common pleas judges: Gabriel Kerr in 1823, Andrew Dempsey in 1850 and Henry Collings in 1904. Additionally, one prosecutor died during his tenure, William

Forgey, in 1881.

Juanita Markel said according to her research, the death of Patterson sets a sad precedent.

“No one has died while they were commissioner,” she said.

Filling a void

According to Ohio Revised Code, The Lawrence County Democratic Central Committee has the power to appoint someone to replace Patterson, but may not make any appointments sooner than five days after his death and must make appointment within 45 days. That person will serve the remainder of his term that expires at the end of 2008. No party meeting date has been set to discuss filling the vacancy.

Remembering George

Those who knew Patterson said filling his seat may be one thing, but actually replacing him will be an entirely different matter. Juanita Markel worked as county administrator four years before moving to the auditor’s office and knew Patterson well.

“He was outgoing and you never had to guess where he stood on any issue. He was a pleasure to work with and for— they all were,” she said. “I never had any trouble with any of my bosses.”

Markel, who was a couple years ahead of Patterson at Dawson-Bryant High School, said Patterson’s passing is a loss to the county and to those who knew him as a friend. Others expressed similar views.

“There is no doubt George loved God and family and the people of Lawrence County,” Lawrence County Treasurer and fellow Democrat Stephen Dale Burcham said. “He treated everyone the same, no matter what your station in life. He will be missed.”