It has been several years since I initiated any changes in Ohio law. In fact, I only recall so doing on one or two occasions. The last time I met with members of the General Assembly to change state law my recommendation was signed into law, and the end result was a statewide savings to taxpayers and local government offices.

Since then, I’ve become much less involved with politics and what passes for government, i.e., public service.

With that said, I believe it is time for Highland County’s legislators in the General Assembly – State Rep. Shane Wilkin and State Sen. Bob Peterson – to work together and introduce legislation to update Ohio Revised Code 733.02, which states:

• “Mayor of city – election – term. The mayor of a city shall be elected for a term of four years, commencing on the first day of January next after his election. He shall be an elector of the city. Effective Date: 01-01-1967.”

After 52 years, it is time to fix ORC 733.02. Please.

As The Highland County Press reported (https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Challenge-hearing-for-former-building-inspector-s-residency-ends-in-split-vote-by-Board-of-Elections/2/20/52193), there was a hearing today at the Highland County Board of Elections related to ORC 733.02.

A hearing was held at the Highland County Board of Elections Thursday, Aug. 22 regarding a challenge to a write-in candidate for mayor of Hillsboro, after which, it was left with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s office to determine whether the candidate will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot. (Unless, of course, the SOS sends it back to the county board for a recount. Just kidding, I hope.)

Hillsboro city elector Rosemary Ryan, who is a retired Hillsboro city auditor and the office manager of The HCP, filed a challenge to recently fired Hillsboro building inspector Anton Weissmann's declaration of residency at 211 South High Street, Apt. A.

Highland County Board of Elections members Kay Ayres, Steve Hunter, Dinah Phillips and Andy West, Director Debbie Craycraft, Deputy Director Heather Loudin, Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins and a representative from the Ohio secretary of state's office heard testimony from Ryan and Weissmann.

Following an executive session after the testimony, the board voted 2-2 on whether to allow Weissmann on the ballot, with Ayres and Phillips voting no and Hunter and West voting yes. According to the Board of Elections office, since there was a tie vote, the Secretary of State’s office will make the decision.

Both Ryan and Weissmann testified under oath.

With those points established for background, let me add the following.

I served on the Southern State College Board of Trustees with Kay Ayres from 2006-12. I know Kay to be a person of strong character and integrity. I have known Board of Elections members Andy West, Steve Hunter and Dinah Phillips for at least 25 years – longer for Andy and Dinah. I consider all of them to be of equally strong character and integrity. I can add the same about their legal counsel, Anneka Collins, who was present at the Aug. 22 hearing.

That being the case, I am not even going to consider their two executive session discussions at the hearing, including one in which included Weissmann. Furthermore, I am not going to suggest that the board’s split vote – not along party lines, but along gender lines – was not a predetermined outcome. I will say, however, it did my old heart good to see Kay and Dinah have a kumbaya moment and vote the same way on this issue.

No, I’m not going to suggest anything for the local Board of Elections. They held a mostly fair and cordial hearing. They listened to a potential write-in candidate for the position of mayor of Hillsboro and did not laugh when he testified under oath that at age 59, he has no car and no checking account. And, sadly, not much of a home, for that matter. I should know. I spent more years and more hours in that building that he likely ever will.

The issue here is not with the Board of Elections. It is not with Weissmann or his challenger. It is with the Ohio Revised Code as amended in 1967 when state lawmakers quite possibly did not envision a time when a 59-year-old man with no car and no checking account would show up a few months before an election, claim to have established residency, and run for city office.

Is it any wonder that the Highland County Board of Elections members voted 2 (R/D) to 2 (D/R) today to send this “mess” (once again, borrowing a word from the Hon. Judge David McKenna) back to Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose?

Therefore, the challenge to State Rep. Wilkin and State Sen. Peterson is this: Instead of HB 6 bailouts to a company already sufficiently greased to own naming rights to an NFL stadium, why don’t you introduce legislation that would be immeasurably helpful to the divided Highland County Board of Elections, the mute representative from LaRose’s office who sat through the hearing, the county prosecutor, and everyone else, and do this:

• Introduce legislation to amend ORC 733.02 to read identical to ORC 733.24 – “Mayor of village – The mayor of a village shall be elected for a term of four years, commencing on the first day of January next after his election. He shall be an elector of the village and shall have resided in the village for at least one year immediately preceding his election.”

According to the state of Ohio, ORC 733.24 was amended on Oct. 17, 1985. It is my opinion that the state lawmakers should have amended ORC 733.02 at the same time.

Since they did not, perhaps State Rep. Wilkin and State Sen. Peterson will take up the cause.

If not, I have until Aug. 26 to file as a write-in candidate for mayor of Hillsboro, with many more years of actual utility receipts and direct correspondence from the city of Hillsboro as evidence that I am “an elector of the city” just because I say I am.

My only hesitation to filing as a write-in candidate is this: With my luck, I’d win.

Forget FirstEnergy for five minutes and fix the ORC.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County’s only locally owned and operated newspaper.