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Harriet Fenner: The first lady of the CCAO

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
NOTE: This is Part 3 of a series leading up to the Highland County Historical Society inducting four more into its Hall of Fame. This week, we profile the late Harriet Fenner (1936-2019).

Ladies and gentlemen, Harriet Amelia (Hack) Fenner was, and still is, the only woman elected as a commissioner of Highland County.

Her tenure as county commissioner began via an appointment by the Highland County Democratic Party Central Committee in August 1971. She was appointed to serve the remainder of her husband, Wayne Fenner’s, unexpired term on the board after he passed away from lymphoma that year.

Carl (Pete) Wallace, chairman of the central committee, chaired the meeting, and the vote to appoint Fenner was unanimous among the 33 committee members present.

She ran for election in 1972 and won, becoming the first elected woman county commissioner in the state of Ohio at that time. She was re-elected in 1976 and 1980, serving 14 years as a commissioner.

Fenner was known as “The First Lady of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.” She was the first woman to serve as CCAO president.

During her years as a commissioner, Fenner also continued her employment at the Ohio Bell Telephone Company, where she began in 1956. She was promoted to the assistant manager in the marketing department, where she was assigned to the state of Ohio marketing team. Later, she was promoted to manager and led two separate data networks until she retired in 1990.

Among the many significant accomplishments during her service on the county commission were:

• The completion of the Highland County Administration Building on Gov. Foraker Place in Hillsboro.

• The county’s acquisition of the former Kroger building on Muntz Street, which became the Morgan-Bodenhamer Highland County Senior Citizens Center.

• Restoration of the Highland County Courthouse, the oldest courthouse in continuous use as a courthouse in the state of Ohio.

• In 1981, Commissioner Fenner was a representative for the state of Ohio in a meeting at the White House with President Ronald Reagan.

• As CCAO president, Fenner also met with former U.S. Sen. John Glenn on behalf of Highland County.

When Ohio Bell consolidated many of its operations and transferred Fenner from Hillsboro to Columbus, she announced that she would not seek re-election as a commissioner. She called her decision not to run “the hardest, most difficult one” of her life, saying she made “the only decision possible, but it hurt.”

In the County Commissioners Association of Ohio’s November-December 1984 “County News” magazine, the CCAO said “Highland County has lost a great public servant, and Columbus has gained a fantastic citizen.”

Upon retirement, Fenner returned to Hillsboro and remained active – behind the scenes – in many political and community activities for the betterment of Highland County.

Harriet Fenner passed away July 23, 2019. She was 83.

In addition to Mrs. Fenner, the 2020 Highland County Historical Society Hall of Fame inductees are Ed Bousman (1918-2011), minister and radio/television evangelist; Benton Raymond Duckworth (1890-1996), public school educator and conservationist; and Wenona Marlin (1871-1945), journalist, lecturer, author and leader in the suffrage movement.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Highland County Historical Society has postponed the Hall of Fame induction ceremony that was scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 16, at the Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro. The event will be rescheduled at a later date. The Highland County Historical Society will announce the date and time of the rescheduled event. The public will be cordially invited to attend.

For more information on the Highland County Historical Society, please call (937) 393-3392 or email the society at

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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