Why Leonard Battise came away a winner

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 8, 2007

This election season brought out many interesting candidates on the local level.

Some were polished, some were thoughtful, some were very intelligent and some had innovative ideas.

The candidates did their best to show off their political skills.

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And then, there was Leonard Battise.

Although other candidates for Ironton mayor met with the editorial board in casual business dress, Battise showed up in a red flannel shirt. And I liked that.

More than one politician has learned the hard way that being something you’re not just comes across as phony to the public. Battise works for American Electric Power and drew a laugh at the candidates forum at OU Southern when he declared that people may know him because they had probably seen him in their back yard.

(He reads electric meters.)

Battise had no previous political experience. He plays in a music band called “Phat Mac Daddy.” He didn’t have a platform. In short, he simply didn’t play the traditional part of a city mayor in any way whatsoever.

Despite all that, he was trying to make history by becoming Ironton’s first black mayor as a write-in candidate. He ran for office because it was something he said he needed to do. He didn’t like the direction the city of Ironton had taken in recent years and he wanted to have his voice heard so that he could contribute to making this place just a little bit better.

He didn’t want to simply complain about the problems, he wanted to be a participant in finding solutions, which is something a good many citizens could stand to imitate.

His solutions for complicated city issues were not dazzling in all honesty, but he kept coming back to one point that he made a theme throughout the election. While other candidates were discussing the municipal fee, the Ironton-Russell bridge and dilapidated houses, Leonard Battise said simply, “Our best resource is our people.”

He said city government needs to do a better job of taking advantage of the collective talent that rests with the people who live here. Communication from one end of the community to the other, he said, will give Ironton opportunities to tap into its most valuable resource.

Leonard Battise is no politician and he’ll be the first one to say that. He finished fifth out of five candidates in Tuesday’s election. He didn’t have a snowball’s chance in you know where of winning this election.

But what he lacked in political savvy, he more than made up in common sense, or what Ironton Councilman Chuck O’Leary calls “walkin’ around sense.” He has a quiet wisdom that’s based in a lifetime of experience in this city.

And if there’s any wonder about the impact Battise had on the race, perhaps an examination of a quotation from mayoral winner Rich Blankenship might reveal something to us.

After his victory Tuesday night, Blankenship said the biggest issues facing the city are “working together — the council, the employees and the citizens. That is what I’m going to strive for — to join us together.”

On second thought, maybe Leonard Battise was a winner after all. He had the courage to become involved in local politics, an intimidating venture for a lot of people, but one he met head-on in his own homespun style and uncompromised fashion.

And because of that, he set a good example of citizenship and made this place just a little bit better.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at rick.greene@irontontribune.com