April 6, 2017 - Mayor Mike Barhorst accepted an invitation to speak with government students at Sidney High School in March. American Government classes had been learning about local government and invited the mayor for a visit to address their questions about projects and issues in Sidney.
Teacher Jamie Whitman explained, "Our students were curious about the details of construction projects, specific zoning laws, and wanted updates on topics like the Wagner Building demolition. We decided to invite Mayor Barhorst to speak to our students, and he ended up teaching students the entire day."
Mayor Barhorst began each class by sharing a brief summary of what led him to participate in city politics. As the mayor outlined Sidney’s charter form of government, students explored a copy of Sidney's ordinances as well as binders on parks and recreation, the water treatment facilities, and records regarding the city budget. Mayor Barhorst detailed the progress being made to upgrade intersections along State Route 47 and the ongoing process of finding the necessary funding to demolish the Wagner Building. Students also learned about upcoming projects that include Sidney’s bicentennial in 2020 and the plan to bring water to the city from wells near Lockington.
One of the questions presented to the mayor centered on how the drug problems were affecting the community. He responded, “Our law enforcement and emergency medical services do a fantastic job, but this crisis does consume a great deal of financial resources.”
The mayor also explained the changes in economic conditions. He said, “Sidney had the highest per capita unemployment rate in the state when I first came into office in 1977. When I left office 12 years later, we had the lowest per capita unemployment rate in the state. The credit for this change is largely due to the opening of Honda’s engine plant and the companies in Sidney that help to supply that plant.”
Mayor Barhorst also praised the efforts of Emerson Climate Technologies as a major employer of Sidney residents. He proudly added, “We make things in Sidney, Ohio!”
Students also inquired about restoring older buildings and bringing more businesses to the downtown area, and Mayor Barhorst answered, “We’ve got investors looking to open restaurants downtown and possibly even a hotel.”
Mr. Whitman asked the mayor about his salary and was surprised to learn that it is just $5,000 a year. “I was surprised by how little the mayor is paid…he is paid the same salary as the mayor was paid in 1880. He doesn’t even get reimbursed for gas mileage within the city where he conducts most of his business.”
When asked by students if he had political aspirations beyond Sidney, Mayor Barhorst responded, “There have been those who have encouraged me to run for statewide office, but they would have to twist my arm pretty hard. I have no intention of leaving Sidney.”
Students were interested as to why he puts forth so much effort to which he responded “You do it because you love the community.”
SHS students described how much they enjoyed Mayor Barhrost’s visit. Ally Spangler said, “I enjoyed how the mayor was so open about all the projects happening in Sidney.”
“I appreciate Mayor Barhorst’s efforts to improve Sidney with ideas that change our town for the better,” added Madi Rittenhouse.
Preston Knasel said, “I appreciate the mayor coming in and expanding our knowledge of city government and how our appointed and elected officials are improving it.”
Caroline Gallimore added, “He was very informative and inspiring.”
Teacher Kevin Veroneau commented, “It was great to see Mayor Barhorst spend time out of his busy schedule giving back to the community by helping to educate our students about the functions of city government. Based upon feedback from the students, they enjoyed having the opportunity to meet the mayor and to learn first hand about local government."
Danielle Burnham shared, “I feel this man really has our best interests in mind. He does so much for this town. It’s obvious how dedicated he is without expecting anything in return.”
Karlie Lee, “I didn’t know much about the city budget or all the meetings the mayor attends throughout the day and how much love he has for this town.”
Ethan Carlson said, “I don’t think enough people know about Mayor Barhorst and his commitment to keeping this town afloat. He selflessly serves this town, and despite all the criticism and low pay, he still pushes for a brighter future for Sidney.”
Kaitlyn Scherer echoed that sentiment, “He cares more for this community than we think.”
Bailey Bowman thanked the mayor, “Thank you for coming in today and sharing the plans for Sidney.”
Afterwards, Mayor Barhorst concluded the day by saying, “I hope the students have a bit better idea of what it takes to make the city hum.”
"I think the students found the mayor's visit to be quite informative, and hearing details from the mayor himself really connected our students with local government. The kids now have a much better understanding of the dedicated commitment necessary to maintain this community," added Jamie Whitman.