Nan Whaley was sworn in as mayor of Dayton on Monday, and she immediately turned her focus toward education, saying the path to a stronger city will come through high-quality schools.
“There is one key issue that we must address if we are at all serious about building a thriving, more prosperous community,” Whaley said. “For the people of Dayton to have access to good jobs, for people to invest in their homes and their neighborhoods, and to make our downtown more vibrant, we must have high-quality schools.”
City governments in Ohio traditionally have little to do with the operation of schools, with public school boards, charter groups or religious agencies running their respective schools.
Whaley did not go into the details of her City of Learners plan, saying that later this month she would lay out ways that people could support the cause.
Close to 300 people attended Monday’s ceremony at Dayton Convention Center, where Jeff Mims was also sworn in to take Whaley’s spot on City Commission, and Joey Williams was sworn in for his fourth term on Commission. Both Williams and Mims are former Dayton School Board presidents.
The event was the farewell for outgoing mayor Gary Leitzell, who lost to Whaley and A.J. Wagner in the May 2013 runoff vote. Leitzell challenged the new administration to think creatively in moving the city forward.
“History has shown that independent, creative minds have the greatest impact on changes in government,” Leitzell said. “I hope that my example will encourage more people to challenge the status quo and rise to their true potential.”
Whaley said she’s focusing on children’s education so that the city reaches its potential, pointing to those children as Dayton’s future workforce, community leaders and homeowners.
“The fact that almost half of Dayton’s third-graders are at risk of not being promoted to fourth grade under Ohio’s new third-grade reading guarantee is an undeniable wake-up call,” Whaley said. “This is a crisis, not just for these children and their families, and not just for Dayton schools. This is a crisis for our entire community.”
State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering said Whaley’s education focus “couldn’t be more on target” with the goals of the state. Lehner, chair of the Senate education committee, said she looks forward to participating in Dayton’s effort.
Joe Lacey, Dayton school board president, said he’s curious to see what Whaley has in mind, adding that he’s open to more collaboration. Whaley pointed to certain summer and after-school programs where the city and Dayton Public schools already work together.
“Expanded preschool and summer efforts are the two main things I would really like to see if she would join us and help us do that,” Lacey said. “Expanded preschool would do a lot toward the third-grade guarantee (as some) children come to school not prepared when they start. … I would be open to a levy that would be targeted to expanding preschool and summer school.”
Whaley said her office, in cooperation with the Downtown Dayton Partnership, will soon launch a monthly meeting with local business owners, both to listen to their concerns and to push retention and job creation efforts. She said workforce and job creation issues are inextricably linked to education.
“Today, I am making a commitment to the parents, students, teachers, administrators and school officials all across this city,” Whaley said. “In your quest for excellence, you will have no greater supporter, no more determined advocate and no more steadfast champion than this Mayor of Dayton.”
Dayton’s city leadership has been very stable in recent years. Whaley, Williams, Dean Lovelace and Matt Joseph have all been on city commission for at least eight years. Monday marked the first time Dayton got a new mayor and a new member of commission at the same time since 2002, when Rhine McLin became mayor, and Williams and Richard Zimmer joined commission.
In his remarks, Mims touted himself as a team-builder, and said city leaders must help make Dayton a place where middle class people want to live, and businesses want to locate.
Williams said some people wondered if Whaley was the right choice to lead the city, pointing out that she is youngest of the five city commissioners, has served on commission for the least amount of time other than the newly elected Mims, and is the only one who didn’t grow up in the Dayton region.
But Williams said nobody works harder or is more connected than Whaley, adding that she has earned his respect, telling her, “Your time has come.”
What do you want the new mayor to focus on?
We asked readers on our Facebook page about the challenges facing Dayton and what they want Mayor Whaley to tackle. Here’s some of the responses:
Rose E Campbell-Blake: Get out and meet Daytonians…work with those small businesses who want to come to Dayton.
Rebecca Wagner: I think what we would ask of any incoming mayor…to make the streets of Dayton safe for our families and friends.
Tony Loyal: Unification between Dayton and Montgomery County. One government entity, like in Indianapolis, Louisville, and other cities.
Jeff Tingle: Get rid of the red light and speed cameras.
Mary Phelan Sanders: Nan would do well to introduce herself and see how to partner with suburbs, to incite excitement and interest in Dayton.
Cathy Mea Keish Watson: Bring middle class good paying jobs back to the city and do something about the crime so people will want to go back to the city
More online: Explore the history of Dayton mayors at MyDaytonDailyNews.com/local.