Hillsboro City Auditor Gary Lewis (left) is sitting next to Hillsboro City Council member Justin Harsha at a recent city council meeting. (HCP photo by Caitlin Forsha.)
Hillsboro City Auditor Gary Lewis (left) is sitting next to Hillsboro City Council member Justin Harsha at a recent city council meeting. (HCP photo by Caitlin Forsha.)
As the nation celebrates its 242nd birthday, and as the city of Hillsboro celebrates its annual Festival of the Bells at Southern State Community College, there is cause for just a bit more celebration this week.

On July 3, Hillsboro City Council member and council president pro tempore Justin Harsha informed me of his decision to run for mayor of Hillsboro in 2019.

The Republican councilman is a co-owner of one of Highland County’s oldest family businesses, Harsha Monument Co.

On city council, he's currently the finance committee chairman and a member of the zoning/annexation and property maintenance/restoration committees.

In addition, he has served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Highland County Historical Society. He has helped manage the Scott House property as an Historical Society member.

And by the way, Harsha also serves as the vice president of the Festival of the Bells Committee.

Festival of the Bells Committee President Rick Williams gave me a tip on June 11 at First State Bank that Harsha might be interested in running for mayor. I replied that would be the best news city taxpayers and voters have had in some time regarding the city administration.

Now, a month later, Harsha confirmed that he is, indeed, seeking the office of mayor next year.

During a December 2017 swearing-in ceremony for Harsha and his fellow council members, Lee Koogler and Adam Wilkin, Highland County Common Pleas Court Juvenile and Probate Judge Kevin L. Greer said: “We’re fortunate because you’re all, in my opinion, independent thinkers. You don’t go along just to get along. It’s rather tough times, really, and we appreciate good people with solid families and people who can reason problems through, to be on council.

“You do it for the right reasons, and you do it because you care about Hillsboro,” Judge Greer said.

Exactly.

For the record, I hold Judge Greer in very high regard. I don’t believe he is one to pay “lip service” to be popular in political circles. If he administers an oath of office and tells the office holder, “You do it for the right reasons, and you do it because you care about Hillsboro,” the judge means it. It’s not just an act of partisan showmanship.

Harsha told me this week that he’s seeking the mayor’s office solely in order to better serve the citizens, voters and taxpayers.

Given that he is a local business owner, that’s putting a lot on the line. However, he should be admired for his willingness to step up for the sake of the community.

Let’s note, too, that new State Rep. Shane Wilkin was involved in not one, but two, private business enterprises during all his years as president of the Highland County Board of Commissioners. The GOP Central Committee was proud to have an independent business owner on the commission.

From a personal perspective, I worked with Justin’s dad, Sandy Harsha, during his two terms as Hillsboro mayor from 1996-2003. Sandy also maintained his private business interests, while admirably serving the city. Sandy was always open and accessible. We did not agree on everything during his eight years in office. But there was never a moment of doubt about his care and devotion to the city of Hillsboro.

I suspect he is smiling now on his son’s decision.

Good luck, Justin. You are currently serving the city with honor and integrity. I have no doubt that you will continue to do so.

(• The Highland County Press will be sitting down soon with Justin Harsha for his official announcement.)

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