With last week’s announcement of Rep. John Boehner’s resignation, I began to reflect on my personal experiences with the “Tan Man from Ohio land” who began his political service first as a township trustee then as a state representative and finally the Speaker of the House.
I was in elementary school when Boehner was first elected as Miami County’s U.S. House of Representatives so I don’t remember much about the Buz Lukens scandal that narrowly put Boehner in Luken’s seat in 1990.
But I do remember for the next 25 years, Boehner’s classic green signs have popped up in yards and roadways around our county.
I do recall when I first began following local politics and getting a true grasp on how our local, state and national government really functioned (or disfunctions if you will).
My first Boehner encounter was in the summer of 1999 when I was a senior in high school. My government teacher Mr. Worth took about 15 of us on a week-long summer tour of Washington D.C. and other national historic sites along the way.We toured Civil War landmarks, the golden dome of the Virginia statehouse, various Civil War battlefields and of course all of the Capitol’s landmarks.
It was on this trip, before I could vote, that I could finally begin to understand how 100 Senators and 435 House of Reprsentatives work to get anything (or nothing) done for our country.
One of our stops was to visit our local representatives, including then Senator Mike DeWine and Boehner. It’s funny how I can remember little details like how much bigger a Senate office was compared to a House office.
I’ll also never forget my classmate Sara responding to DeWine’s inquiry of where we were from.
She stated: Ohio. Groan. I think of that each and every time now Ohio Attorney General DeWine stops in Miami County.
Another memorable highlight was getting to see the action, or in this case, the inaction of a U.S. Senate session from high up in the gallery. I remember the worried looks on our chaperones’ faces when the opportunity arose. Could a herd of country high school kids be quiet enough to sit in on a session? For the record, we behaved and didn’t end up on C-SPAN. I remember Ted Kennedy was in attendance which was thrilling for me. It was a few weeks after John Kennedy Jr., his wife and her sister was killed in their airplane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. I could now say I saw a Kennedy up close.
We then wandered on to the House of Representatives. We walked the miles of halls and underground tunnels to Boehner’s small and humble office. It was tiny and reminded you of a small, yet fancy dorm room.
We took the traditional group photo inside the Rotunda of the Capitol building. As we walked back to his office, Boehner stopped and introduced us to Texas U.S. Representative Dick Armey. You may remember him as the House Majority Leader from 1995-2003, so meeting the House Majority Leader was a big deal. I remember Armey’s snakeskin cowboy boots and how he quipped that Dwight Yocum was the only Ohio country singer he’d listen to — which Boehner quickly informed us kids that was because Yocum was the only Ohio country music singer at the time.
Now looking back, you could see the friendships and allies, like Armey, who helped pave the way for Boehner to become Speaker even 15 year later. We went back to Boehner’s office where he chatted with our teacher who eventually emerged from the smokey office after a few minutes. To say the least, to this day it was one of the most unique political experiences I ever experienced.
When I started here at the Troy Daily News seven years ago, I was nervous to cover Boehner’s traditional Farm Forums and when he stopped in the newsroom. Yet, over the years, I became more comfortable covering these events, to the point two years ago I even showed Boehner my health insurance bill which tripled during the height of Obamacare.
I know not everyone agreed with his politics as our state representative or as Speaker of the House. Yet, for one small town reporter, the afternoon that he listened for a few minutes and seemed to genuinely care, is something I’ll be sure to seek in the next election of his successor.
Thank you for your time and service Speaker Boehner. Good luck in your future endeavors.
“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News.