Former Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Ralph Holt (left) and former Mayor Dick Zink are pictured on Dec. 29, 2011 as they left their many years of public service together. (HCP photo by Brandy Chandler.)
Former Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Ralph Holt (left) and former Mayor Dick Zink are pictured on Dec. 29, 2011 as they left their many years of public service together. (HCP photo by Brandy Chandler.)
A good friend to the Hillsboro and Highland County community, Ralph Holt, passed away on New Year's Day. He was 72.

I am proud to have known Ralph and always considered him a friend.

Ralph was a former member and president of the Hillsboro Jaycees and the Hillsboro American Legion Post 129. He was also a past parish council president at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church and driver for the Highland County Veterans Service.

He retired after 30 years from the Verizon Company and served as the safety and service director for the city of Hillsboro for eight years during Mayor Dick Zink's tenure, back when one honorable and competent SSD was enough for eight years.

As we reported in late December 2011, Hillsboro residents, city employees and elected officials turned out for a farewell reception for Dick and Ralph, as their respective years of being solid public servants was coming to a close.

Former Highland County Press reporter Brandy Chandler wrote: "Ralph Holt said that while aspects of the job were challenging, he loved service to the citizens of Hillsboro."

"I enjoyed the people," Ralph said. “I didn’t come in for a bunch of glory. I did this to serve the people. I enjoyed working with Dick, and we both always wanted what was best for Hillsboro."

There should be no doubt to Ralph's assertion that they wanted what was best for Hillsboro. Did we always agree? Heavens, no. Not even close. But I have never doubted their administration's devotion to the city.

Former Third District Congressman Mike Turner and former State Sen. David Daniels presented well-deserved proclamations to both the outgoing mayor and safety/service director. So did other prominent Republican officials. That was most telling. Politics were put aside for the occasion, which was refreshing.

One thing I remember sharing with Ralph – and Mayor Zink – is that I always appreciated their openness and accessibility to our staff writers – even during those times when I may have (urinated) them off with one of my columns. There was never a time when they took my editorial opinions out on our staff writers. Not one. They would never do that.

Without question, Brandy Chandler covered the Mayor Zink administration more thoroughly than anyone else. She never had a negative word to say about Dick or Ralph. And in a rare moment, she actually posed for a photo with them around 2011. Like most of us in this business, Brandy preferred to be on the other side of the camera. But she cherished her photo with these two giants in Hillsboro public service.

Former Hillsboro councilman John Levo told me on Mayor Zink's passing: "They both had an open-door policy and took the time to listen to not only members of council, but any citizen or resident."

I can vouch for that. Ralph Holt was one of the nicest gentlemen to hold public office in Highland County. I'm sure he had to make his share of tough calls and endure the usual criticism, but I'm willing to wager that he did it with the best interests of the community.

He surely did not play political games for personal gains as happened in subsequent years.

All the best to his family and friends. He will be missed.

(Funeral services will be 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11 at the Thompson Funeral Home. Burial will follow at the Prospect Cemetery with military rites to be conducted by the Highland County Honor Guard. To sign the online guest book, visit www.thompsonfuneralhomes.com.)

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.