• 43°

Blankenship steered city

It is hard to believe how fast time goes by and serving as the mayor of Ironton for the past eight years has truly been an honor and a privilege.

When I first took office in December of 2007, I knew we had many challenges ahead, and it was not going to be easy. I first had to prioritize the issues and concerns that the citizens had told me during my campaign. The main issue that I heard over and over was the fact that we needed a new Ironton-Russell bridge.

I immediately started to research the issue so that I would be well informed prior to contacting ODOT.

This took some time to figure out where the project was on ODOT’s list and who were the people involved. After many conversations and trips to Chillicothe to District 9, I was confident that the new bridge would be built soon. Until that day when several officials from ODOT arrived at my office to deliver bad news. The bridge was moved up at least two years. I politely listened to all the reasons why it was moved and respectfully stated that as soon as they leave, I would be on the phone to the state director of ODOT to discuss this matter. They left and I made the call and scheduled a meeting with the district two days later.

I studied the history of the project and was prepared to plead my case on our behalf. I remember riding the elevator up to his office and repeating in my head, I have one chance, walk in like I own it and walk out like I sold it. I had about 45 minutes to turn the tide. I gave it my best shot and the director said he would be in touch with me within two weeks.

I thanked him for his time and returned home. Two weeks went by and the call came in. It was the director, who stated he was impressed with the presentation and the bridge would be built. Obviously, I was pleased and relieved.

During that period, we were also working on many other issues in the city, such as the basement flooding of about 350 homes every time it rained.

I recall many times going out in the pouring rain trying to find potential problems. Mike Pemberton and I even walked through the storm drain from Lorain Street and Ashtabula Street. I remember pushing up a manhole cover and looking out to see where we were. I climbed out and a gentleman sitting on his porch asked me what in the world I was doing. We did find some issues with the storm drains, made the corrections and installed backflow preventers. This seemed to reduce the flooding problem dramatically.

We were also working on other issues such as building the new water tank and relining our entire sanitary sewer system in a time when our economy was taking a downfall. We were applying for grants for such projects, as well as grants for our parks and riverfront. It takes a long time for a project to become reality, but we kept pressing forward. In the past eight years we have been able to secure approximately $20 million in grant funding for various projects.

We have also assisted in the development of many new businesses and beautification efforts. It takes a lot of effort and meeting with officials from Columbus. I believe these efforts have been very beneficial for our city and paving the way for a successful future. Don’t get me wrong, I realize we still have challenges ahead and important decisions must be made. I know I haven’t been able to fix everything, but at least we are moving in the right direction.

In the words of my father, “Don’t forget the people.” I can only hope that we have made a positive impact for our future. I have tried to be accessible to the citizens and address the issues, no matter how small or big. I’m sure I haven’t been able to please everyone, but I realize that I am only one person. I want to give a special thank you to my wife, Carla, and twins, Emma and Joel, who have stood beside me in good times and in bad times. Emma and Joel are now sophomores.

I have had the opportunity to meet some very special people during my administration. People who truly care about our city and are willing to help in improving our way of life. Thank you. Our city employees work hard and take pride in providing services to all of us.

Thank you. Thank you, Mom, for your support. Lord knows how much you have worried. All my brothers and sisters, thank you for your support. My church family for praying for my family. Thank you. I look forward to working with the new administration in my role as a city councilman.

I believe if we all work together, our city will continue to move forward. To all of the citizens of Ironton, I thank you for allowing me to serve as your Mayor. God Bless.

 

Rich Blankenship

Ironton Mayor